Top interest-free 0% student bank account overdrafts
If you're off to university soon, getting the best student bank account should be a priority.
Not only do you want a generous, 0% overdraft that lasts you the length of your course, you'll also want to make sure you get a deal that gives you the best perks suited to you.
We compare 12 undergraduate accounts below – our table shows student accounts ranked in order of the maximum free overdraft they allow in year one.
We also explain what happens if you exceed your overdraft limit and examine this year's student bank account freebies.
|Interest free (0%) overdraft||Benefits|
|Min age||Yr 1||Yr 2||Yr 3||Yr 4||Yr 5||Yr 6||Credit interest||Freebies|
|NatWest/RBS Student||17||£2,000||£2,000||£2,000||£2,000||£2,000||n/a||Four-year National Express Coachcard.|
Pay in £750 every six months and make three debit transactions every month to remain eligible for 0% overdraft.
|First Trust Bank (NI) Student+||18||£1,850||£1,850||£1,850||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Halifax Student||18||£1,500||£1,500||£1,500||£1,500||£1,500||£1,500||0.1%||Cashback at various retailers.|
|Bank of Ireland Student||18||£1,500||£1,500||£1,500||£2,000||£3,000||£3,000||0.5%|
|Bank of Scotland Student||17||£1,500||£1,500||£1,500||£2,000||£2,000||£2,000||Cashback at various retailers.|
|Lloyds Bank Student||17||£1,500||£1,500||£1,500||£2,000||£2,000||£2,000||Cashback at various retailers.|
|Santander 123 Student||18||£1,500||£1,500||£1,500||£1,800||£2,000||n/a||1% (£100-£200) 2% (£200-£300) 3% (£300-£2,000)||Four-year 16-25 Railcard.|
Pay in £500/term to remain eligible for 0% overdraft.
|TSB Student||17||£1,500||£1,500||£1,500||£1,500||£1,500||£1,500||5% (up to £500)|
|Barclays Student Additions||18||£1,000||£2,000||£3,000||n/a||n/a||n/a||Personalised (photo) debit card; cashback at various retailers.|
|Nationwide FlexStudent||18||£1,000||£2,000||£3,000||£3,000||£3,000||£3,000||1% (up to £1,000)||Cashback at various retailers.|
Nationwide is the only provider that guarantees the maximum overdraft, however, you must pay in £500/term to remain eligible for 0% overdraft.
|HSBC Student||18||£1,000||£2,000||£3,000||n/a||n/a||n/a||Free £80 Amazon gift card plus a year of Amazon Prime Student (open by 31 December 2018).|
|Ulster Bank Student||18||£1,000||£1,000||£1,000||£1,000||£1,000||n/a|
Students of medicine, dentistry, law, accountancy, pharmacy, optometry, physiotherapy, veterinary science can apply for higher interest-free limits.
How do I open a student bank account?
You can apply for a student account from age 17 or 18 (see the table for details).
As with all bank accounts, you'll need proof of identity (passport, birth certificate, driving licence) and proof of address.
You’ll also need the UCAS confirmation letter from your university as unconditional proof of acceptance (some banks may accept a copy of your A-Level results if you have a conditional offer but you’ll need to check first).
Will I get the maximum overdraft with my student bank account?
Not necessarily – these overdraft limits aren’t guaranteed. Banks will assess your eligibility on an individual basis, based on your credit score, so you may not get the maximum overdraft advertised amount.
It's worth noting that Nationwide says that as long as you don't have credit problems, and you stick to the account requirements, you can get the maximum overdrafts for each year.
In some cases, interest-free overdrafts are extended in instalments, for example, first year students with a Lloyds account get £500 for the first six months from account opening, £1,000 from month seven and £1,500 from month 10.
A handful of banks also impose funding requirements to qualify for the full overdraft:
- Nationwide FlexStudent - pay in at least £500 per term from the date the account is opened (this can include your student loan, money from family members or any other income);
- Santander 123 Student - pay in at least £500 per term to increase the overdraft limit from £250 to £1,500;
- NatWest and RBS Student - pay in £750 every six months and make at least three debit transactions every month.
What happens if I exceed my overdraft limit?
With all of the accounts in our table, you won’t be charged interest or fees for using an overdraft, as long as you stay within your free limit.
If you need to borrow more money, contact your bank and formally arrange for the limit to be increased. Some banks may allow an extension to your free limit, but most charge 'arranged' or 'planned' overdraft fees/interest.
For example, TSB charges a £6 monthly usage fee plus 8.21% EAR.
If you exceed your free overdraft limit without authorisation, charges can be steep. Santander, for example, charges £5 per day (up to a maximum of 10 days).
Nationwide doesn’t charge any fees but it does place restrictions on your account, preventing you from taking cash out or using your card, until you bring the balance back within your agreed limit.
Charges if you exceed your 0% student overdraft
|Planned overdraft||Unplanned overdraft|
|Interest (EAR)||Usage fees||Interest (EAR)||Usage fees|
|Bank of Ireland UK||0%||£0||12.68%||£0|
|Bank of Scotland||n/a||1p per day for every £7 spent||n/a||n/a|
|First Trust Bank (NI)||0%||£0||0%||£0|
|Halifax||n/a||1p per day for every £7 spent||n/a||n/a|
|Lloyds Bank||n/a||1p per day for every £7 spent||n/a||n/a|
|Santander||n/a||n/a||0%||£5/day (max 10 days)|
|TSB||8.21%||£6/mth||8.21%||£6/mth plus £5/day if more than £10 or £10/day if over £25|
Student bank accounts 2017/18 freebies
There are only a handful of student accounts offering freebies and/or interest.
HSBC is giving away a free £80 Amazon gift card plus a year of Amazon Prime Student if you open the account by 31 December 2018. Other shopping discounts can be found at studentexclusives.hsbc.co.uk.
Lloyds offered students a free NUS extra Card last year and is likely to launch an updated student account before the new term starts.
Student bank accounts with railcards
The top student account freebie is offered by Santander. The free four-year Santander Railcard is worth around £90 (four-year cards aren't available for general purchase but three-year Railcards cost £70 and one-year Railcards cost £30).
Be aware that Santander doesn't offer the largest interest-free overdraft, and you need to pay in at least £500 every term and register for online banking to be eligible for this offer (and the overdraft).
In comparison, we've valued the free four-year National Express coachcard that comes with the NatWest/RBS student account at £36 (four-year cards aren't available for general purchase but three-year Coachcards cost £27 and one-year Coachcards cost £12).
Student bank accounts paying high interest
Santander also pays interest on credit balances. The rates are tiered, so you earn:
- 1% if your balance is £100 to £200;
- 2% if it's £200 to £300;
- 3% if it's £300 to £2,000.
The most you could earn is £60 a year.
The only other banks paying credit interest to students are Nationwide, which pays 1% interest on balances up to £1,000, and TSB, which pays 5% interest on balances up to £500.
Previously, first-year students with a HSBC account earned interest at 1.5% above base rate on balances up to £1,000 but this offer was pulled on 1 August 2017.
What happens to my student bank account when I graduate?
Once you've got your degree, you can usually convert your student account to a graduate account with the same bank, but make sure other banks don’t beat it.
For example, Nationwide transfers your account to a FlexGraduate (which is only available to FlexStudent customers) – the interest-free overdraft limit falls to £2,500 one year after graduation; £1,750 after two years and £1,000 after three years.
Here's our pick of the best graduate accounts.