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Student bank accounts

Compare the best student bank accounts with interest-free or 0% overdrafts for 2019 with our comparison tables. 

In this article
Best interest-free 0% student bank account overdrafts How do I open a student bank account? Will I get the maximum overdraft with my student bank account? What happens if I exceed my overdraft limit? Student bank accounts 2019/20 freebies Student bank accounts with railcards
Student bank accounts paying high interest Can I open more than one student bank account? Can I switch my student bank account? What happens to my student bank account when I graduate? How do student loans work?

Best 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 10 undergraduate accounts below. Our table shows student accounts ranked by customer score, as rated by university students.

Which? Recommended Providers (WRPs) are chosen because they offer top-notch customer service as well as great products.

You can also select our star ratings table to find out how students rated their bank across six elements of the banks' service, including handling complaints and mobile banking. 

Action point: Student budget calculator - search for your university to get a monthly breakdown of your expected outgoings

Provider

Account 

name

undefined

Product

score

Student 0%

overdraft

Graduate 0%

overdraft

Credit interest (AER)

and other perks

Recommended provider

Nationwide

 

More info

Min age 18. £1,000 overdraft at 0% available at account opening. You must pay in £500/term to remain eligible for 0% overdraft. Up to £3,000 0% overdraft available in years 4-6 of study. 

FlexStudent 77% 51%

1st year £1,000

2nd year £2,000

3rd year £3,000

1st year £2,500

2nd year £1,750

3rd year £1,000

1% AER up to £1,000

Recommended provider

Santander

 

More info

Min age 18. Overdraft starts at £250 and you must pay in £500/term to increase this to £1,500. Up to £2,000 0% overdraft available in year 4 of study, £2,000 in year 5, nothing in year 6. 

123

Student

76% 81%

1st year £1,500

2nd year £1,500

3rd year £1,500

1st year £2,000

2nd year £2,000

3rd year n/a

Four-year 16-25 Railcard

1% AER from £100, 

2% from £200 and 3% from £300 to £2,000

HSBC

 

More info

Min age 18. Guaranteed £1,000 arranged interest free overdraft upon account opening. First year students get £100 you open the account by 31 December 2018.

Student 71% 58%

1st year £1,000

2nd year £2,000

3rd year £3,000

1st year £1,500

2nd year £1,000

3rd year n/a

£100 sigh-up incentive

12-month British Cycling Fan Membership

Student Exclusives discounts

Lloyds Bank

 

More info

Min age 17. Overdraft starts at £500 for 6 months (apply to increase to £1,000 in months 7-9 and £1.500 from month 10. Up to £2,000 0% overdraft available in years 4-6 of study. Free three-year TOTUM card if you open your account by 31 Oct '19 (high-street and online shopping discounts). 


 
Student 67% 48%

1st year £1,500

2nd year £1,500

3rd year £1,500

1st year £2,000

2nd year £1,500

3rd year £1,000

Three-year Totum (was NUS Extra) card

Up to 15% cashback with 'Everyday Offers'

NatWest

 

More info

Min age 17. Overdraft at £500 in first term, then apply for up to £2,000. Up to £2,000 0% overdraft available in year 4 and 5 of study. 

Student 65% 58%

1st year £2,000

2nd year £2,000

3rd year £2,000

1st year £2,000

2nd year £1,000

3rd year n/a

Choose from:

Four-year National Express Coachcard

One-year Amazon Prime Student, or

Four-year Tastecard

Royal Bank of Scotland

 

More info

Min age 17. Overdraft at £500 in first term, then apply for up to £2,000. Up to £2,000 0% overdraft available in year 4 and 5 of study. 


 
Student 65% 58%

1st year £2,000

2nd year £2,000

3rd year £2,000

1st year £2,000

2nd year £1,000

3rd year n/a

Choose from:

Four-year National Express Coachcard

One-year Amazon Prime Student, or

Four-year Tastecard

Barclays

 

More info

Min age 18. Now available to Higher Apprentices (Level 4+). Must confirm ID in branch. Open account with £500 0% overdraft. No 0% overdraft available for years 4-6 of study. Add Blue Rewards (costing £4/month) to earn £7/month cashback when you pay in £800 and maintain two direct debits. Extra cashback available when you buy additional Barclays products.


 

Student

Additions

64% 48%

1st year £1,000

2nd year £2,000

3rd year £3,000

1st year £3,000

2nd year £2,000

3rd year £1,000

Personalised (photo) debit card

Up to 10% cashback

Bank of Ireland UK 

 

More info

Min age 18. Apply online or over the phone. Up to £3,000 a year available in years 4-6 of study. Graduate account 0% overdraft rises to £2,000 if you studied for four years or £3,000 if you studied for five years. 


 

3rd Level 

Student

n/a 48%

1st year £1,500

2nd year £1,500

3rd year £1,500

1st year £1,500

2nd year £1,500

3rd year n/a

0.5%  interest
TSB

 

More info

Min age 17. Overdraft starts at £500 for 6 months (apply to increase to £1,010 in months 7-9 and £1,510 from month 10. Up to £1,510 0% overdraft available in years 4-6 of study. 


 
Student n/a 48%

1st year £1,510

2nd year £1,510

3rd year £1,510

1st year £2,010

2nd year £1,510

3rd year £1,010

5% interest up to £500
Halifax

 

More info

Min age 17. Halifax doesn't offer a tailored graduate account but student account customers can keep their account for one year after graduating. 

Student n/a 42%

1st year £1,500

2nd year £1,500

3rd year £1,500

1st year £1,500*

2nd year n/a

3rd year n/a

0.10% AER

Up to 15% cashback

Bank of Scotland

 

More info

Min age 17. Overdraft starts at £500 for 6 months (apply to increase to £1,000 in months 7-9 and £1.500 from month 10. Up to £2,000 0% overdraft available in years 4-6 of study. Free three-year Totum card if you open your account by 31 Oct '19 (high-street and online shopping discounts). 


 
Student n/a 48%

1st year £1,500

2nd year £1,500

3rd year £1,500

1st year £2,000

2nd year £1,500

3rd year £1,000

Three-year Totum (was NUS Extra) card

Up to 15% cashback with 'Everyday Offers'

 

Correct at August 2019. 

Which? Customer Score: Our rating for customer satisfaction is based on feedback from real students. We surveyed 1,662 university students about their student bank accounts between March and April 2019. The score is made up of their overall satisfaction with the brand, and how likely they are to recommend that brand to a friend. Sample size in brackets: Barclays (189), HSBC (492), Lloyds (108), Nationwide (130), NatWest (76), Royal Bank of Scotland (30), Santander (538). Where n/a appears, the sample size was too small.  

How do I open a student bank account?

You can apply for a student account from age 17 or 18 - we explain the age limits for each provider in the table above.

HSBC and Santander have opened up their student accounts to degree apprentices in their first year of a qualifying course, as well as those studying at university. 

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 (or copy of your Apprenticeship agreement signed by your employer) 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. 

Further down, we explain what happens if you exceed your overdraft limit and examine this year's student bank account freebies.

 

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; 

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. 

Find out more: Student banking tips - help with the day-to-day costs of university life

Charges if you exceed your 0% student overdraft 

Provider

Planned

Unplanned

Monthly cap

(unarranged)

Bank of Ireland UK

0% EAR

12.68% EAR

n/a

Bank of Scotland

1p/day for every £6 spent up to £1,250; 1p/day for every £7 spent £1,250-£2,500; 1p/day for every £8 spent over £2,500

None

n/a

Barclays

 

More info

Transaction fees of £8 apply for unpaid direct debits, standing orders, or cheques (max four per month and max £8 per day). 

 

Mor

None None n/a

Halifax

1p/day for every £6 spent up to £1,250; 1p/day for every £7 spent £1,250-£2,500; 1p/day for every £8 spent over £2,500

None n/a

HSBC

None

None

n/a

Lloyds Bank

1p/day for every £6 spent up to £1,250; 1p/day for every £7 spent £1,250-£2,500; 1p/day for every £8 spent over £2,500

None

n/a

Nationwide

None None n/a

NatWest

 

More info

Transaction fees of £8 apply for unpaid direct debits, standing orders, or cheques (max one per charging period). 

 

More inf y

None

None

n/a

RBS

 

More info

Transaction fees of £8 apply for unpaid direct debits, standing orders, or cheques (max one per charging period). 

None

None

n/a

Santander

 

More info

Transaction fees of £5-£10 apply for unpaid direct debits, standing orders, or cheques. 

 

 

None

£5/day

£50

TSB 

 

More info

Monthly usage fee (£6) only charged once per month. Daily unarranged fee applied to a maximum of eight days per month. Transaction fees of £10 apply for unpaid direct debits, standing orders, or cheques (max three per day). 

 

 

8.21% EAR plus £6 usage fee (after £10 buffer)

8.21% EAR plus £6 usage fee plus £5/day if £10-£25 or £10/day £25+

£80

 

Correct at July 2019

Table correct at August 2018.

Student bank accounts 2019/20 freebies

A handful of student accounts are offering freebies or additional interest. 

You can bag free travel cards from Santander and NatWest or RBS, see below. 

HSBC is offering £100 cash if you open the account by 31 December 2019 plus a free one-year British Cycling Fan membership (worth £24). Shopping discounts can be found at studentexclusives.hsbc.co.uk. 

Lloyds and Bank of Scotland were both giving away free three-year Totum cards (the new name for NUS Extra) but this offer closed on 31 October 2019. These discount cards can be used to save money at retailers on the high street and online e.g. 10% off at Asos and 25% off student tickets at Odeon cinemas. 

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 is on offer with the NatWest/RBS student account at £40 (four-year cards aren't available for general purchase but three-year Coachcards cost £30 and one-year Coachcards cost £12.50).

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.

Can I open more than one student bank account?

You can't open multiple student bank accounts with the same provider and some providers explicitly say that you shouldn't already have a student account when you apply (Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Lloyds, Nationwide, TSB).

Others ask that you use them as your main student account (Barclays, NatWest, RBS, Santander) so although you could potentially open a second student account with these banks, they reserve the right to close it if you're not paying in your loans and other income. 

It's also worth remembering that having access to a larger overdraft is risky as you will have to repay student overdraft debt when you graduate. 

You can apply for an additional standard current account without an overdraft facility - and digital banks such as Monzo and Starling offer innovative smartphone helps that could help you manage your student loan and keep on top of spending. 

Can I switch my student bank account?

Yes, you don't have to stay with the same provider for the duration of your course. 

All of the accounts in our table are signed up to the 'switch guarantee' which means you can switch student accounts in just seven days.

Before you switch, check that your new bank will match your current 0% overdraft and offer the same terms as other students in that year of study.

Find out more: How to switch an account in seven days - a step-by-step guide

What happens to my student bank account when I graduate?

Once you've got your degree, banks will usually convert your student account to a graduate account, but make sure other banks don’t beat it. 

Some graduate accounts are only open to existing student account customers (Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, Nationwide, Santander) but most are open to anyone who has graduated from university within the past two or three years. 

Here's our pick of the best graduate accounts

Watch out for a sudden drop in the amount you can borrow interest-free - the HSBC student account offers up to £3,000 in the final year but the maximum interest-free overdraft for its graduate customers is £1,500. 

Find out more: Which? tips to help you clear your student overdraft debt

How do student loans work?

Financial support is available to help you cover tuition fees and living costs - and you don't need to wait for a confirmed place at university before you apply:

  • Tuition fees loans are worth up to £9,250 a year, and are paid directly to your university (Scottish students don't pay tuition fees). 
  • Maintenance loans worth up to £8,700 per year (or £11,354 in London) are also available to help with living costs if your total household income falls below a certain amount.

The actual amount you receive will depend on where you're studying, your course fees and household income.

Find out more: Student loans - get financial support wherever you are in the UK

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