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Student bank accounts

Compare the best student bank accounts with interest-free or 0% overdrafts for 2020-21 with our comparison tables. 

In this article
Best interest-free 0% student bank account overdrafts Will I get the maximum overdraft with my student bank account? Student bank accounts with railcards and other freebies Student bank accounts paying high interest What happens if I exceed my overdraft limit?
How do I open a student bank account? 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 various 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 Max Amount for 0% Overdraft

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. Student accounts come with a free 4-year Railcard and 1% interest on balances up to £2,000. 

123 Student Current Account 78% 77%

1st Year: £1,500

2nd Year: £1,500

3rd Year: £1,500

Recommended provider

Nationwide BS

 

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 74% 58%

1st Year: £1,000

2nd Year: £2,000

3rd Year: £3,000

NatWest

 

More info

Min age 17. Overdraft at £500 in first term, then apply for up to £2,000 in years 2 and 3 of study. Up to £2,000 0% overdraft available in year 4 and 5 of study. Choose from free 1-year Amazon Prime Student, four-year Tastecard membership which gets you 2 for 1 or 50% off your food bill at thousands of UK restaurants and discounts at the cinema or a four-year National Express Coachcard for 1/3 of coach fares.

 

Student 70% 63%

1st Year: £2,000

2nd Year: £2,000

3rd Year: £2,000

Halifax

 

More info

Min age 18. Up to £1,500 0% overdraft available up to year 5 of study. Earn Cashback when you spend, once registered for Online Banking and have activated Cashback Extras. 0.10% AER Variable Credit interest on any credit balance. 

Student 69% 64%

1st Year: £1,500

2nd Year: £1,500

3rd Year: £1,500

HSBC

 

More info

Min age 18. Guaranteed £1,000 arranged interest free overdraft upon account opening.

 

Student Bank Account 68% 63%

1st Year: £1,000

2nd Year: £2,000

3rd Year: £3,000

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 '20 (high-street and online shopping discounts). 

Student Account 67% 61%

1st Year: £1,500

2nd Year: £1,500

3rd Year: £1,500

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 October (high-street and online shopping discounts). 

 

Student 65% 53%

1st Year: £1,500

2nd Year: £1,500

3rd Year: £1,500

Royal Bank of Scotland

 

More info

Min age 17. Overdraft at £500 in first term, then apply for up to £2,000 in years 2 and 3 of study. Up to £2,000 0% overdraft available in year 4 and 5 of study. Choose from free 1-year Amazon Prime Student, four-year Tastecard membership which gets you 2 for 1 or 50% off your food bill at thousands of UK restaurants and discounts at the cinema or a four-year National Express Coachcard for 1/3 of coach fares.

Student 65% 63%

1st Year: £2,000

2nd Year: £2,000

3rd Year: £2,000

Barclays Bank

 

More info

Min age 18. Now available to Higher Apprentices (Level 4+). Must confirm ID in branch (digital applications open in September). Open account with £500 0% overdraft. Automatically moved to Higher Education Account after you graduate with 0% overdraft up to £3,000 available for three years.  Students get a free 12 month subscription to Perlego, the online book library, available between 20 September 2020 and 30 June 2021. Cashback available when you shop with Barclays at over 150 retailers. Can also add Blue Rewards (costing £3/month) to earn £7/month cashback when you pay in £800 and maintain two direct debits.

 

Student Additions 63% 71%

1st Year: £1,000

2nd Year: £2,000  

3rd Year: £3,000

TSB

 

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 £1,500 0% overdraft available in years 4-6 of study. Recieve 5% AER credit interest on balances up to £500

Student 57% 57%

1st Year: £1,500

2nd Year: £1,500

3rd Year: £1,500

 

Which? Customer Score: Our rating for customer satisfaction is based on feedback from real students. We surveyed 2,055 university students about their student bank accounts between March and April 2020. 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: Bank of Scotland (31), Barclays (175), Halifax (60), HSBC (471), Lloyds (120), Nationwide (185), NatWest (136), Royal Bank of Scotland (45), Santander (734), TSB (47).

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. 

HSBC says it will offer a guaranteed interest-free limit of £1,000 in your first 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.

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

 

    Student bank accounts with railcards and other freebies

    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).

    You can choose from three freebies if you pick the NatWest/RBS student account (you need to register for online banking and choose to receive paperless statements to receive your reward):

    • One-year Amazon Prime Student membership, which would usually cost £3.99 a month, plus a £10 Amazon gift card;
    • Four-year National Express Coachcard, for a third off coach travel, which would otherwise cost £12.50 a year;
    • Four-year Tastecard, usually £34.99 a year, which entitles you to discounted and 2for1 meals at participating restauarnts. 

    All new Barclays student customers will get a free 12 month subscription to Perlego, the online book library, available between 20 September 2020 and 30 June 2021. A registration code and instructions will be sent via email.

    Bank of Scotland and Lloyds student accounts come with a free three-year TOTUM card - but only if you open your account by 31 October 2020.

    The TOTUM card is the new name for the NUS extra student discount card, which you can use for high-street and online shopping discounts. 

    Student bank accounts paying high interest

    Santander also pays monthly interest on credit balances - at a rate of 1% AER on balances up to £2,000. 

    The only other provider paying credit interest to students is TSB, which pays 5% interest on balances up to £500.

    Previously, Nationwide paid 1% interest on balances up to £1,000 and first-year students with a HSBC account earned interest at 1.5% above base rate on balances up to £1,000 but both offers have been pulled. 

    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 will charge you 'arranged' or 'planned' overdraft interest

    If you exceed your free overdraft limit without authorisation, it could negatively affect your credit score and some banks will charge you for bounced payments.

    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

    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.

    Barclays, 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. 

    Can I apply online?

    Even though some banks will let you start the application process online, the majority ask that you visit a branch with proof of identification before you can actually start using it. 

    Barclays is the exception - it will launch the first digital account opening for students from late September (though you can register your interest online now).

    This means instead of going to a branch, students will be able to open a Barclays student account in minutes by downloading the Barclays app and uploading a selfie video and scanning an identification document with their UCAS code.

    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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