So, you’re heading to university or college.

You’re probably going to want a bank account.

Lots of banks offer student bank accounts that might be of interest. Let’s look at everything you need to know about student banking, including:

  • What a student bank account is (and how it’s different to a regular account)
  • The benefits of student accounts
  • Who can get a student bank account
  • How to open a student account
  • Tips on choosing the right account for you
  • Other student banking FAQs

 

What is a student bank account?

When it comes down to it, student bank accounts aren’t that different from regular accounts. 

As with a normal account, you’ll get a debit card with your student account. This is likely to be a contactless card - so make sure you’re aware of the potential risks of using contactless.

You’ll usually get access to online banking, to help you easily manage your money. Many banks will have an app that you can use too. 

 

Benefits of a student bank account

No fees

There usually aren’t monthly or annual fees involved in opening or using a student bank account. This makes them more accessible, allowing you to manage your finances with fewer costs to worry about.

 

Interest-free overdraft

One of the big appeals of UK student bank accounts is that you can get an interest-free overdraft.

This can give you a safety net if you’re ever running low on money during your studies - allowing you to borrow money without the risks of high-interest loans that can ruin your financial wellbeing.

This will be an arranged interest-free overdraft: the bank agrees in advance that you can borrow a certain amount of money from them and that you won’t have to pay any interest on that money.

There are two types of interest-free overdraft:

  • Guaranteed - As long as you’re accepted for the account, you’ll definitely be offered a set amount of money in your interest-free overdraft
  • Up to X - The bank will offer a maximum overdraft, but you may not be eligible for the whole amount, depending on several factors

 

Many student banks offer an overdraft that increases in size as you progress through your course. As an example:

  • 1st year - You get a £1,000 interest-free overdraft
  • 2nd year - Your overdraft increases to £1,500
  • 3rd year - You get an overdraft of £2,000

 

In some cases, these overdraft increases are automatically added to your account. But for other accounts, you’ll have to apply for the overdraft limit increases.

To compare the interest-free overdrafts offered by different banks, see our guide to the best UK student bank accounts.

Money, vouchers or other benefits

These are a key feature of student bank accounts in the UK and could come in the form of vouchers or discounts to use at particular retailers.

Some of the most well-known student bank account benefits are:

  • Santander - A four-year 16-25 Railcard, which gets you a third off trains in England, Scotland and Wales
  • NatWest - A tastecard for four years, giving you two-for-one meals at many restaurants and discounts on days out
  • Barclays - 12-month Perlego subscription, helping you access books and resources for your studies

 

Spending rewards

Some student accounts will give you cashback for the money you spend using that account. This might be cashback on all spending or might just be for spending in certain categories (e.g. groceries).

Some of these cashback offers might only last for an introductory period, such as during the first year of your course.

 

Earn interest

You may be able to earn interest on the money in your student bank account.

This is usually only on money up to a certain amount. For example, you might earn interest on money in your account up to £5,000, but no interest on money over that amount.

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Who can get a student bank account?

Each bank has rules for who can open a student account. Here are some of the main things to be aware of:

Your year of study

Some student accounts can only be opened by first-year students, meaning if you don’t open one in your first year, you might have to look elsewhere.

The type of course you’re studying

You’ll usually have to be studying a full-time course to be eligible for a student bank account.

This can usually be an undergraduate or postgraduate course - so you’re not cut off if you’re studying a Master’s or PhD.

Plus, your course might have to last at least two years.

 

Age

You’ll often have to be 18 to open a student bank account. This is especially relevant if you’re from Scotland, as you’re more likely to start uni at 17.

But there are student accounts you can open if you’re 17. However, you’ll probably have some features unavailable to you (you won’t be able to get an overdraft until you’re 18 because banks aren’t allowed to give loans to under 18s).

 

International students

As an international student, you’ll probably be ineligible for a UK student bank account - because you usually have to have lived in the UK for at least three years to apply.

However, there are some banks, such as HSBC, that offer international student bank accounts. But it’s important to note that there are likely to be fees if you use your UK international student account outside of the UK.

If you can’t get a student bank account, you can usually still apply for a standard current account with a UK bank - but you’ll miss out on any student benefits.

 

Do I need a student bank account?

Nobody needs a student bank account.

However, you’re probably going to need a bank account anyway while you’re studying. If you’re receiving a student maintenance loan, you’ll definitely need an account for the money to go into.

Since student bank accounts usually offer more benefits than standard current accounts, it’s probably worth getting one for your time at university or college.

How to open a student bank account

When it comes to opening your student bank account, there are a few things you’ll need to have at hand. Get these ready in advance so you’re not scrambling around for them when it comes to applying for the account.

A form of ID

You’ll need to provide some form of identification when you open a student account.

This will usually be your:

  • Passport
  • Driving licence (provisional or full)

 

Your address

You’ll need to register for your student account with your home address - because your term-time address will probably change throughout your studies.

To prove you live there, you’ll need to provide a document that has your name and address on. Some of the most common ones are:

  • Utility bill (or electricity bill)
  • Council tax bill
  • Bank statement
  • Tenancy agreement

 

Proof of a confirmed place at university/college

You’ll usually need a confirmed place at a university or college to get a student bank account.

That means if you’ve not yet received your A Level or Scottish Highers results, you probably won’t be able to apply for one.

In some cases, you’ll be able to start your application before getting your results, but won’t be able to finish it until after results day.

To prove this, you’ll usually need one of the following:

  • Your UCAS code that confirms your place on your course
  • An acceptance letter from your university or college
  • If your university or college offer was conditional, proof of this offer and your exam results

 

Tips for choosing a student bank account

Check out all your options

Don’t just go for the first student account you hear about. Or the one your friends go with.

You also shouldn’t just go with the same bank that you might’ve had when you were younger, or the one your parents do their banking with.

Weigh up all the options out there, so you can compare everything they’ve got to offer.

When doing this, also check out non-student bank accounts - as the features and benefits they offer might end up being better.

Choose the best account for you

You want to find the student bank account that has the best benefits for you specifically.

This might be completely different from the account your friends go for.

For example, if you don’t take trains very often, an account that offers a Railcard as its main perk might not be the best option.

Feel like you might be tempted to unnecessarily dip into your interest-free overdraft? Maybe look for an account that doesn’t have such a big overdraft.

Also, if you’re very responsible with your money and are likely to have a lot of money in your account, an account that pays interest might be best.

Work out your priorities and think about your money personality to make the best decision for you.

 

What are the best student bank accounts?

There are many different student bank accounts out there offering different features and benefits.

The one that’s best for you will depend specifically on what you’re looking for from a student account.

Read this blog for a rundown of some of the best student bank accounts out there.

Things to be wary of when using a student bank account

Interest-free overdrafts aren’t necessarily good!

It’s nice to have the extra comfort of knowing you’ve got interest-free money there in case you need it. After all, unexpected costs can hit you when you’re a student, adding to all the other stresses you have while you study.

Many students get an interest-free overdraft as a ‘just in case’ pot, but then get carried away with their spending at uni and end up in their overdraft - whereas if they hadn’t had the overdraft, they might have been more careful with their spending.

Of course, an interest-free overdraft is better than an overdraft charging 30% interest per year - which would mean that, if you ended up £1,000 into your overdraft, a year later you’d owe a total of £1,300. 😲

And it’s a much better option than high-interest loans, credit card debt or payday loans.

But it’s still best to only get an interest-free overdraft if you think you’ll be disciplined in only using it for emergencies.

 

Don’t get sucked in by freebies

Banks are companies and, like any company, they’re out to make money.

Freebies and bonuses are often used because banks know they’ll be able to make more money from you in the long run than the value of what they give away. 

When choosing a student bank account, try not to get distracted by the freebies. Instead, look at all aspects of the account that are going to affect you and your finances.

For example, the four-year Railcard offered by Santander would cost £100 if you paid for it upfront yourself. So run the numbers and make sure that, if you choose that account, it’s actually worth it.

 

Don’t go over your arranged overdraft limit

If you use more than your arranged interest-free overdraft, you’ll go into what’s called an unarranged overdraft - where the bank is lending you more money than previously agreed.

Once you enter an unarranged overdraft, you’ll be charged high levels of interest - which can spiral, leading you to owe more and more money and causing ongoing financial problems.

Alternatively, instead of sending you into an unarranged overdraft, your bank might reject any payment that would lead to you exceeding your arranged overdraft - which can also harm your credit score.

Learn more about your credit score and how to improve it. Then check your credit score for free with Credit Karma.

Minimum deposits

Some accounts require you to deposit a minimum amount into the account each month, or each academic term.

This amount can usually be covered by the maintenance loan payments you receive.

If you’re not earning a regular income and aren’t receiving student finance payments, you might want to avoid accounts that have these requirements.

 

Why you might switch your bank account as a student

If you’re unhappy with your student bank account, you might decide it’s time for a switch.

There are lots of options out there - so you don’t necessarily need to stay with a bank that isn’t doing it for you.

That being said, there are certain requirements you have to meet to be able to switch accounts.

Read our blog about switching student bank accounts to see if you’ll qualify and whether it’s worth it.

Student bank account FAQs

What happens to my student bank account when I graduate?

Your student account will likely be changed to a graduate account once you’ve finished your studies.

Usually, the size of your interest-free overdraft will decrease each year, for a set number of years. For example, it might decrease slightly each of the first three years after you graduate, after which point it’ll turn into an unarranged, interest-charging overdraft.

You’ll need to be careful of this and try to start paying down any overdraft you do have as soon as possible, so you’re not charged lots of interest later on.

The account will usually then be switched to the bank’s standard current account after a set number of years.

 

Can you have a student bank account for a Master’s or PhD?

If you already have a student account when you start your postgrad, you can usually continue to use the account for these studies.

 

Will I get access to any other accounts with my student bank account?

Alongside your student current account, you might also get a savings account.

Plus, you might be able to get a student credit card.

If you’re thinking about getting a credit card, make sure you learn why only paying the minimum on a credit card isn't enough.

Can you have more than one student bank account?

Most banks say that you can only have one student bank account at a time.

While there’s no clear way for them to check this, it’s probably best not to try it. Also, having one current account will simplify your finances and make it easier to manage your money.

 

 

So, there you have everything you need to know about student banking and student bank accounts.

To delve into more information, check out these blogs:

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