Barclays student account review: Get a free Perlego subscription

The Barclays Student Additions Account can get you an interest-free overdraft of up to £1,500 and access to Perlego

If you’re packing up your mum’s car to head off to university, you really should think about a student bank account. 

The Barclays student account can get you an interest-free overdraft of up to £1,000 in the first year of your degree, with the chance to increase it to £1,500 in the second year. If you’re in your first year, you can also get a free 1-year subscription to Perlego when you sign up — more on this in a moment.

Here are some of the details of the Barclays Student account including the pros, the cons and some alternatives.

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What is the Barclays Additions Student account?

The Barclays student account is similar to an adult current account, but it’s for students heading off to university. You get a large interest-free overdraft and potentially some additional extra perks. 

We always see a bunch of sign-up incentives for student accounts – this year a number of banks are offering £100 in cash to students. For Barclays, this is a subscription to Perlego for new sign-ups, which doesn’t quite match up with NatWest, RBS, Nationwide, Lloyds and HSBC, who are all offering £100. Meanwhile, Santander gets you a 4-year railcard.

If you’re wondering what on earth Perlego is, it’s an online library with books and academic texts – we’ll go into this more later.

Features of the account

Other than the interest-free overdraft and Perlego subscription, Barclays has a number of features to help you manage your money.

The Barclays banking app has features to track your spending, which also gives you insight into where your money is going. 

As with all bank accounts with an app, you can view your balance and latest transactions through the app, as well as change direct debits and transfer money. 

If you lose your card, you can freeze it within the app until it turns up (or you order a new one). 

If you prefer in-person banking, you can also manage your account in a Barclays branch – check if there is one near where you’ll be studying, as this may help you make a decision on a bank.  

You can use the card with contactless, as well as set up Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.

Barclays student account welcome offer

Offer: Perlego subscription for signing up for a Barclays Additions Student account

You can get a free Perlego subscription, which Barclays says is worth £653, if you sign up for a Barclays Additions Student account in your first year of study.

What is Perlego?

Perlego is an online library – it’s set up as a subscription which costs £96 per year – so we’re unsure how Barclays claims the reward to be worth more than £600. 

You can get academic texts with it, plus some additional study tools.

While this sounds fantastic on paper, most universities give you access to ebooks and academic texts, plus their libraries tend to be filled to the brim with multiple copies of each text for those who don’t want to buy a copy, so this may not be the best reward.

Universities also tend to run a book exchange during Freshers’ week, where you can get texts from those in higher years at a heavy discount, or even for free. You could always take £100 in cash from another bank and put this towards some of the study texts. 

How to get the free subscription

To get the free subscription to Perlego, you need to sign up for a Barclays Student Account before 18 December 2023 and be in your first year of study. You get 12 months of the subscription for free, which you have to claim by 31 December 2023.  

When will I get the subscription?

You’ll be emailed within a few days of opening your account with details on how to get it. 

Do you get an overdraft with the Barclays Student Additions account?

Yes, you’ll get an interest-free overdraft with the Barclays student account.

A student account will typically offer a large interest-free overdraft — you should hope for an offering of up to £1,000 in your first year, with the option to increase it over the duration of your degree. 

Keep in mind that “up to” means you won’t necessarily get the full amount, with the exception of the Santander student account, where you’re guaranteed a £1,500 overdraft for the first three years of your degree. 

Barclays offers an overdraft of up to £1,500 for the duration of your degree, even if you stay on for longer. This is up to £500 to start with, with the option to request an increase to £1,000 in the first year. 

An interest-free overdraft lets you spend into a negative balance without being charged any fees. It’s a way of borrowing money, so you’ll have to pay it back.

For example, a £1,500 interest-free overdraft limit will allow you to go overdrawn by £1,500, showing as -£1,500 in your account. This is cumulative, so any increases to your overdraft limit will include the money you already owe. 

What overdraft could I get with the Barclays Student account?

YearOverdraft limit
First termUp to £500
First yearUp to £1,000
Second year and beyondUp to £1,500

Once you’ve graduated, you’ll be moved to the Barclays Higher Education Account, which you can keep for 3 years. With this account, you’ll get an interest-free overdraft of up to £1,500. 

This account has the option to buy extras, like travel insurance and gadget insurance for additional monthly fees – it sounds convenient but make sure you still shop around.

Do you need a student overdraft?

A student overdraft helps you pay for your living expenses even if your loan has dried up as students don’t typically have enough money to cover basic living expenses.

You also find yourself with a lot of different streams of income. This includes your student loan, any money from your parents, grants, if you get any, plus income from any part-time work that you do. 

Your overdraft gives you some leeway and a chance to breathe (and still eat) before your next student loan comes in. 

Don’t be tempted to go on a shopping spree – you shouldn’t spend more than you can afford to pay back. 

How to open a Barclays Additions Student account

Am I eligible for a Barclays student account? 

Before you start to apply, make sure you’re eligible. To get the Barclays Additions Student Account you need to:

  • Be 18 or over
  • Live in the UK and have lived in the UK for the past 3 years
  • Have been accepted onto a full-time course of at least two years duration, or a one-year full-time access course leading to a degree
  • Have your student loan paid into the account
  • Not have another student account elsewhere – or be willing to switch to Barclays if you do

How to apply for the Barclays Student account

Opening a student account with Barclays is really easy. Before you begin, you’ll need to have the following ready:

  • Your 4-digit UCAS code confirming your place for your course
  • Proof of identity, such as a driving licence or passport
  • Proof of your current address
  • Your address history for the last 3 years
  • Details of your income and how you’ll cover your expenses – these don’t need to be extensive, you’re not expected to be earning six figures and have a detailed financial plan 
  • Details of your course and where you’re studying

Here’s what you need to do to get a Barclays Student Account:

  1. You have to apply on the Barclays app, so you’ll have to download it from the UK App Store or UK Play Store.
  2. Select “Apply for an account”, choose “Personal” and scroll through until you find “Student banking”
  3. “Select “full details”, read the information and select “I’m eligible”
  4. Set up the app – you’ll need to get the above documents handy and have your identity checked.
  5. Answer the questions about your personal details – you’ll need to answer questions about your course, your income and tax status. 
  6. Submit your application.
  7. Remember to change your bank details on the Student Loans Company website to get your student loan paid into your new account.

When can you open a Barclays Student account? 

You can sign up for the Barclays Student Account as soon as your place is confirmed – if you’re still waiting for your results or applying through clearing, you may need to wait to have everything through. 

This offer may be withdrawn, so you’ll want to get in as soon as you can if you’re interested.

Can my student loan be paid into my Barclays Student account?

Yes, in fact, with this account you have to have your student loan paid into the account. 

You’ll have used your old bank details when setting up your loan, so you just need to log into your Student Loan Company (SLC) account and change your bank details. You’ll need your new Barclays sort code and account number.

How much does the Barclays Student account cost?

The Barclays Student account is completely free! 

You don’t have to pay any monthly fees or overdraft fees to use the Barclays Student Additions account. You will have to pay fees if you use the account overseas, which we detail below. 

In addition, you won’t be charged if Barclays refuses a payment due to lack of funds or if it allows a payment despite lack of funds.

This effectively gives you a bit of peace of mind if you find yourself in a difficult situation financially. 

Can I use my Barclays student account overseas?

You can use the account overseas, but you be charged some fees when you do: 

Cash withdrawal in foreign currency outside of the UK2.99% per transaction
Debit card payment in foreign currency2.99% per transaction

If you’re looking for a student account that’s fee-free abroad, Nationwide is a good choice, as you can use the debit card abroad and withdraw cash abroad for free. Another good option is to have another non-student account to use abroad that won’t cost you anything.

Is there a credit check for the Barclays Student account?

As with opening most bank accounts, there will be a credit check when you apply for the Barclays Student account. 

This will include a hard credit check when you open the account and another anytime you ask for credit, such as if you request an overdraft or any subsequent requests to extend your overdraft. 

This isn’t anything you need to worry about. If you’ve never borrowed money before, you’ll likely have a very thin credit report, which means that you haven’t borrowed enough money for the credit bureaus to be able to judge you. 

We spoke to Experian who said that it’s unlikely that you’d be refused for having no credit history – it’s normal for banks to factor in a thin file when applying for student accounts.

If you want to, you can check your credit score for free. It’s also a good idea to make sure you’re registered to vote, which has a positive impact on your credit score. There may be a small dip in your overall score when you open the account for around 3 months and while you build up a good track record. 

What are the pros and cons of a Barclays Student Account?

Pros

  • Switch to Barclays anytime during your degree
  • Free 1-year subscription to Perlego

Cons

  • Freebie isn’t that great
  • Overdraft limit isn’t guaranteed
  • Overdraft isn’t as large as other student bank accounts
  • Not for international students
  • Fees to use the account abroad

Is the Barclays Student account any good?

To be honest, the Barclays Student Additions account simply isn’t as good as other student accounts. The overdraft isn’t very large at all and isn’t guaranteed, so you may not be approved for the top amount. You can get the same amount guaranteed from Santander, but the freebie is a 4-year railcard instead of the 1-year Perlego subscription. 

The maximum interest-free overdraft you can get is £1,500, which is less than half of the potential overdraft you could get from NatWest (£3,250).

To compare, the Nationwide and HSBC Student accounts both offer up to £1,000 in the first year and the option to increase it by up to £1,000 each year until your third year. 

While the Perlego subscription sounds like a sensible choice of reward, you’d expect your university to give you access to something similar, so you probably wouldn’t use it as much as you think.

Barclays Student Additions Account

0% overdraftUp to £1,500
EligibilityMust be 18 or over
For university students only
Not for international students
InterestNo interest
Savings accountsAccess to Barclays savings accounts, but not the Blue Rewards Saver which has its best rate. You can probably get better rates elsewhere. 
Perks1-year Perlego subscription

Are there better student accounts?

You can definitely get a better student account elsewhere. The Barclays Student Additions Account is okay, but it doesn’t have the best offering. The overdraft isn’t very large and isn’t guaranteed.

A lot of banks are offering £100 in cash to open an account with them, plus there’s a nifty way to get an extra £20 or £25 if you choose HSBC.

To choose between accounts, you want to compare the size of the overdraft — both in the first year and in later years — and the way you like to bank, whether that’s in-branch, online or using the app. 

If you prefer banking in-branch, take a look at which banks still have branches in the town or city you’ll be studying in, and even on campus, and choose between these. In a tie, you can consider a signup bonus or freebie.

You can read our round-up guide on student bank accounts, or read individual reviews via the links below. 

Barclays student account vs NatWest Student account

Barclays Student accountNatWest Student account
ApplyAnytime during studiesAnytime during studies
0% overdraft years 1-3Up to £500 in term 1
Up to £1,000 in year 1
Up to £1,500 in year 2 and beyond
Up to £2,000 in year 1
Up to £3,250 in year 3 
Overseas use2.99% transaction fee2.75% fee for withdrawals abroad
Perks1-year Perlego subscription£100 cash and a 4-year Tastecard

The Barclays bank account offers an overdraft of up to £1,500, however you could be approved for up to £3,250 by your third year with NatWest.

NatWest offers £100 in cash, while Barclays offers a subscription to Perlego, an online library. You can also get a Tastecard with NatWest. The Tastecard isn’t necessarily a great perk alone, but it’s a nice addition that can get you a discount on meals out. 

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