Santander student account review: Free railcard

Santander’s student account gets you a free 4-year 16-25 railcard and overdraft up to £1,500

If you’re packing your bags to head off to uni, it’s time to consider getting a student bank account. The Santander student bank account has an interest-free overdraft and a free 4-year railcard.  

Here’s everything you need to know about the Santander 123 student bank account. 

What is the Santander student account?

Santander 123 is Santander’s account just for students. Like most other student accounts, its main pull is the interest-free overdraft. You can also get a free 4-year Santander railcard, so if you’re moving a far distance from home, this could be a worthwhile option. 

With the Santander student account, you’ll get a guaranteed interest-free overdraft of £1,500 in years 1-3, increasing to £1,800 if you study for an additional year. More on this later.

Features of the account

You can bank online, in-branch and on your mobile with Santander. The mobile app lets you view your balance without logging in, make payments, set up standing orders and view your direct debits. It’s also got “My Money Manager”, which is designed to help you manage your money. 

My Money Manager gives you stats on your spending, insight into your bills and direct debits. It has a similar feel to challenger banks like Revolut, Chase and Monzo

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

In addition, you can get a free four-year railcard when you open your account, which gets you ⅓ off rail travel.

Is the 16-25 railcard worth it?

If you were to buy a three-year railcard and a one-year railcard at full price you’d spend £100, and you’d spend an extra £20 if you only get one-year cards. 

There are often deals that can get these prices knocked down by up to 33%, so this offer is probably only worth between £70 and £75. If you’re driven by freebies, you’d probably be better off with an account that offers a cash incentive, then you can spend it however you like. 

Santander 123 welcome offer

Offer: Free 4-year railcard for opening a Santander student account

Santander is giving away free 4-year 16-25 railcards to students that open a Santander 123 account.  

How to get the Santander student railcard

To get the free railcard you need to open a Santander 1l2l3 account and register for online banking. You should then receive a code by secure message to your online banking account within 5 working days.

You’ll need to enter this code on the railcard website within 60 days of the email.  

When will I get the Santander railcard?

You’ll get a code into your online baking within 5 working days of opening the account. If you choose a digital railcard, you can use it right away. If you choose a physical card, it’ll take around 5 days to arrive.

Do you get an overdraft with the Santander student account?

With a student bank account, you’ll usually have access to an interest-free overdraft. This lets you run into a negative balance up to a certain amount (known as your overdraft limit). A £1,500 limit will allow you to go overdrawn by £1,500, showing -£1,500 in your account. This isn’t free money, you’ll have to pay it back, and it’s cumulative, so any further increases to your overdraft limit will include the money you already owe. 

Santander is offering an arranged overdraft of £1,500 in your first year through to your third year. If you stay at uni for another year, you’ll get up to £1,800 and in your fifth year, you get a £2,000 limit.  then this can increase each year. 

Unlike other student accounts, the overdraft limit is guaranteed as long as you sign up for online banking and deposit at least £500 per term into the account. Before you’ve done this, you’ll have an overdraft limit of £250.

YearOverdraft limit
Years 1-3£1,500
Fourth year£1,800
Fifth year£2,000

When you graduate, you’ll be automatically moved to a 123 Santander Graduate Account. With this account, you’ll be given an initial £2,000 overdraft limit which will reduce in later years, giving you time to pay the money back. 

123 Santander Graduate overdraft limits

You’ll be automatically moved to the graduate account after you graduate. This account still has an interest-free overdraft, but this will gradually reduce over time, which we’ve detailed below. 

Years after graduationOverdraft limit and details
First year after graduation£2,000 limit
Second year after graduation£1,000 at 0% From £1,001 to £2,000 at  39.94% EAR (variable) giving a 5.97%APR (variable)

Do you need a student overdraft?

While studying, you tend to have lots of different streams of income, including your student loan, money from your parents, grants and income from part-time work. Despite this, you often still don’t have enough to cover your basic living expenses, so it can be helpful to have some additional wiggle room while you’re waiting for your student loan to come in. 

A student overdraft can be a convenient way to borrow at this time, as long as you’re sensible. You shouldn’t spend more than you can afford to pay back. 

How to open a Santander student account

Am I eligible for a Santander student account?

To get the Santander student account you need to:

  • Be 18 or over
  • Live in the UK permanently
  • Not already have an existing Santander current account. If you have a Santander current account, you’ll need to transfer it
  • Have been accepted onto a full-time UK UCAS course of at least 2 years with either an unconditional offer or your conditional place confirmed
  • Use this account as your main account
  • Be in your first year of study – anyone in another year of study can still get an account (and the freebie), but you’ll need to switch your account with the current account switching service. 

Unfortunately, international students aren’t eligible for the Santander student account. 

How to apply for the Santander 123 Student account

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

  • Details of how you’ll cover your expenses 
  • A valid passport or full UK driving licence
  • Details of your course and where you’re studying
  • Your four-digit UCAS status code. 

Here’s what you need to do to get a Santander student account:

  1. Go to the Santander website and select “Apply
  2. Choose which of the three options applies to you – if you already have a 123 Mini account, you can just log in and change your account, but you may need to visit a branch if you already have an adult account.
  3. If you’re a new customer, you’ll be prompted to answer a few questions, including confirmation that you’ve got an offer from a university. 
  4. Select “Continue” and enter your details. You need to answer questions about your course, your income and tax status. This is where you’ll be able to ask for an arranged overdraft and organise a switch.
  5. Submit your application.
  6. Remember to change your bank details on the Student Loans Company website and deposit at least £500 in the first four months and every four months going forward.

Is there a credit check for the Santander student account?

There is a credit check for the Santander student account – this includes a hard credit check when you open the account and anytime you ask for credit, such as when you request an overdraft.

This might freak you out but don’t be alarmed. 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. As long as you don’t have a running history of missed payments on a credit card or loan, you should be okay.

When can you open a Santander student account?

You can sign up for the Santander 123 Student account right now. Applications have been accepted since 1 August. 

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 Santander student account?

Your student loan can be paid into whatever account you want. When you initially applied, you may have put your old account into your application, so you’ll need to log into your Student Loan Company (SLC) account and change your bank details. Keep your new Santander sort code and account number to hand for this.

Your student loan can count towards the £500 per term you need to pay into the account. 

How much does the Santander student account cost?

As you’d expect, Santander’s student account doesn’t charge anything in fees. That’s right, no monthly fee and no overdraft fees, not even for withdrawing cash abroad.

There are no ongoing account fees or fees to use your overdraft. 

You won’t be charged if you go over your arranged overdraft – though payments will be stopped until you add money to the account.

Can I use my Santander student account overseas?

You can use your Santander Student card for free at a Santander cashpoint abroad. Other cashpoints will cost you a 2.95% fee, you’ll be charged this fee if you use your debit card in stores as well. There are better fee-free cards you might want to consider for going abroad.

What are the pros and cons of a Santander student account?


  • Guaranteed £1,500 overdraft
  • Free 4-year 16-25 railcard – great if you’ll be making lots of train journeys
  • Switch anytime in your degree


  • Overdraft doesn’t increase for most students
  • Other banks offer hard cash as a freebie
  • Not for international students

Is the Santander student account any good?

The Santander 123 Student account is a good option for students, but might not be the best option if you think you’ll need a larger overdraft in later years. The fact that the overdraft is guaranteed is a huge bonus of the account, as it could be a good option to switch to if you’re offered less by another bank. 

You can get a £1,500 interest-free overdraft with the account, but there is no option to increase this unless you do a 4th or 5th year, at which point you still get less than with the Nationwide or HSBC student accounts.  

The free 16-25 railcard can be a good perk if you think you’ll use it. I went to uni 250 miles from my hometown, so mine was regularly used, but anyone going to uni just a few miles away or planning to travel by car or coach won’t benefit from this perk. In this instance, you may prefer an account that gives a cash perk instead.

Santander 123 Student account 

0% overdraft£1,500 in years 1-3
£1,800 in year 4
£2,000 in year 5 
EligibilityMust be 18 or over
For uni students only
If you’re not in your first year, you need to use the current account switching service to switch to Santander
Savings accountsYou can get access to member-only Santander savings accounts, but you’ll likely get better rates by shopping around
PerksFree 4-year 16-25 railcard

Are there better student accounts?

Santander 123 Student account is one of the student accounts offered by a range of high street banks. The best way to compare these accounts is to look at the size of the overdraft. In a tie, you can consider a signup bonus or freebie.

If you prefer banking in-branch rather than online or using an app, you could research which banks still have branches in the town or city you’ll be studying in and choose between these. 

You should be able to do most things online nowadays, but could find yourself stumped if you’re given a cheque, for example. 

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

Santander student account vs Nationwide student account

Santander 123 StudentNationwide FlexStudent
ApplyAnytime during studiesIn first year only
0% overdraft years 1-3Guaranteed £1,500Up to £1,000 in year 1Up to £2,000 in year 2Up to £3,000 in year 3 
Overseas useFree withdrawals abroad from Santander cash machinesCan use debit card abroad for free in store and at cash machines
PerksFree 4-year Santander 16-25 railcard£100 cash

Santander has a lower overdraft, but it’s guaranteed as long as you register for online banking and pay in £500 every four months. Unlike Nationwide’s student account, you can actually sign up for Santander’s anytime in your degree (though you’ll need to switch after year 1). This means you could get the Nationwide cashback then switch to Santander and nab yourself a four-year railcard after the first year.


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