The best 0% overdrafts and freebies for students.
I write a lot on the blog about the best bank accounts, but picking a student bank account is very different.
I chose my bank at uni, many years ago, because it was one of two or three on campus. In the late 90s it was really useful to have easy access to your bank so the location was important.
It’s very different today. For a start you can manage everything online so locality hardly makes a difference. Instead, current students should choose an account that’s going to be worth the most you.
That generally means choosing one with benefits – namely interest-free arranged overdrafts and free things like Young Person Railcards. But they’re not the only considerations.
It’s also worth noting that most accounts are designed for three-year courses, so check the terms, especially for the overdrafts, if you have a longer degree.
Here are the factors and top accounts right now that you should take a look at.
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Rather watch than read? Here’s my video on the best student accounts:
What to look for in a student bank account
A 0% overdraft could be essential to help you get through your time at university. The money in there won’t have any interest added on top, making them the cheapest way to borrow money.
Of course, you need to be careful about using it and not treat it as free cash as you will have to pay it back. You will generally have a few years after you graduate (and hopefully start working) to do this, but even so don’t spend this money just because it’s available.
The lengths of 0% overdrafts change between the banks – and you might not even get the advertised amount. If the wording says the overdraft is “up to” that means you might not get the high sum mentioned in the adverts.
But it’s might be best to not go for that large amount anyway as the bigger the overdraft the bigger the temptation to use it all. Instead, work out how much you think you’ll need to use and ask for that.
Plus, even if you think you won’t need one at all, it’s worth choosing a bank that offers one and applying for it at the start – you never know how things could change.
Some banks will also increase the size of overdraft each year (if you ask), which means you can’t blow it all in the first year.
However, there could be conditions attached to having one of these fee-free overdrafts, so make sure you read all the Ts&Cs upfront. It could be something like pay in £500 every term.
There’s also the chance you could get rejected for the overdraft so check your credit file before applying. Most students won’t have much on their file, but it’s worth making sure there’s nothing wrong on there.
And of course, if you spend more than your overdraft allows you’ll be hit by huge interest charges of around 40%.
When I was starting uni, all the banks had some kind of freebie in an attempt to draw you to them over another bank. I think I got a free Railcard.
Some of these save you a fair bit of cash – but they should generally be a second deciding factor once you’ve looked at overdraft options.
It also pays to check how much these freebies would cost if you looked around for extra deals and discounts. Often the value advertised is much higher than you’d actually need to pay.
A few banks are offering cash for opening an account once again this year.
Budgeting & free spending abroad
Digital banks Starling, Chase or Monzo are all great banks to help you budget. They have a number of features that will help you keep track of and split your spending.
I suggest using one of these as your day-to-day bank, transferring over a set amount to spend each week from the student account with an overdraft.
However, these aren’t student accounts and you don’t get a 0% overdraft with either card – so don’t overspend!
They’re also fee-free for spending abroad, making them cheap ways to spend if you are studying overseas for a term – or just for holidays and travelling in the Easter and summer breaks.
Monzo comes with monthly cash machine limit of £250 if you don’t pay in at least £500 a month and have one or more Direct Debits. If that’s a problem you might be better going with Starling which has no limits.
Interest on savings
Though some of the student accounts will offer interest on money in the account, they are quite limited and not a reason to pick one account over getting an overdraft.
However, if you think you’ll have more money available or don’t think you’ll need to use all of your overdraft, then you could look at other current accounts and savings accounts offering up to 2.02%.
Be careful moving money from your overdraft to higher-paying accounts. You’ll need to make sure you’re not locked in, and be able to move money back to your main account if you need it.
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The best bank accounts for students
Here’s my pick of the best accounts to get. You can only have one student account, but you can open up additional standard bank accounts on top. However with most you’ll be subject to a credit check, so don’t apply for these too close to each other
£100 cash, largest potential overdraft and top ethical choice
This account from Nationwide offers £100 if you open an account after 1 August 2022 and pay in £500 by 16 December 2022. £10 will also be donated to Shelter. You also can’t have had a FlexStudent or FlexGraduate account on 31 July 2022.
This also has large overdrafts over the course of the degree, building year on year which will stop you blowing it all in one go.
You’ll be able to ask for up to £1,000 overdraft in the first year, going up by £1k in the second year, and again in the third (to a total of £3,000). You need to request the increase each year.
There’s a minimum £500 that needs to be paid into the account every term and you must stay within your overdraft limit to keep it interest free.
You’ll also keep the £3,000 overdraft at 0% for the first year after graduation, and it drops to £2,500 for the next year, then £1,750 and then £1,000 – but watch out for costs from then on.
It’s probably also the top student account if you’re worried about the ethics of your bank.
|Opening offer||£100 cash & £10 donation to shelter|
|Bonus paid||14 days after meeting criteria|
|Requirements||Open a new FlexStudent account no more than five months before and 12 months after starting your couse|
|Deposit £500 by 22 December 2022 (for the £100 bonus)|
|Deposit £500 every term (for the overdraft)|
|Not had an open FlexStudent or FlexGraduate account on 31 July 2022|
|Have been a UK resident for three or more years|
|Overdraft||Up to £1,000 in year one; up to £2,000 in year two; Up to £3,000 in year three|
Chase Bank current account
Cashback and budgeting features
This isn’t a student account and it only performs a soft credit check, which means you can have it addition to your main student account.
If you’re happy to do this and use it for your everyday spending you can’t do much better than Chase. You’ll earn 1% cashback for the first year, and you can create sub-accounts to help with budgeting and tracking so you can stay on track.
You could also consider Starling or Monzo, though you won’t get the cashback.
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Other accounts for students
It’s worth checking out these accounts too, which mainly offer freebies. These might seem more attractive than 0% overdrafts, but if you do need to borrow the latter is probably worth more.
If you’re really not bothered by an overdraft then it’s still worth nabbing one and putting that cash in savings.
Remember you can only have one “student” account, so you can’t have both the Nationwide and one of these.
Potentially you could open one of these accounts to get the freebie, then close it down and open up the Nationwide – as long as you do this earlier than two months after your course starts.
Santander 123 Student
Free 4-year railcard
The Santander 123 Student account overdraft for the first three years is a guaranteed £1,500. If you study longer it increases to £1,800 in year four and £2,000 if there’s a fifth year.
You also get freebies. If you are likely to be travelling by rail a lot then offers a free four-year 18-25 Railcard, which will knock a third of train fairs. The railcard itself is worth around £100 (a three-year card costs £70 and one-year one is £30).
However it’s worth considering that you can use Tesco Clubcard points to get one for a third of the price, while there are sometimes deals offering a third off. Personally I’d go for the cash at a different bank and then buy a rail card if you need it.
You also have to pay in £500 every term. If you currently have a Santander current account you’ll need to transfer it over.
Santander 123 Student
|Opening offer||4-year 16-25 Railcard (worth £100)|
|Bonus paid||Within 5 working days you’ll get a code to redeem for the railcard|
|Requirements||Deposit £500 every term|
|Have proof of an accepted or unconditional offer|
|Live in the UK for tax purposes|
|Overdraft||£1,500 in years one to three, £1,800 in year four, £2,000 in year five (if still studying)|
HSBC’s student account has an up to £1,000 overdraft in the first year, but further up to £1,000 increases in the second and third year are subject to approval. Once you graduate you get £1,500 interest-free for the first year, and then £1,000 for the second.
To get the cash freebie you need to make five debit card transactions in the first month of opening your account.
This account requires you to pay in £500 each term.
|Bonus paid||Within 30 days of meeting criteria|
|Requirements||Open the account after 16 June 2022|
|Make 5 debit card transactions within 30 days|
|Deposit £500 every term|
|Not had an HSBC Student Account on or after 1 June 2019|
|Lived in the UK for at least three years|
|Overdraft||£1,000 in year one, up to £2,000 in year two, up to £3,000 in year three|
Barclays Student Additions
Free Perlego account
This freebie from Barclays is an annual subscription to Perlego, a service called the “Spotify of textbooks”. You get access to 900,000 textbooks online, and a year is worth £144. You need to apply by 30 November 2022 to get this.
The 0% overdraft is up to £500 in your first term, increasing gradually so it’s up to £1,500 by the third year.
£80 cash and a 4-year Tastecard
The interest-free overdraft is up to £500 in the first term and then up to £2,000 after this. This might seem tight but it does help you adjust to budgeting and reduce the risk you spend it all in Fresher’s week.
Natwest and RBS both also offer £80 cash (ends 31 October 2022) and a free 4-year Tastecard (worth around £35 a year). If you don’t go for this account there are other ways to get cheap or free dining discount memberships.
Free 3-year Totum card
With Lloyds you can get a free three-year TOTUM card. if you open an account before 31 October. This is worth £24.99, though it’s worth checking to see if you can’t get those discounts anyway via the free basic TOTUM card or services like MyUniDays and StudentBeans.
The overdraft is up to £1,500 in the first three years of Uni. If you study for longer it’ll go up to £2,000 in years four to six.
The TSB Student account offers 5% interest on £500, which is worth £25 in the first year if you always have £500 in the account.
The overdraft is £500 for the first six months, and then up to £1,000 for the next three, and then up to £1,500.
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How to get a student bank account
You have to be over 18 and living in the UK to get any student bank account, and most will require you to be at the start of your first year to get the freebie.
You’ll need to show ID such as a passport, driving licence or birth certificate. You’ll also need to bring along proof of your acceptance to the uni or college – possibly your UCAS letter or university acceptance letter.
You don’t need to wait until you get to your university to open the account, so doing it now before you head off means you can get your bank card and PIN sent out and your online banking set up in advance.
Don’t stick with your bank forever
Banks go all out for your business as a student as they know there’s a good chance you’ll stick with them for the rest of your life – and that’ll make them money.
Don’t. Once you’ve taken advantage of your 0% overdrafts or freebies, look for the best account out there for you and switch. And maybe keep switching! You can see the types of offers currently on offer here.
4 thoughts on “The best student bank accounts”
I’m 17 (turn 18 at the beginning of December), a British Passport holder but have not lived in the UK for the last 3 years which means I can’t benefit from a student account. Can you recommend the best account that I should open?
Thank you very much.
Noted! thank you Andy!
Keep doing what you’re doing!
Thank you for doing this post & video!
thank you for also replying to one of my previous comments on your blog!
I was wondering if you are able to open one of the freebie offering accounts, such as Barclays or HSBC.. Then switch to the Nationwide, whilst keeping the freebie?
Thank you for your time!
Hi Hannah, once you’ve got the freebie it should be yours for the duration (eg a 4-year railcard). The only thing to watch is whether you’ll also get the opening offers if you are moving from another account