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Student current accounts

How to find the best student bank account

Flying the nest soon and looking for the right account for your time at university? Read about the pros and cons and the incentives attached to student accounts

By Lucy Hancock

Published: 21 September 2021

Female student studying

Looking for a student current account?

What is a student current account?

There’s lots to consider and organise before you leave for university. And if it’s your first year as a student you’ll need to consider opening a student current account.

You may be wondering how student bank accounts work and how they differ to standard current accounts. A student current account is a type of bank account designed for students in higher education. They’re fairly similar to standard current accounts but can come with extra features like interest-free overdrafts and perks, such as railcards and discount vouchers.

When is the best time to set up a student account?

There isn’t a specific time you should set up your student account, but you may want it ready to go for when you start your course. That way, you’ll have access to all the features of a student account when you begin your studies and know where you’re at with your finances - particularly if you’ll need access to an overdraft.

You’ll need to provide proof of your student status when you apply, so it may be worthwhile to set up your student account as soon as you’ve received your unconditional offer and confirmed your place at university. Just make sure you have approved your place at university beforehand and all your entry requirements have been met before you apply for your student current account.

How to open a student bank account

To open a student bank account, you’ll need the following information to hand:

  • Form of ID: Typically photo ID such as your driver’s licence or passport
  • Proof of address: Bank statement or recent utility bill
  • Proof of student status: Your UCAS offer letter or letter of acceptance from university

Most banks will allow you to apply online. But don’t forget to send off your supporting documents. When your new student current account is open, remember to update your Student Finance account with your new bank details. Your Student Finance Account is the hub where you can see your statements and letters about your maintenance loan or grant from Student Finance England.

How do I choose the best student current account for me?

The best student account will depend on what features are most important to you. Think about the following things when choosing an account:

  • 0% overdraft: Most student accounts come with a 0% interest overdraft (as long as you have money coming in to your account each academic term), as a way to borrow money conveniently when you need it. Your bank will agree to an authorised 0% overdraft at the outset, typically £1,000 or £2,000, for example. It may be possible to increase this at a later date. Be mindful that the 0% period won’t last forever and the terms of your overdraft are likely to change after you graduate
  • Incentives: From discount railcards to library subscriptions, banks can offer different types of incentives that come free with a student account. If you’re torn between a few banks and they offer similar features, the perks on offer could help you decide
  • Branch or online: You may want the comfort of a physical bank branch near your university, just in case you need to run over things in person or you may only need online banking
  • Customer Service Rating: When you compare student accounts with MoneySuperMarket, you’ll see a customer service star rating out of 5 to help you make the best choice for you

Do I need a good credit score to open a student account?

When you apply for a student account (or if you need to request an increase on your overdraft) you’ll receive a credit check to look at your credit history and how well you’ve managed credit in the past. If you have a history of unpaid debt (or unpaid ‘buy now, pay later’ payments), you could find it difficult to be approved for a student account.

If your student account application hasn’t been approved, a basic bank account may suit your situation better. Basic bank accounts work in a similar way to current accounts, only with less features. You'll still be able to withdraw and deposit money but you won’t be offered an overdraft or cheque book.

Can I increase the overdraft on my student bank account?

Depending on the student account you have and when you’ll graduate, you may be able to increase your authorised overdraft. Whether you can increase your overdraft limit will depend on your bank’s terms and lending criteria, as well as your borrowing history and financial situation. If you’re looking to increase your overdraft limit, contact your bank for more information.

How much will I be charged if I go over my overdraft limit?

If you go over your agreed overdraft limit into an unauthorised overdraft - you’re likely to face interest charges and your payments could be declined.

How much you’ll be charged will vary depending on your bank and how much you’ve overspent – and how long you stay in your unauthorised overdraft, so it’s important to check this with your student account provider.

If you’re having financial difficulties, it’s important to speak to your bank quickly and explain the situation. It should be able to help by increasing your authorised overdraft or offering alternative solutions to help until your finances are back on track.

Can I get a student current account if I am an international student?

Unfortunately, international students aren’t usually able to take advantage of some of the benefits included in student current accounts, such as an overdraft. Instead, you will be able to open a standard current account with most banks if you’re in the UK for more than six months. Want to learn more about how current accounts work? Check out our guide to current accounts.

What happens to my student account after I graduate?

Once you’ve graduated from university, your student account will convert into a graduate account, which is similar to a standard current account. Your existing student overdraft may be transferred over to your new account (meaning it will stay at 0% interest for a few years) and you may be able to apply for an arranged overdraft limit on top.

In some cases the bank may ask that you start to reduce your agreed overdraft limit over a period of time, depending on your work and income status.

Compare student current accounts with MoneySuperMarket

It’s quick and simple to find the right student current account for you when you compare with MoneySuperMarket. We can show you a broad range of accounts from across the market and searching won’t affect your credit score.

We’ll need to know you’re aged 18 or over, have been accepted onto a full-time UCAS course with a duration of at least two years, at a UK institution, and you don’t already have a student account. You can compare student accounts by features such as overdraft limits, and customer service ratings as well as seeing any additional perks, such as discounts and rewards.