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What is a student overdraft?

A guide to student overdrafts and how you can get one

Tim Heming
Written by  Tim Heming
5 min read
Updated: 26 Feb 2024

One of the most sought-after benefits of a student bank account is an interest-free overdraft to help fund your studies. But are they really the best option? And what are the risks? Our guide explains all

What is a student overdraft?

For many students, managing finances is a critical part of the university experience. A student overdraft is a financial arrangement offered by banks to students in the UK. It allows you to withdraw more money from your student bank account than you have on your balance, up to a fixed limit. This feature is designed to provide a buffer for students during their studies, helping them cover living expenses or unexpected costs without immediate financial repercussions.

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The role of student overdrafts

The purpose of student overdrafts is to offer financial support during an academic career. Whether it's for textbooks, rent, or an unforeseen emergency, the flexibility of an overdraft can be a lifesaver. Repayment terms are typically generous, with most banks allowing students to repay their overdraft after they graduate, giving them time to secure employment and stabilize their finances.

The perks of interest-free overdrafts

Many banks also offer interest-free student overdrafts, meaning you won’t be charged for going into the red. They do this as an incentive to attract customers when they are young, knowing that we often stick with the first bank we open an account with, despite it being easier to switch (and get rewarded for doing so) than ever before. This can make student overdrafts the cheapest form of short-term borrowing available to students.

Who is eligible?

To be eligible for a student overdraft, you typically need to be a full-time higher education student at a recognized UK university or college. Banks will require proof of your student status, and the eligibility criteria may vary, so it's essential to check the specific requirements of each bank.

Timing your application

It's wise to apply for a student account with an overdraft feature as soon as your place at university or college is confirmed. This is particularly important if you're starting your studies in the autumn, as this is a peak time for banks processing new accounts.

Overdraft as a financial safety net

An overdraft can act as a financial safety net, providing peace of mind for when life throws a curveball. Whether it's an unexpected bill or a broken laptop, having access to additional funds can ensure you're not left in a bind.

Borrowing with caution

While an overdraft can be a useful tool, it's important to remember that it's not free money. Borrowing should always be approached with caution, as the funds will need to be repaid. Banks can also withdraw the overdraft facility at short notice, so it's crucial to use this resource responsibly.

Comparing student bank accounts

A number of high-street banks in the UK offer student bank accounts, and often these come with the benefit of a student overdraft. The best way to see what is available is to compare student bank accounts with MoneySuperMarket. This comparison can highlight the different overdraft limits and additional perks that come with each account.

The importance of terms and conditions

When considering a student overdraft, it's vital to review the terms and conditions. These will outline the overdraft limits, the repayment expectations, and any charges that may apply if you exceed your limit or fail to repay on time.

The impact on your credit score

A student overdraft can affect your credit score, although this is usually not a concern unless you exceed your overdraft limit or fail to make timely repayments. To keep on top of your credit health, you can check your credit score for free with our Credit Monitor, where we also provide helpful tips on how to increase it.

Post-Graduation financial management

After graduation, the terms of your student overdraft will likely change. Banks may start charging interest on the overdraft amount, so it's important to have a plan in place for repaying the borrowed funds. This can help you avoid potential financial struggles that might be visible to future lenders.

Alternatives to overdrafts

If a student overdraft doesn't seem like the right fit, there are alternatives. Increasing student loans, applying for student credit cards with lower limits, part-time jobs, bursaries, scholarships, grants, using savings, and seeking financial counselling are all viable options. For those considering a credit card, some banks offer credit cards designed for students which can be useful in emergencies, but require responsible management to avoid accruing high interest charges.

Other useful guides

For more information on managing your finances as a student, consider exploring the following guides:

Compare student bank accounts with MoneySuperMarket

Choosing the right student bank account with an overdraft option can be a straightforward process. It then just takes a few moments to make your choice, click through to compare student bank accounts and apply online.

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