Best student bank accounts 2013/14

Choosing the right student account can be a bit of a minefield… but not with our detailed comparison on what all the banks have to offer students in 2013/14!
high street banksLooking to open a student account but not sure which bank to go with or how to apply? Well you’re in the right place!

We’ll first go over some of the important points in choosing a bank before comparing the best student bank accounts for this year.

Whether you’re a first year or current student make sure you compare the choices and switch to bag yourself an overdraft of up to £3,000 plus freebies including student railcards, Taste cards and NUS Extra cards.

7 big tips for choosing a student bank account

  1. Banks want YOU!

    Banks want youBanks are actively targeting students, more than any other group of the population.

    There’s good reason, too. Students are essentially investing in themselves to (hopefully) get a higher than average salary when they graduate.

    Whilst you may be borrowing now to fund your education, banks expect that, in the near future, you will reap the rewards and they hope that you stash your earnings away with them.

    Banks are looking to establish loyalty, and have good odds at keeping you for life once you’ve opened a student bank account with them.

    Just remember that you don’t have to be loyal, and you should switch banks if necessary to benefit from the next best deal. It may seem like too much effort, but switching can pay dividends for many students and graduates.

  2. Beware of the student bank account “freebies”

    Beware of freebiesThere’s a whole lot on offer this year but don’t be fully taken in by freebies! Short-term offers including free products, insurance, cashback rewards and other useful things may sound very appealing but you need to be smart.

    A student bank account offering a free MP3 downloads worth £20 is nowhere near as good as getting a large interest-free overdraft for 3 years or more.

  3. Go for the largest student overdraft

    An arranged overdraft is a common way of borrowing money through your current account. The best thing about a student account is that money borrowed through an overdraft has 0% interest. With an interest-free overdraft you pay back nothing more than what you borrow. This is unique to student bank accounts, so take full advantage of it!

    Go for a large overdraftEven if you don’t feel like you need the full overdraft, still apply for it then take some of it out (interest-free) to pump up your savings account.

    Now you’re playing the system! You actually make money by earning interest on the borrowed money whilst you’re a student. We’re not talking mega-bucks, but for something so easy to do, it’s not a bad return!

    Beware that the 0% interest period is not forever! It only lasts a certain number of years after you graduate before interest charges set in. You’ll need to starting paying up before you start getting screwed by higher repayments. Just as importantly, don’t ever go over your arranged student overdraft limit or you could suffer hefty bank charges.

  4. Is the overdraft “up to” or “guaranteed”?

    student-questionIt’s worth noting that the advertised student overdraft limit is often the maximum you can get. This amount is usually only available in your final year at university and only to students with a decent credit rating (you can now get a free report with Credit Reports Matter).

    For example, some high street banks such as Halifax attract students by offering an overdraft of “up to” £3,000. However we know that many students have claimed never to have received the full £3,000 at any point during university.

  5. Know the repayment conditions

    Student Account RepaymentIn a recent survey we conducted, 65% of students asked said they didn’t really know when they have to repay their student overdraft. Sure, you probably won’t have to repay it until after you graduate, but by then it can be too late and the sudden demand for £3,000 can be quite a shock!

    After university, most banks automatically turn your student account into a graduate bank account which deals with repaying your overdraft over a certain period. Take a look at our graduate bank account guide which lists the top accounts on offer to graduates and gives you an idea of how much money you are likely to have to pay back and how quickly.

  6. Know your credit rating

    Check credit scoreFinally, if you can find the time, it’s worth knowing what the banks already think of you (from a risk point of view). The amount of overdraft they will award you depends on your credit score (spending history, past borrowing, income stream etc).

    Luckily you can get a free credit report for yourself online through Credit Reports Matter. We’ve used this service ourselves and it’s the best we’ve come across, though you will need to cancel your free trial once you’ve received your report. You can do this easily by calling the number 0808-189-0346.

  7. Location, location, location…

    A local bank can prove to be worthwhile, especially when you need to make a cash or cheque deposit, or hand over any documentation in branch.

Our video on choosing a student bank account

What do you need to open a student bank account?

Luckily, there’s not too much! However at the least you will be required to show:

  • One or two forms of photo ID: such as a passport or driver’s licence
  • Proof of address: such as a recent utility bill or bank statement
  • Proof of student status: a letter of acceptance from your university, or UCAS offer letter.

Most banks now allow you to apply online for a student bank account, but you will still have to send off supporting documents or take them into your local branch. Documents must be original copies, not photocopies.

Hopefully things are a bit clearer for you now. With this information in mind, below are the best student bank accounts for 2012, taking the overdraft interest-free terms into account.

Top Student Accounts for 2013/14

Without further ado [cue drum roll], let’s cut to the chase and look at the rundown of what all the banks have to offer in terms of tasty overdrafts and juicy freebies this year.

We’re not here to tell you which specific bank to choose as they all have their merits and that decision’s all yours. Just make sure you choose the right one for YOU!

When it comes to requesting an overdraft amount, remember that the banks will check your personal credit rating. Check your score beforehand to know what you can expect when applying. You can currently get access to your report on a free trial with Credit Reports Matter.


Santander Student Account

Free 16-25 Railcard

Best Feature: 4 Year 16-25 Railcard

0% Overdraft

Year one: £1,500 | two: £1,500 | three: £1,500

Unfortunately the Santander account only offers an overdraft of “up-to” £1,500. This means that you won’t be guaranteed that full amount (although most students do get it depending on your credit rating).

To get the overdraft you must deposit at least £500 a term into the account (your maintenance loan will cover this). Upon opening the account you will be given a 0% overdraft of £250 and then be allowed to increase this up to £1,500 within your first year.


Students who open a new account with Santander this year will get a 4 year 16-25 Railcard, which is worth £120 and gives 1/3 off rail journeys (handy if you are moving to a uni away from home).

Those who want the railcard must register for online banking, enter a special code on the Railcard website, upload a photo of yourself and then the card will be sent out to you.

Extra info

  • In credit interest? - 1% on anything up to £500.
  • Unarranged overdraft charges - £5 daily charge (max £50 a month) plus paid/unpaid fees of £5/£10 per item.
  • Banking on the go – Mobile banking/Online banking/Debit Card.
  • Catches – Santander have a reputation for poor customer service.

Our Review

The early bird catches the worm and Santander were the first mover this year. They’ve pulled out all the stops by offering a great freebie in the student railcard (previously offered by NatWest).

The overdraft is not the largest but you could open the account, claim your 4 year railcard and then switch accounts after your first year of uni is over.

Customer service is not the best, but with online banking the need to go in to branch or contact your local bank is no longer as important.


Natwest Student Account

Free Taste Card

Best Feature: Free Tastcard

0% Overdraft

Year one: £1,000 | two: £1,250 | three: £1,500

It seems as if Natwest has followed the other banks like a sheep and is now only offering an “up to” overdraft amount as opposed to the guaranteed overdraft it has had in previous years!

You also need to deposit £750 every 6 months (your maintenance loan) and use the account as your main one to get any overdraft at all.

In the first year the overdraft is tiered and you’ll most likely be allowed £500 in your first term, £750 in your second and £1,000 in your third term.


NatWest/RBS student account holders will get a free Tastecard (worth £80/year) for every year of their studies.

The Tastecard offers discounts on eating out at places like Pizza Express, GBK, Zizzi and many more. So, if you’re a student that loves to eat out and entertain then this freebie is for you… cheque, please!

Extra info

  • In credit interest? - Nope.
  • Unarranged overdraft charges - £6 for each returned item (max. £60 in any charging period).
  • Banking on the go – Mobile banking/Online banking/Debit Card.
  • Catches – The Tastecard might actually lead to you spend more on eating out (as it can entice you to dine out more often).

Our Review

Natwest used to be the number 1 account for students but in recent years they’ve dropped quicker than a lead balloon. First they took away the free railcard and now they no longer have a guaranteed overdraft. The tiered system does help though as it means you won’t blow your whole overdraft on going out drinking buying food in the first term.

The freebie is good but not as great as it may initially sound. A railcard could end up saving you more over the 3 years and you can then use these savings plus our lovely student discounts and deals to eat out for less.

Lloyds TSB

Lloyds TSB Student Account

Free NUS Extra Card

Best Feature: Free NUS Extra card

0% Overdraft

Year one: £1,500 | two: £1,500 | three: £1,500

The Lloyds overdraft is tiered in the first year with £500 for the first 6 months, £1,000 in months 7 to 9 and £1,500 after that.

It might not seem like the largest overdraft but even though it’s “up-to” most applicants get the full amount and what’s more it offers the overdraft up to £2,000 if you study for 5 years (great for med students).


All Lloyds student account holders get a free NUS Extra card (worth £12/year) for a total of 3 years. It’s not a student essential but it does offer some good exclusive discounts.

Lloyds are also offering £75 off a holiday if you book through STA travel.

Extra info

  • In credit interest? - Nope.
  • Unarranged overdraft charges - If agreed then it’s 8.21% EAR. If you don’t arrange it then they charge 8.21% plus a £5 monthly fee for being overdrawn and £10 for returned items as well as daily charges.
  • Banking on the go – Mobile banking/Online banking/Debit Card.
  • Catches – If you go into an unplanned overdraft the charges are extortionate and getting out of debt could be very tricky (even if you are using Save the Student…).

Our Review

Lloyds TSB have beefed up their offering this year with the NUS Extra card and we appreciate the effort. But, once again bigger savings can be made with other freebies which means you could just buy an NUS Extra card instead.

The overdraft is good for those with a weak credit score though as a high proportion of applicant get the full amount.

The Co-operative

Co-op Student Account

Top customer service

Best Feature: Good customer service

0% Overdraft

Year one: £1,400 | two: £1,700 | three: £2,000

The Co-op account offers a staggered overdraft with the possibility to reach “up-to” £2,000 in the final year of study.

To be eligible for the full amount you must deposit £300 straight away and then continue to deposit your main source of income (maintenance loan, money from parents, grants etc.) into the account each term as well as pass a credit check on any previous spending.

It’s worth getting a free credit report (try Credit Reports Matter) to see whether you’d be likely to get the full overdraft with Co-op.


The bad news is that there are no freebies on offer from the guys at Co-op bank, which won’t sit well with a lot of students!

Extra info

  • In credit interest? - No
  • Unarranged overdraft charges - 9.9% (if confirmed with bank) or 18.9% (if you don’t consult the bank)
  • Banking on the go – Mobile banking/Online banking/Debit Card.
  • Catches – You have to ask them to increase the overdraft year on year & there’s no graduate account.

Our Review

What every happened to “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?  The Co-op had one of the best offerings last year, mostly down to the overdraft on offer being guaranteed for every student. Unfortunately this year they have made the change to only offer an overdraft at an “up-to” amount.

Despite all of this (as well as not offering a freebie) the overdraft is still pretty reasonable and they are a trusted bank to go with.


Halifax Student Account

Up-to £3000 overdraft

Best Feature: Largest overdraft

0% Overdraft

Year one: £3,000 | two: £3,000 | three: £3,000

Since the advertised overdraft amount is not guaranteed with Halifax, keep in mind that in your first year you are unlikely to get more than the £1,000 mark. When you apply you automatically get a £500 overdraft, so you need to ask for more throughout the years that you are at university and it will be judged case by case.

The actual amount you get depends upon your credit rating (check yours for free) and some students have reported in the past that getting the full overdraft is tricky.


It might be a stretch to call this a freebie but Halifax do offer students a personalised debit card which could made a good talking point every time you whip it out.

Plus, for the jet setters out there this student account comes with commission free currency exchanges.

We’ve also heard that you can get a 25% discount off AA cover but this is still unconfirmed.

Extra info

  • In credit interest? - 0.10% AER (not loads but every little helps).
  • Unarranged overdraft charges - 7.2% APR (if confirmed with bank) or 24.2% EAR + extra fees (if you don’t consult the bank).
  • Banking on the go – Mobile banking/Online banking/Personalised Debit Card.
  • Catches – A large amount of applicants may never get the full £3000 overdraft.

Our Review

This account is definitely for the big spenders! However, you should be aware that getting the maximum £3,000 can be harder than the challenge of not spending your whole student loan within one week!

If you’re confident that you have a good spending record and credit rating then by all means go for it.


HSBC Student Account

Chance to win £10,000

Best Feature: Large £3,000 overdraft amount

0% Overdraft

Year one: £3,000 | two: £3,000 | three: £3,000

Similarly to the Halifax account, students are unlikely to get over £1,000 overdraft in their first year.

The £3,000 is only an “up-to” overdraft and once again the amount you’ll be given depends on your credit score (check yours for free) and your spending habits. Students are guaranteed £500 upon opening the account though.


10 students who open an account with HSBC (and upload a video) will win a £10,000 bursary to help with their studies.

They also offer 18 free music albums from Sony over three years.

Extra info

  • In credit interest? - 2% AER on balances up to £1,000 in 1st year.
  • Unarranged overdraft charges - Returned items up to £10 – no charge | Up to £25 – £10 per item | £25 plus – £25 per item.
  • Banking on the go – Mobile banking/Online banking/Contactless Debit Card.
  • Catches - It is very hard to get the maximum overdraft of £3,000 (again, check your credit score) and only £500 is guaranteed. You will have to contact HSBC in order to increase your overdraft.

Our Review

In our opinion the freebies on offer are a little weak. Only 10 students will actually win the bursary so your chances are pretty slim and access to music these days isn’t something that students generally struggle with.

However, if you plan on living it up and spending big (we wouldn’t advise you to) then the £3,000 overdraft may be tempting, even if it isn’t guaranteed.


Barclays Student Account

£2000 overdraft

Best Feature: Nothing really

0% Overdraft

Year one: £2,000 | two: £2,000 | three: £2,000

Upon opening your account you’ll get a £2,000 overdraft and from then on you’ll have to ask to increase it.

But, as it’s only an “up-to” overdraft as opposed to guaranteed there’s a likelihood that you’ll never get the full £2,000. It depends on your credit score (check yours for free) as well as your spending record on the account.


Students who sign up with Barclay’s student account get a measly 10% off travel insurance. Yey…

Extra info

  • In credit interest? - Nope
  • Unarranged overdraft charges - There is an opportunity to increase it to £3,000 and pay 8.9% APR or charges are £22 every 5 working days (their terms are complicated so it’s worth checking their T&Cs first).
  • Banking on the go – Mobile banking/Online banking/Debit Card.
  • Catches – There are much better accounts on offer to students.

Our Review

Personally we aren’t a fan of the Barclays student account. The overdraft is meaty but not guaranteed, and there is nothing in the way of an enticing freebie.

Still, if you’re the type of person that doesn’t like to get the best deal (if there is such a thing) then by all means sign up to this account this year.

Student bank account comparison table

Take a look below at all the accounts on offer along with the key facts and figures.

BanksMaximum OverdraftMax OD Guaranteed?Freebies?More Information
Halifax£3000NoNoMore info »
Royal Bank of Scotland£1500NoFree Taste Card membershipMore info »
Natwest£1500NoFree Taste Card membershipMore info »
Lloyds TSB£1500NoFree NUS Extra CardMore info »
Co-Operative Bank£2000NoNoMore info »
Santander£1500NoFree 16-25 RailcardMore info »
Barclays£2000NoNoMore info »
HSBC£3000No18 free music albumsMore info »
Smile£1800NoNoMore info »

» Jump to the top.

Banks are a key component of student finance. For an even greater list of the student bank account rankings for this year head over to our sister site On there you’ll find a table offering more detailed information on the more student bank accounts.

Remember the top student bank accounts change each year, so make sure you’re still getting the best deal as an existing student and check back here for the best banking advice for students. To make things easier, join the newsletter to keep in the loop and also be informed of the best student deals handpicked by us every week!

This post will be updated annually to keep up with the current best student bank accounts. We always do our best to make sure that the research is up-to-date and correct but Terms and Conditions may change.

Leave a comment

32 Responses to “Best student bank accounts 2013/14”

  1. Jayne

    07. Apr, 2011

    Student finances – good advice – thank you

    Reply to this comment
  2. Jadene

    30. Apr, 2011


    Very clear and useful advice here :)

    Reply to this comment
  3. Rosina

    02. May, 2011

    This has been really helpful. I am finding searching for an account quite hard as a mature student but this has really helped. Cheers, :-)

    Reply to this comment
  4. Zoe

    06. Jul, 2011

    Unfortunatly the rail card no longer applies with Natwest as you need to be with natwest and to have changed your account from an Adapt account to a Student Acc by 1st July 2011 to be legible. This is disappointing as it was big pro for me.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Milites

    29. Jul, 2011

    Why is Natwest not rated here? They at least give you free insurance on some of your stuff (no I don’t work for them, I just wanted to know why it might not be good)

    Reply to this comment
    • Jake Butler

      30. Jul, 2011

      Hi Miles,

      The banks have just released their student bank account information for the new year and here at Save The Student we are currently working on updating the article. Be sure to check back in a week and we will have more information for you.

      It is comments like yours that help us see what bank accounts students want. Thank you!

      Reply to this comment
      • Milites

        02. Aug, 2011

        No problem. When I said Natwest I meant Santander. Sorry.

        Still confused about the Natwest Railcard though. I went into a branch today and they said that they still offer them to students opening accounts.

        Reply to this comment
  6. carol

    03. Aug, 2011

    i took my daughter today to Nat west said she needed to open a basic account as the student account was not available unless you are a previous customer. So opened a basic then he went to copy the id that he wanted, came back and said that the rail card is not available for my daughter as the account has to be opened before 01 June 11. so what a waste of time….

    Reply to this comment
  7. Eil

    04. Aug, 2011

    My son opened a nat west student account last year and is still waiting for the railcard as promised. Today he received a letter informing him that from Oct ’11 he needs to continue to use his student acct as a main current acct and deposit £750 every 3 mths and have 9 debit transactions every 3 mths!!!.if he stops using it as a main current acct they will remove the free overdraft! Obviously don’t want customers!!!

    Reply to this comment
  8. sophie

    06. Aug, 2011

    if you go with natwest, from october you must have 750 in your account every 3 months and if student finance is every 4 months, also if you do not do this then they will start charging for your overdraft.

    think that this should be a warning for those wanting to go to natwest

    Reply to this comment
  9. Jake Butler

    10. Aug, 2011

    The top student accounts have now been updated on Save The Student so you can make an informed decision.

    If you want to know anymore information or would like to see anything else in the top student bank accounts article then don’t hesitate to comment.

    Reply to this comment
  10. James

    10. Aug, 2011

    I went with Natwest last year for my student bank account but after receiving the letter off them about the 3 month thing I changesd to co-op.

    They were honest and up front and I have had no problems with their student account yet.

    Reply to this comment
  11. aman

    20. Aug, 2011

    never had any problems with HSBC…Banked with them all my life and they are quietly brilliant. Decent overdrafts as well. My Pick :)

    Reply to this comment
  12. Helen

    25. Aug, 2011

    I went to Natwest in June and they were not offering the rail card as only offer it when the student campaign starts. The campaign starts mid august. They are offering it now. A rail card is not of any use to me.

    So is the Co-op the best bank for the upcoming year?

    Reply to this comment
  13. Mercedes

    15. Sep, 2011

    I went to Halifax 2 days ago to talk about opening a student account. I made an appointment which I have just arrived home from. Your site states you get a £500 overdraft automatically on opening the account, where did you find this information from as i cannot find it on their site? althought 2 days ago the staff member agreed, their ‘new system’ wouldnt allow it today, the member of staff said as far as she knows their products havent changed and she needs to research to change mine among others initial overdraft from £200 to £500. I was also told 2 days ago i had to input £100 to activate the account however today i was told that was before so that you can could change the amount from £500 to £1000 but then to leave it anyway and i can withdraw the £100 tomoro by takin in a slip in my passport. she also has to send me my papers for the opening in the post as she is ‘waiting for them to come’. i am already not impressed let alone if the overdraft is no long initially £500, i should know by tomorrow. RANT OVER

    Reply to this comment
    • Jake Butler

      15. Sep, 2011

      I am sorry to hear that this is the case Mercedes. This information has been thoroughly researched by Save The Student and also supplied to us by the banks themselves.

      The customer service you appear to have received from Halifax does not sound the best. We can suggest changing your account to somewhere else. I hope this article can help you to choose the alternative top student bank account.

      Reply to this comment
  14. Sade

    25. Oct, 2011


    wanted to know, where is barclays?? do they a goodoverdraft limit and if i may ask what are the services they provide for international students?

    Reply to this comment
  15. Sade

    25. Oct, 2011

    i meant do they have offer good overdraft and also are international students eligible to apply for it??

    Reply to this comment
    • Jake Butler

      26. Oct, 2011

      Hi Sade, Barclays offer a 0% overdraft up to £2,000 over the three years. However, international students need to apply for an international student account. If you want to check out the information for a Barclays student account then you can look here.

      Reply to this comment
  16. alexandra

    18. Nov, 2011

    just applied online for co op student account since comparison sites are saying it is the best

    however they are saying that because i applied after my course had started that i needed a current account?

    i dont have one but i ticked yes anyways. anyway the email said they will make their decision in 3-5 days

    hopefully this account set up goes smoothly

    Reply to this comment
  17. John

    30. Jun, 2012

    Just applied for the student account from Santander as it offers £50 if you apply at University branches only. Not a bad start to the term in september 2012.

    Reply to this comment
  18. Zen

    09. Jul, 2012

    What if your course runs for more than three years? Do banks take that into account for your free overdraft?

    Reply to this comment
    • Owen Burek

      09. Jul, 2012

      Zen – good question, and the answer is that most banks offering student accounts extend the interest free overdraft for the duration of your course (and often for a year after graduating). You’ll still only be able to get the maximum offered on a 3yr course though, but then again it’s worth remembering that you will have to pay it all back in full (so it’s not free!).

      Reply to this comment
  19. Nick

    16. Aug, 2012

    My son is a UK citizen but not resident in the UK until he starts his course in September 2012. Coop says that you are eligible for their student account if you are a UK citizen or have 3 year’s residence but the application form seems requires 3 year residence. Why? Given his circumstances which accounts would best suit him?

    Reply to this comment
    • Jake Butler

      16. Aug, 2012

      Hi Nick,

      I would say that it is best to head into the Co-op and talk to a personal advisor. If your son is indeed a a UK resident then that is what Co-op say you need to be to open an account.

      In terms of alternatives, Halifax and Santander do not require you to have lived as a UK resident for 3 years but simply be a UK resident who has proof of university acceptance.

      I hope this helps.

      I hope that this helps.

      Reply to this comment
  20. Holly Hammond

    06. Jan, 2013

    I had a current account with Santander and decided to switch to the student account partly because of the £50 bonus. But no, apparently that only applies to customers from other banks. This was pretty annoying as I asked the manager as I was switching if I would get this bonus and she said I would, when it wasn’t coming through I asked in another branch and they told me it was only for people switching entire banks not having accounts upgraded. I feel like they should have made this clearer or at least told their staff the right information

    Reply to this comment
  21. abbie

    10. Jul, 2013

    railcard is not available at all with natwest

    Reply to this comment
    • Jake Butler

      11. Jul, 2013

      Hi Abbie,

      Thanks for picking this up. As stated in the disclaimer “It’s worth noting that the full facts and figures for this year’s accounts will not be released until early August.”

      The figures on this article that are currently showing are those from last year.

      Please like us on Facebook and we will notify you when the figures are published.

      Thanks :)


      Reply to this comment
  22. james

    19. Sep, 2013

    Just wondering.. you say a lot.. check credit score for most of em.. but you dont say what you need to get acceoted for any of them??

    Also how long does it take to switch accounts between banks and get an overdraft etc.?


    Reply to this comment
    • Jake Butler

      20. Sep, 2013

      Hi James,

      Unfortunately the banks will never reveal what score you’ll need to be accepted onto the account. We suggest checking your score before applying because if you are denied the account or increased overdraft then you’ll know the reason why and be able to improve it.

      We have more advice on credit scores here >

      Switching accounts can take a minimum of 7 working days and depends on which banks you’ll be switching between. If you are looking to switch then I definitely recommend it.

      Hope that helps.


      Reply to this comment

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