When it comes to reeling in students, the banks know that the best way to do this is through the legal bribery of freebies and goodies. This works well for students who can find themselves benefiting from this competition with free stuff just by signing up for a new student bank account.

What is a student bank account?

A student bank account is a bank account specifically designed to work well for someone in higher education.

Most student accounts will have free deposit and withdrawal options (including standing orders and direct debits), a debit card and typically an interest-free overdraft for years during your studies – helping you out with the cost of your utility bills!

How can I apply for a student bank account?

In order to apply for a student account, you will need your ID (such as a driver’s licence or passport) and proof of address, along with the acceptance letter from your university; an unconditional offer letter from UCAS; or your conditional offer letter with your corresponding A-Level or BTEC results.

Once you have any of those, you can walk into any branch of your chosen bank and open an account or open one online (you will need to upload the documents as evidence). 

What should I look for in a student bank account?

What you look for in your student account will depend on you, but there are some good things to keep your eyes peeled for.

#1: Free overdraft

The most important thing that you should look out for in a student account is a 0% interest overdraft. This will ensure that, during your degree, you won’t pay any interest on what you owe the bank in the way of overdrawn funds. While having an overdraft is, of course, better to avoid if you can; overdrafts can be lifesavers for students – the free ones especially.

It is important to note that not all banks offer 0% interest for every year of study, so do make sure you read up on the terms and conditions before opening an account.

#2 Overdraft limit

It is also very important to bear in mind that the term ‘free overdraft’ can be misleading. ‘Free’ is actually short for ‘interest-free’, rather than the overdraft itself being free. It’s essential to remember that you will need to pay the money back at some point, and that if you still owe the money after your interest-free overdraft expires, then you will have to start paying interest on the money you owe.

Most banks will offer you options for your overdraft limit. Only applying for an overdraft amount that is absolutely necessary should help you to avoid getting sucked into a vicious spiral of over-spending.

#3: Freebies

The second most important thing to consider are the freebies the bank can offer. While we would typically find these to be less significant than an interest-free overdraft, this may not always be the case. If huge freebies happen to outweigh the benefits of a 0% overdraft (or you already know you won’t need to use an overdraft facility), then don’t dismiss this.

Best student bank accounts 2021

While some banks are prepared to over-inflate and exaggerate their student deals in order to entice students in, we have focused our recommendations on the banks that have guaranteed 0% overdrafts for at least three years.

Nationwide Building Society

Nationwide guarantee a 0% overdraft of up to £1,000 in year one, £2,000 in year two and £3,000 in year three, as long as you pay at least £500 into your account per term. They offer full savings protection, but there aren’t currently any other perks.


Santander guarantee a 0% £1,500 overdraft for each year (one to three). They offer shared savings protection (with Cahoot) and a four-year 16-25 Railcard worth around £90 and guaranteeing you 30% off all rail tickets. We recommend doing your research and compare options that will work for you.

Can I change my student account?

You should be able to change your student account, but it is important to get the timing right. If you want to change your account soon after opening one, you’ll have a 14-day cooling-off period in which to change your mind. After that, depending on the bank, there may be a fee incurred.

If you find that you want to change student accounts during your course, you need to know that some deals are only available to 1st-year students.