All full-time UK students should be eligible for a student bank account. Unfortunately these are generally not offered to international students.
Before letting you open a student bank account, the bank will assess your credit rating to determine whether or not to offer you an account. If you have a poor credit history, you may have problems getting a student account with an overdraft. If this is the case, you will have to open a basic bank account instead.
Which should I go for?
When you’re choosing which student account to go for, there are number of factors to consider.
Location of branches and internet banking
Most banks offer internet banking, allowing you to check your balance, transfer money and pay bills online. As a busy medic this will be useful and will save you time and effort.
There may also be times when you need to see somebody face to face. Therefore it is a good idea to have a branch that is easily accessible.
This is the biggest and most important factor. All student accounts offer overdrafts. Providing you stay within the agreed limit you will not have to pay interest. There are two things you should consider when deciding which is best:
How much is the overdraft for?
Most offer a certain amount in the first year and then raise it every year, usually up to around £2,000-£3,000. Whether you can access the full overdraft will depend on your credit history and how you manage your account.
Many accounts will start with a much lower limit and only increase when it is requested; others increase automatically.
How long does it stay interest free?
Some will last a few years beyond graduation, others will start charging you interest rapidly once you leave university. Most will stay interest free for one year, so check before applying. Some accounts also have minimum amounts you must pay in, watch out for these.
It is important not to be swayed by the freebies, as other factors will impact on you more in the long run, such as the overdraft limit. However, if you are stuck for choice between two banks, then you could use this as the deciding factor. Most banks offer similar deals and there is stiff competition between them. Some banks offer free student rail cards, which can save quite a bit of money on travel costs.
A word of warning
Second to taking loans off family and friends, interest-free student overdrafts are the cheapest form of borrowing. However they are not ‘free money’. They will have to be paid back and will not remain interest-free forever. Some are only interest free if you meet certain criteria. Use them wisely. For example, spend the overdraft through the year if you know you can work to pay it off during the summer break. Remember, you will probably need your overdraft at some point during your degree – make sure it is still there when you really need it!