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The ‘Best Value Student Account’ Awards 2015

The ‘Best Value Student Account’ Awards 2015

As new students get ready to begin their college years, Irish banks are offering everything from free flights to cheap loans to attract college goers onto their books. We examine what each bank is offering in detail and reveal the winner of this year's 'Best Value Student Account' Award.

**This is an old post! If you would like to read the Best Student Current Accounts for 2016, click here**

It’s that time of year again. Thousands of soon-to-be Freshers are about to embark upon the so-called ‘best years of their lives’. Students are eager, excited and expectant.

They’re in demand too! Banks are falling over themselves to lure our nation’s future doctors, lawyers and teachers into their embrace. And let’s face it, many of those folks will spend Freshers’ Week falling over themselves too, but for entirely different reasons.

The banks know that hardly anyone every switches bank accounts, so if they capture a student’s signature during Freshers’ Week, they are likely to keep them in their clutches for life! And, all going to plan, those students will graduate, get jobs, pay fees and take out mortgages some day. All of which will help the banks’ bottom line.


The defending champion

Last year, when we awarded the title of ‘Best Value Student Account’ to AIB, we said that the days of juicy, headline-grabbing sign-up incentives such as free cash and free flights were “long gone”. The last few years have seen banks competing on features such as overdraft facilities and interest rate discounts. Sign-up incentives seemed to be heading the way of the dodo…until now!

This year sees the dramatic return of free flights for students, along with continued offers of fee-free banking (a scarce feature in today’s banking world) and generous loan options.

But before you start dreaming of your next European holiday destination, it’s smart to consider the finer details of all of your current account options. There are some hidden nuggets buried in the details of some of this year’s current account offers and we’ve reviewed them all!


KBC Student Account

  • Fees
    • No maintenance or transaction fees.
  • Signup incentive
    • Students have a choice of €100 cash or two free return flights (including taxes) from Dublin to Berlin, Liverpool, London, Amsterdam, Madrid, Paris, Milan, Frankfurt or Brussels.
    • Once you open a current account with KBC, you’ll be given the choice of cash or flights. If you opt for cash, you’ll get €40 straight away and the remaining €60 when you complete 10 debit card transactions. If you choose the free flights instead, you’ll get one return ticket straight away and the second once you make your 10th transaction.
  • Visa Debit Card
    • Free contactless payments and free point-of-sale cashback.
  • Overdraft
    • While KBC doesn’t offer an overdraft facility aimed specifically at students, the bank does promise “extremely competitive rates” and the option to increase, decrease or cancel your overdraft at your leisure.
  • Student Loan
    • KBC doesn’t offer a special loan to students, but it does provide a 2% lending rate discount to current account holders on new loans between €1,500 and €50,000.
  • Student Credit Card
    • There’s no student credit card available with KBC.
  • Online Banking
    • Online and mobile banking are available.

We say: KBC’s student account is one of the most instantly eye-catching we’ve seen in years. Two free flights to Europe or €100 cash. That’s right. Two. Free. Flights.

The thought of a couple of wild weekends away will be simply irresistible for adventurous souls starting college this year. And we expect many to snap up KBC’s headline-grabbing offer.

However, despite the attractiveness of the sign-up incentive, KBC’s current account doesn’t offer many other student-specific bonuses.

Sign up for KBC’s Student Current Account here


Bank of Ireland 3rd Level Student Account

  • Fees
    • No maintenance or transaction fees.
  • Signup incentive
    • €100 worth of rewards are available through Bank of Ireland’s ‘FeelFree’ campaign. Students must do certain things by certain deadlines, such as make 5 transactions by December 14th, to qualify for discounts on things like pizza, beauty products and cinema tickets.
  • Visa Debit Card
    • Visa debit card with contactless payments is available.
  • Overdraft
    • Overdrafts are not available to 3rd Level Student Account holders.
  • Student Loan
    • Students can borrow between €300 and €15,000 at a discounted rate of 11.9% APR to be repaid over 1 to 5 years.
  • Interest-free student loan
    • €1,500 can be borrowed interest-free with a deferred payment option for the first 3 months. The loan must be repaid in full by the end of month 12.
  • Student Credit Card
    • There is a €400 credit limit for 1st and 2nd years and an €850 limit for 3rd and 4th years, with 0% interest on purchases for the first 6 months. The repayment interest rate comes in at 22.3% APR.
  • Online Banking
    • Online and mobile banking are available. ‘Pay to Mobile’ allows money to be transferred using only a phone number.

We say: Bank of Ireland ticks a lot of boxes with its student account, with a large number of features tailored specifically towards students’ needs. The ‘FeelFree’ programme is a pretty good sign-up incentive, which will help keep students fed and entertained. And there’s some accessible credit on offer too.

The strongest aspect of the Bank of Ireland account is the interest-free loan. This will allow students to jet off for a summer of adventure, with no pressure of repayments for the first 3 months. It’s a generous amount to offer, without being recklessly high.

We think this account will do well among students who are eyeing up a summer in San Diego before President Trump scraps the J1 programme altogether (don’t do it, America!).

Sign up for Bank of Ireland’s 3rd Level Current Account here


AIB Student Plus Account

  • Fees
    • No maintenance or transaction fees.
  • Signup incentive
    • A Student Leap Card voucher worth €12 will be given to students who sign up for AIB’s account. This can be used to avail of discounts in Boots, McDonald’s, Vodafone, Munster Rugby stores and more. AIB is also giving away 5 €150 vouchers for Ryanair, Aer Lingus, One4All and Carphone Warehouse each month to students who make 5 debit card transactions.
  • Visa Debit Card
    • Free contactless payments and free point-of-sale cashback.
  • Overdraft
    • Students in 1st and 2nd year can get an interest-free overdraft of up for €1,000. Up to €1,500 is available to 3rd and 4th years.
  • Student Loan
    • AIB is offering student loans of up to €50,000 at a rate of 9.95%, which is 1.5% less than standard loan rates. The repayment terms available for this loan are 1 to 5 years.
  • Student Contribution Charge Loan
    • Students can apply for a loan of €3,000 a year for up to 4 years to cover the college Contribution Charge. The amount must be repaid in full within 5 years of graduation and the rate is discounted by 3% to 8.45% APR.
  • Student Credit Card
    • AIB’s Student Mastercard offers a 3.83% variable interest rate for the first 12 months, and an annual interest rate of 14.85% thereafter. The credit limit is set up on application and students could even win tickets to the Rugby World Cup by signing up!
  • Online Banking
    • Online and mobile banking are available. AIB’s Me2U app allows easy transfer of money between Irish accounts.

We say: AIB’s Student Plus Account won the title of ‘Best Value Student Account’ last year and this year’s offer is almost identical.

The sign-up incentive is strong and the idea of discounted travel expenses will appeal to students who have a long commute to their student bar…I mean lecture obligations.

The real strength of AIB’s student account however, is the generous and accessible credit that’s on offer. The Contribution Charge Loan will be a huge help to students and families struggling to cover the ever-increasing cost of college, while the interest-free overdraft option will provide a welcome safety net for cash-strapped students a-plenty.

Sign up for AIB’s Student Plus Account here


Ulster Bank Student Account

  • Fees
    • No maintenance or transaction fees.
  • Signup incentive
    • None.
  • Visa Debit Card
    • Free contactless payments and free point-of-sale cashback. If a debit card goes missing, students can use Ulster Bank’s ‘Get Cash’ service to withdraw up to €250 from an ATM or ‘EasyCash’ machine.
  • Overdraft
    • All students can avail of an interest-free overdraft of up to €1,500, while those undertaking professional qualifications (medicine, law, accountancy etc.) can apply for up to €2,500.
  • Student Loan
    • There is no student loan available but Ulster Bank says that parents can apply for a fixed-rate personal loan of between €2,500 and €40,000 to assist students with their expenses.
  • Student Credit Card
    • Ulster Bank’s Student Credit Card comes with a limit of €450 and a discounted rate of 17.9% per annum (variable).
  • Online Banking
    • Online and mobile banking are available. Payments of up to €250 can be made via Ulster Bank’s app with just an IBAN.

We say: Ulster Bank doesn’t offer a sign-up incentive, but is rather focusing on helping students who might run into cashflow issues over their college years.

The bank’s generous interest-free overdraft offer is the strongest available this year, while the ‘Get Cash’ feature is another nice touch that will undoubtedly be a godsend to students when their card goes missing down the back of the couch.

We reckon that students who plan on living life to the very limits of their funds will find Ulster Bank’s offer very tempting, despite the lack of a flashy sign-up incentive.

Sign up for Ulster Bank’s Student Current Account here


Permanent TSB Student Account

  • Fees
    • No maintenance or transaction fees.
  • Signup incentive
    • None.
  • Visa Debit Card
    • Free point-of-sale cashback and contactless payments are available, with the option of adding a personal photo. Also, if a card is lost, students can apply for either €20, €50 or €100 in ‘Emergency Cash’. This costs €2 plus the amount of Emergency Cash requested.
  • Overdraft
    • There is no student-specific overdraft facility available.
  • Student Loan
    • There are no student loans available with Permanent TSB. However, standard loans of between €1,500 and €6,999 may be available to students, and come with an APR of 14.3%.
  • Student Credit Card
    • There’s no credit card available specifically for students.
  • Online Banking
    • Online and mobile banking available. The bank’s ‘MobileMoney’ feature allows students to pay friends using just their mobile number.

We say: Permanent TSB is offering very few student-specific discounts and bonuses and is instead relying on the strength of its standard offers to win over the college-going population.

The absence of overdrafts and accessible loans mean the account is low on credit options, but its ‘Emergency Cash’ feature will be appealing to students who have a habit of misplacing their card.

Sign up for Permanent TSB’s Student Current Account now


And the winner is…

...AIB Student Plus Account!

This year’s decision was made particularly difficult by KBC’s offer of two free flights to Europe and Bank of Ireland’s interest-free student loan.

While the idea of jumping on a free flight to Paris or Berlin in the next few months will be impossible to resist for many students, that trip will be a distant memory by the time students are neck-deep in notes, studying for their final year exams and worrying about keeping on top of accommodation, food and travel costs at the same time. And that’s where AIB comes in.

AIB’s Student Plus Account will be very useful to the students who need it the most. The bank’s Contribution Charge Loan will go a long way towards easing the stress of paying for college for students and families that are particularly stretched at this time of year.

Plus, the accessibility of a generous overdraft, a discounted credit card and a personal loan will help students to keep their heads above water until they get up and running in their careers.

The most encouraging takeaway from this year’s ‘Best Value Student Account’ Awards is that competition is noticeably increasing and offers are improving. Students have more options than they’ve had in recent years, and should be able to get an account that meets their individual needs at a time that should be spent growing up, learning loads and having fun!


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