The Best Student Bank Account for 2014

The Best Student Bank Account for 2014

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

This month, thousands of new students start at colleges and universities across Ireland, and Fresher’s Week is just coming to an end for most of them. Starting college is a huge achievement and a fantastic experience, and in the first few weeks students are kept very busy with societies and clubs to join, parties to check out and of course, a Fresher’s Ball to attend.

In most colleges, classes are put on hold for Freshers so they can find their feet in their new lives as students. And there really is so much to do...

Now we’re not experts on student life by any means, and we won’t be able to help with finding accommodation, or choosing the right societies to join. But one thing we are pretty good at is helping people find the best financial products - and every student needs a good current account right?

So every year at bonkers.ie, we do our bit for the new college students of Ireland by reviewing all the Student Bank Accounts out there and helping the country’s best and brightest get off to a great financial start. Oh, and we help take the spade work out of choosing the best current account too.

We’ll show you the freebies and deals, the loans and overdrafts, and the pros and cons of all the accounts so you can choose the one that’s right for you.

So what’s on offer this year?

Well, we’ve been hearing a lot about green shoots lately, and it’s always been our opinion that green shoots are best watered with money. Which is good news because after a long absence, free student cash is back! There’s also great discounts on all sorts of stuff like, travel, coffee, food, entertainment and nightclubs.

Unfortunately, signup freebies are still a bit meagre and the days of big giveaways like free flights are long gone. Belt tightening is still the order of the day too, and some loans available to students are much smaller than they used to be.

Banking is still free with all student current accounts this year though which is a relief, as regular folks have seen fees and charges go stratospheric over the last three years. This is great news, because no matter which bank account you choose, you won’t need to worry about fees and charges and can focus on the nicer things like free money, free loans and great discounts.

So without much further ado we’ll begin the review of Ireland’s Best Student Bank Accounts for 2014.

AIB Student Plus Account

Students are savvy and have an eye for value, and AIB reckons they are Ireland’s number one Student Bank, so they must be doing something right. They have Ireland’s second largest branch network as well which means there’s probably one near you which can be very helpful too.

Signup Incentive: Student Leap Card Voucher worth €12 - The Student Leap Card offers discounts on everything from travel and entertainment, to food and fashion.

The nitty-gritty

  • Fees: No maintenance or transaction fees
  • Visa Debit Card: Yes. Contactless payments included. 
  • Overdraft: Interest free overdraft of up to €1,000 for first and second years. Third year and above can apply for €1,500. The overdraft remains interest free while you are a student.
  • Student Loan 1: Student Contribution Charge Loan. Students can apply for €3,000 per year for up to four years to cover registration fees and other expenses. Interest only repayments can be made while you remain a student – this amounts to €21 per month for each €3,000 borrowed. The interest on the loan is 8.45% APR which is 3% less than ordinary punters pay.
  • Student Loan 2: Student Personal Loan. This is a multi-purpose loan of up to €50,000. Full repayments are required right away. Interest is 9.95% which is a discount of 1.5% off standard rates.
  • Student Credit Card: Yes. AIB Student Master Card. AIB will set the credit limit on application. Introductory 3.83% interest for the first year, then 20.3% APR.
  • Online Banking: Yes. AIB offers free online banking, a mobile app and Pay to Mobile

We say: AIB offers an excellent all round student package. Their generous overdraft remains free for the duration of college and their Student Contribution Charge Loan is sure to make AIB an attractive choice during these hard times – especially with its interest only payment structure. With a credit card and Student Personal Loan thrown in, it’s easy to see why AIB is number 1.

Bank of Ireland 3rd Level Current Account

Bank of Ireland has the country’s largest branch network. They probably have a branch on your campus or somewhere nearby, so if you like your banking face to face (which can be handy for stuff like loans and overdrafts) Bank of Ireland could a good choice. And they have an excellent package of stuff too.

Signup Incentive: 20% Off Stuff - Bank of Ireland has deals with restaurants, retailers and cafes offering 20% off to students using their Bank of Ireland visa debit card.

The nitty-gritty

  • Fees: No maintenance or transaction fees
  • Visa Debit Card: Yes. Contactless payments included.
  • Overdraft: No overdraft available.
  • Student Loan 1: Interest free loan - borrow up to €1,500 and pay back over 12 months. This loan used be available for travel only, but Bank of Ireland have made it a multi-purpose loan so (be careful) you can now use it for whatever you want. You can even defer repayments for 3 months.
  • Student Loan 2: Discounted loan – borrow up to €10,000 and take up to 5 years to repay. The interest on this loan is 9.7% which is a discount of a couple of percent on what ordinary punters pay.
  • Student Credit Card: Credit limit of €400 in first and second year and €850 in third year and above. 0% interest for the first six months, then 18.1% APR.
  • Online Banking: Yes. Bank of Ireland offers online banking, a mobile app and Pay to Mobile.

We say: Bank of Ireland offers a top shelf all round financial service for students. Although they don't offer an overdraft, thousands of J1s have been taken on the Interest Free Loan and a credit card is always useful to have. Bank of Ireland can’t top KBC’s signup incentive, but with hundreds of branches across the country, Bank of Ireland is hard to beat. 

KBC Student Current Account

KBC has been trading in Ireland for ages but only started offering current accounts recently, so their student current account is brand new for this year. To launch it, they sent armies of reps in branded shirts to college gates and opened a new branch (they actually call their branches “hubs” because they don’t handle any cash) just outside UCD.

Signup Incentive: €100 cash - Cash is back, and KBC are offering students actual real folding money for opening an account with them. €50 will be deposited once the current account is open, and another €50 will be deposited just for using the debit card 10 times before the end of the year.

The nitty-gritty

  • Fees: No maintenance or transaction fees
  • Visa Debit Card: KBC offers a MasterCard Debit Card. Contactless payments included.
  • Overdraft: No special/discounted student overdraft.
  • Student Loan: No special/discounted student loan.
  • Student Credit Card: No special student credit card.
  • Online Banking: Yes, KBC offers free online banking and a mobile app.

We say: KBC offers a decent, free current account and their €100 signup incentive is sure to attract plenty of students. But that’s what is it – a current account. And as it has just launched this year, KBC is missing some of the extras that students might like to see from their bank like free loans and discounted overdrafts. KBC is also short on branches, but for the modern student who does almost everything online, this should not be an issue.

Permanent TSB Student Account

Most students don’t pay bank fees, but most ordinary working people do. So it can come as a quare shock to students that once they graduate, their bank starts chomping away at their cash by charging for everything from using ATMs to buying stuff and even visiting a branch. Well, except for Permo that is - most of their grownup customers actually bank for free. And since most people stay with the same bank for life – Permanent TSB could be the right choice for financially minded forward-looking students.

Signup Incentive: None

The nitty-gritty

  • Fees: No maintenance or transaction fees. 
  • Visa Debit Card: Yes. Contactless payments included, and you can even put your own photo on the card
  • Overdraft: Available with a slightly reduced interest rate. No interest free period.
  • Student Loan: None.
  • Student Credit Card: None.
  • Online Banking: Yes, Permanent TSB offers free online banking, a mobile app and Pay to Mobile.

We say: Permanent TSB offers a fee-free current account for students and not much else. They do have a sizable branch network which many students will find helpful, and for students that don’t need financial help, Permanent TSB would be fine. However, the free loans and overdrafts offered by other banks may have some students choosing to go elsewhere.

Ulster Bank Student Account

Although Ulster Bank has stopped doing signup freebies, they have been steadily improving their offers for students and they now have a full suite of products that should suit most. They are lacking a discounted student loan, but students can still apply for regular personal loans.

Signup Incentive: None

The nitty-gritty

  • Fees: No maintenance or transaction fees.
  • Visa Debit Card: Yes. Contactless payments included.
  • Overdraft: Interest free overdraft of up to €1,500 available depending on grant level. Students of the professions can apply for an overdraft of up to €2,500.
  • Student Loan: None.
  • Student Credit Card: Yes. The Ulster Bank Student Credit Card has a credit limit of €450 and a rate of 17.9%. There are no introductory offers with this card.
  • Online Banking: Yes, Ulster Bank offers free online banking, a mobile app and Pay to Mobile.

We say: Ulster Bank offers students a good all round student account. Their overdraft is the best of the bunch and they have a decent credit card. They used to offer a good value loan just for students but that seems to be gone now which could send some students elsewhere. There’s a good branch network too, so Ulster Bank would be a fine choice for many students.

And the winner is… 

AIB Student Plus Account

Picking the Best Student Bank was no easy task, but times are challenging, finances are tight and grants are often delayed, so a bank that is prepared to extend a range of good finance options to students is sure to come out on top this year.

Freebies are great, but when it comes down to it, a great suite of products is better… and AIB's really stack up. Their Student Contribution Charge Loan, with its interest only payments option could be a lifesaver for thousands of students, and their free overdraft will certainly help bridge some of the gaps that students encounter along the way. AIB also offers a special loan for students of certain courses and the AIB Student Personal Loan, at up to €50,000, is the biggest in the market.

In addition, AIB’s Student Credit Card is decent, they have loads of branches and they offer all the modern online and payment conveniences that students have come to expect. A great all round student package. 

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