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
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.
Bank of Ireland 3rd Level Student Account
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!).
AIB Student Plus Account
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.
Ulster Bank Student Account
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.
Permanent TSB Student Account
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.
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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