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Banking

The best student bank accounts for 2019

Conor Dever

Conor Dever

Staff Writer

Every year we review all the student accounts available in Ireland and give our opinion on which one is the best. We look at loans, overdrafts, credit cards, features and the freebies that banks use to sign up students.

College is an exciting time in anyone’s life. Of course, there is a natural predilection for boosting your social life, but there is so much more to consider. Accommodation for one is going to be an awful headache, especially these days. Learning to cook, clean, share responsibilities, learning to live with strangers. It's all a lot.

So the last thing you want to do is put in a couple of hours into researching your best financial options. So we did it for you. So let's get to it, but first...

Before we get into it

There are a few things you should keep in mind...

Banks love Freshers… but do they have your best interests at heart?

Lots of businesses love Freshers - and they’re happy to give out freebies galore because they know that if they get students interested now, they could keep them as customers well after they finish college.

This is especially true when it comes to banks because they know that most students who sign up now will become customers for life! This is no understatement - despite the fact that the switching process is relatively straightforward in the banking sector, the percentage of customers who switch current accounts remains incredibly low at just 0.06%.

Banks also know that graduates are very profitable customers indeed because they earn more, pay fees, and they take out mortgages and loans. Today’s Freshers will eventually emerge as sensible, stable graduates - and the banks love sensible stable customers.

Consequently, the banks send hordes of reps with clipboards to the gates of campuses across the country at this time of year with the mission to sign up students using any means necessary. They’ll offer you all manner of incentives and by all means, sign up to the bank offering you the best goodies, just don’t forget that you can and should switch banks if and when those benefits come to an end when you finish up in college.

We’re here to help  

If you don’t know where to start, don’t worry! That’s where bonkers.ie comes in. In this article we’ll tell you which Student Bank Accounts are doing ok, which ones could try harder and which ones are top of the class, making it easy for you to choose the one right for you.

So without further ado, here’s our 2019 review of the Best Student Bank Accounts in Ireland. Starting in no particular order with:

Ulster Bank Student Account

We say: Ulster Bank’s Student Account is a fee-free, full-featured student account that’ll work well for most students. It has a robust mobile app with some handy features. There’s also a Visa debit card, with contactless payments, and there is an interest-free overdraft and reasonable credit card for times when money is tight. There are no freebies or sign-up incentives though, and they could do with a proper student loan, but otherwise this is a good all-rounder.

Details

Sign-up incentives: none

Fees: no maintenance or transaction fees

Visa debit card: yes

Contactless payments: yes, plus Apple Pay and Google Pay

Mobile app: yes

Internet banking: yes

Overdraft: interest-free overdraft of up €1,500 if you receive a grant (and up to €2,500 for medicine, law, and dentistry students among others). Those without a grant can get up to €750

Student credit card: yes – the limit is €450 and the interest rate is 17.9%. Government stamp duty of €30 also applies. 

Student loans: none, although parents can apply for a fixed-rate loan to help students with their studies

Features and freebies: commission-free travel money

Permanent TSB

We say: The Permanent TSB Student Account is maintenance and transaction free, which you would expect from any student account. But it doesn't offer much more than that to students. There are no student-specific features or offers, no student loan, no student credit card, and no student overdraft. Permanent TSB’s current account is full-featured though and offers mobile and internet banking, a Visa debit card and contactless payments. However, there is no access to Apple Pay and Google Pay. This account is good if you don’t need any credit, but it could offer far more to students.

Details

Sign-up incentive: none

Fees: no maintenance or transaction fees

Visa debit card: yes

Contactless payments: yes - Apple Pay and Google Pay not available though

Mobile app: yes

Internet banking: yes

Overdraft: no student-specific overdraft

Student credit card: no student-specific credit card

Student loans: no student-specific loans

Features and freebies: GoREWARDS is available to all Permanent TSB current account holders and offers cashback with select retailers. There is also an Emergency Cash feature that allows customers to withdraw cash from an ATM without an ATM card.

KBC

We say: It’s very hard to argue with the lure of free cash. Fifty quid just for opening an account? Super! There’s a student credit card available too with a solid €1,000 limit (providing you are a second-year student or above), a decent 14% interest rate, and 1% cashback on groceries. But free cash has a way of vanishing fast, and although KBC’s Student Account is a proper full-featured, fee-free account, there are no student-specific loans available. And with college life becoming more and more expensive, this may turn some students away. Still, though, this is a good all-rounder with a proper student-friendly sign-up incentive. Also, younger people are going to want to have more haptic feedback on their account, so a good banking app is key and KBC’s app, barring Revolut and N26, is the best in the game.

Details

Sign-up incentive: €50 transferred into the account when you set up an account with the mobile app

Fees: no maintenance or transaction fees

Visa debit card: yes

Contactless payments: yes, includes Apple Pay, Google Pay, Garmin Pay and FitBit Pay

Mobile app: yes

Internet banking: yes

Overdraft: no student-specific overdraft

Student credit card: yes – limit up to €300 for first years and €1,000 for second year or after. 14% interest rate. Government stamp duty of €30 also applies. 

Student loans: no student-specific loans

Features and freebies: you can earn up to €10 a month cashback with the KBC credit card, but this is available to all KBC credit card holders 

Bank of Ireland

We say: This is a full-featured, fee-free student account from Ireland’s largest bank. There is a good student loan option with up to €10,000 credit available.

There is no overdraft with Bank of Ireland, but students can apply for a Student Mastercard which offers a reasonable rate and six months interest-free on purchases.

As with Permanent TBS, mobile payments aren't available with Bank of Ireland, which could be a turn off for some depending on how you like to pay.

Details

Sign-up incentive: none

Fees: no maintenance or transaction fees

Visa debit card: yes

Contactless payments: yes, no Apple Pay or Google Pay though

Mobile app: yes

Internet banking: yes

Overdraft: no student-specific overdraft

Student credit card: €500 limit for first and second-year students and up to €1,000 credit limit for third-year students and thereafter, 14.54% interest rate and 0% on purchases for the first six months

Student loan: borrow to €10,000 at a low 5% APR. Repayments can be deferred for three months, but the loan must be fully repaid after 60 months

Features and freebies: get cashback rewards from well-known brands when you register your Visa debit card for Live Life Rewards

AIB

We say: This account was a favourite of ours last year because it offered just about everything a student could need, especially credit, which is becoming ever more important with soaring rents and registration fees. Little has changed this year, and this account still ticks all the boxes.

AIB continues to offer the €3,000 per year Contribution Charge Loan which will be a huge help to students struggling to cover the cost of college, while the interest-free overdraft will provide a welcome safety net in times of need. And with a huge €50,000 available as a student loan, AIB makes more credit available to students than any other bank.

It's not just about credit though. AIB's Student Plus Account is full-featured as you'd expect and offers a mobile app, contactless payments, Google and Apple Pay as well as a Visa debit card.

In our opinion, this is the best student account available in Ireland right now and offers everything a student might need from their bank. Best in class.

Details

Sign-up incentive: none

Fees: no maintenance or transaction fees

Visa debit card: yes

Contactless payments: yes - Google Pay and Apple Pay also available 

Mobile app: yes

Internet banking: yes

Overdraft: interest-free overdraft up to €1,000 for first and second-year students. €1,500 limit for third and fourth years

Student credit card: yes – limit up to €1,500 and the rate is 14.85%  

Student loan 1: Contribution Charge Loan - up to €3,000 available each year for four years at 8.15% APR. Interest-only repayment option also available

Student loan 2: If you have a Student Plus Account with AIB, you can apply for a student loan at a competitive interest rate of 8.45% APR from €600 up to a maximum loan amount of €50,000 

A final note about fees…

One thing students should be aware of is that they will be charged fees when they no longer qualify for student/graduate accounts - and fees with some banks can be up to €10 per month for average customers.

What’s really interesting here though is that the banks offering the best student accounts will typically charge the highest fees later, and the banks that could try harder for students have better value current accounts for regular punters!

Something to keep in mind, come the end of college…

That’s all folks! Best of luck to the Freshers of 2019, and come back and see us in a few years.




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