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Banking

The best student bank accounts for 2020

The best student bank accounts for 2020
Rob Flynn

Rob Flynn

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.

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 to take in.

So the last thing you want to do is put a couple of hours into researching your best financial options. But don't worry, because 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 right one for you.

So without further ado, here’s our 2020 review of the Best Student Bank Accounts in Ireland. Starting in no particular order with:

Ulster Bank

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, including access to Google and Apple Pay which most young adults will already be making use of. 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 for first years and fourth years alike.

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 (facial recognition with iPhone X)

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, but are only eligible if you’ve been an Ulster Bank customer for at least 12 months

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 personal loan to help students with their studies

Features and freebies: Commission-free travel money. Ulster Bank customers can also use the ‘Get Cash’ feature which allows you to withdraw money from an ATM without your card

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 / Mobile top up available through app for Vodafone or Meteor customers??

Fees: No maintenance or transaction fees

Visa debit card: Yes (contactless)

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 within 24 hours 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, FitBit Pay and Wena Pay

Mobile app: Yes

Internet banking: Yes

Overdraft: No student-specific overdraft

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

Student loans: No student-specific loans

Features and freebies: You can earn 1% cashback on certain purchases, up to a maximum of €10 a month, with the KBC credit card

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 €5,000 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.

After its long-awaited arrival Bank of Ireland customers, including students of course, can finally enjoy Google Pay. While many other options listed in this article already include either Google or Apple Pay the introduction of the contactless mobile payment system for banking customers could very well be a deciding factor for many soon-to-be students, especially if looking for a more traditional banking avenue.

Details

Sign-up incentive: None

Fees: No maintenance or transaction fees

Visa debit card: Yes

Contactless payments: Yes, includes Google Pay, but not Apple Pay

Mobile app: Yes

Internet banking: Yes

Overdraft: No student-specific overdraft

Student credit card: €500 credit 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, Google Pay is also available on android devices

Student loan: Borrow up to €5,000 at a variable rate of just 5.0% APR. Repayments can be deferred for three months, but the loan must be fully repaid after 60 months

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

Revolut

We say: While Revolut doesn't have a student-specific account, the standard account from the fintech can be a very good option for those starting out in college, especially as many young people may already have an account or be au fait with the user-friendly mobile app, which is coincidentally one of the best in the game at the moment. When it comes to banking this is a full-featured account and will suit a student down to the ground, especially as all accounts come with a BIC and IBAN so if you work on weekends your wages can be paid directly into your account. 

Revolut is still relatively new to the market in the sense that it has yet to obtain a full banking licence in Ireland so for that reason it still doesn’t offer any credit features, such as an overdraft or personal loans, but there are plans to change this in the future. What it does offer, however, are all the additional benefits you might imagine from banking with a fintech such as its user-friendly banking app, integrated spending analytics, a split-the-bill feature, as well as an effective savings tool in the 'Vaults' feature.

If you’d prefer a bank account that offers the more traditional brick and mortar experience and you’d like to have credit options available, well, this might not be the option for you. However, for a lot of youngsters who are well used to doing their banking solely online this account will be just the ticket.

Details

Sign-up incentive: None

Fees: No maintenance or transaction fees

Visa debit card: Yes

Contactless payments: Yes - also supports Google Pay, Apple Pay, Fitbit Pay, and Garmin Pay

Mobile app: Yes

Internet banking: Yes

Overdraft: No

Student credit card: No

Features and freebies: Revolut offers a number of helpful and useful features for students such as spending analytics, savings vaults, the ability to send and receive money easily from abroad, as well as a handy bill-splitting feature

AIB

We say: Little has changed this year as this account continues to be a favourite of ours, mainly because it offers just about everything a student could need, especially credit, which is becoming ever more important with soaring rents, registration fees and living expenses. This account still ticks all the boxes.

AIB continues to offer the €3,000 per year Contribution Charge Loan which can 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 currently does.

That being said, It's not just about credit. AIB's Student Plus Account is about as 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 of 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%, with a special introductory annual interest rate of 3.83% on purchases for the first 12 months from when you open your account

Student loan 1: Contribution Charge Loan - from €600 up to €3,000 available each year for four years at 8.45% 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

Features and freebies: Register a Visa Debit or Credit card to avail of AIB’s Everyday Rewards and you’ll receive cashback offers from some of Ireland’s leading brands, usually within five business days

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 graduation day…

That’s all folks! Best of luck to the Freshers of 2020, and do come back and see us in a few years!

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