Image The best student bank account for 2021
Image 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.

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 the best current account 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…

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, the percentage of customers who switch current accounts remains incredibly low at less than 0.10% a year.

Banks also know that graduates are very profitable customers indeed because they earn more, pay fees, and eventually take out mortgages and loans. 

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.

We should remind you however, in case you missed it, that both Ulster Bank and KBC Bank have announced plans to leave the market here. While you can technically still open up a student account with one of these, we would advise against it as you’ll only end up having to find a new current account provider when they eventually exit. It’s for this reason that we’ve omitted both accounts from this 2021 round up.

So without further ado, here’s our 2021 review of all the main student bank accounts in Ireland. Starting in no particular order with:

Permanent TSB

We say: The Permanent TSB Student Account is maintenance and fee-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 available, no student credit card or student-specific overdraft.

What it does offer is a Visa debit card, contactless payments, mobile and online banking, and access to Apple Pay. However its mobile app and online offering pales in comparison to most of the competition. And it still doesn't even offer Google Pay.

This account is good if you don’t need any credit, but it could offer far more to students by way of a better online offering, access to loans and overdrafts, as well as more digital wallets. 

Verdict: Could do better.

Details

Fees: No maintenance or day-to-day transaction fees.

Visa debit card: Yes - contactless.

Contactless payments: Apple Pay only.

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: An Emergency Cash feature is available that allows customers to withdraw cash from an ATM without an ATM card, should you lose it. 

Bank of Ireland

We say: This is a full-featured, fee-free student account from Ireland’s second biggest bank. There is a good student loan option with up to €5,000 credit available.

There is no student-specific overdraft with Bank of Ireland, but students can apply for a Student Mastercard which offers six months' interest-free credit on purchases.

Bank of Ireland customers, including students of course, can also enjoy both Apple Pay and Google Pay. 

Verdict: Doing well. 

Details

Fees: No maintenance or day-to-day transaction fees.

Visa debit card: Yes - contactless.

Mobile payments: Yes, Apple Pay and Google 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. 

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 (5 years).

Features and freebies: None available.

Credit Union - Currentaccount.ie

We say: The Credit Union launched its current account offering back in 2019 and since then has gone from strength to strength. Its student account is a full-featured, fee-free account that offers a range of added benefits for freshers. Applicant must be a member of a participating Credit Union first however in order to apply.

Upon signing up you'll get a Mastercard debit card which is contactless, access to a mobile app and online banking facilities, as well as access to student loans and an overdraft facility.

Students who sign up to this account with the Credit Union will also be able to use not only Apple Pay and Google Pay, but Fitbit Pay too.

Verdict: Excellent.

Details

Fees: No maintenance or day-to-day transaction fees.

Mastercard debit card: Yes.

Mobile payments: Yes - supports Apple Pay, Google Pay, Fitbit Pay.

Mobile app: Yes.

Internet banking: Yes.

Overdraft: Overdraft available for emergency funds - this is assessed like a loan and a max of €5,000 is available.

Student credit card: No.

Student loan: A reduced rate loan to students is available with flexible repayments. An affordability assessment will need to be carried out first before a loan can be secured. Most students will need to have their parent or guardian act as a guarantor on any student loan taken out. 

Features and freebies: As a student current account customer and Mastercard holder you'll get access to Priceless Cities, which offers exclusive experiences, priority bookings and special discounts, both at home and abroad. See here for more information

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 Revolut 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 introduce these 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, detailed analytics on your spending, an easy-to-use split-the-bill feature, as well as an effective savings tool in its 'Vaults' feature. It's also super easy for Revolut users to send and request money from each other.

If you’d prefer a bank account that offers the more traditional bricks and mortar experience and you’d like to have credit options available then 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.

Verdict: Doing well. 

Details

Fees: No maintenance or day-to-day transaction fees. Can only withdraw €200 a month fee-free - then a €1 or 2% commission charge, whichever is greater.

Visa debit card: Yes - contactless. €6 card fee.

Mobile payments: Yes - 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 and from other users, as well a handy bill-splitting feature. Revolut also offers plenty of great discount codes and cashback incentives through its rewards programme, boasting big names such as Tesco, Adidas, and Uber Eats. The fintech recently introduced a new feature for booking accommodation called Stays, which might also be useful for cash-strapped students looking to get away. Revolut also allows you to easily lock and unlock your card within its app. So if you've misplaced your debit card after a big night out, or want to stop it from being used, you can temporarily block your card to protect it from unauthorised use as opposed to having to cancel it and deal with all the hassle that then entails. You can then unblock it at any time. 

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 inflation, soaring rents, registration fees and living expenses for students to contend with. 

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, Apple Pay and Fitbit Pay, as well as a Visa debit card.

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

Verdict: Best in class.

Details

Fees: No maintenance or day-to-day transaction fees.

Visa debit card: Yes - contactless.

Mobile payments: Yes - Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Fitbit Pay 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: As with Revolut, this account comes with the super handy block and unblock security feature.

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…

You can review all student current account options available with our easy-to-use current account comparison tool

That’s all folks! Best of luck to the freshers of 2021, and don’t forget, once you’ve moved into your accommodation consider switching and saving on your energy bills too with our easy-to-use comparison tool!

We’re here to help

Choosing the right student account for you can be confusing, but we’re here to help if you have any questions! 

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