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The best student bank accounts for 2018

Robyn Hamilton

Robyn Hamilton

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.

Freshers' Week is less than a month away and thousands of new students are taking their first steps on their college journey. It’s an exciting time with plenty of fun decisions to make around things to do such as which societies and clubs to join, which events to attend, and which are the best nights out etc. Then there are the less exciting but no less important jobs to setting up a student bank account.

As Freshers likely have better things to do right now than research bank accounts, we’re here to help by giving our review on all of the accounts on offer this year, so that students can focus on the stuff that really matters.

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 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 2018 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’s an interest free overdraft and reasonable credit card for times when money is tight. There are no freebies or signup incentives though, and they could do with a proper student loan, but otherwise this is a good all-rounder.


Signup incentives: none

Fees: no maintenance and 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 (and up to €2,500 for medicine, law etc.)

Student credit card: yes – limit is €450 and the interest rate is 17.9%

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, Google Pay and Apple Pay available

Permanent TSB Student Account

We say: The Permanent TSB Student Account is maintenance and transaction free, which you would expect from any student account. But they don’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.


Signup incentive: none

Fees: no maintenance and 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 Student Current Account

We say: It’s very hard to argue with the lure of free cash. Fifteen quid for opening a bank account and another 60 after just 10 transactions? Super! There’s a student credit card available too with a solid €1,000 limit (providing you are a second year or above), a decent 14% 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 signup incentive.


Signup incentive: €75 paid in two installments: €15 when the account is opened and the remaining €60 once you’ve made 10 transactions per month. You must open your new account before October 31st 2018 to avail of this offer. 

Fees: no maintenance and 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 €1,000 and the rate is 14%

Student loans: no student specific loans

Features and freebies: free cashback feature available but not just for students, this is available with all KBC current accounts

Bank of Ireland 3rd Level Current Account

We say: This is a full-featured, fee-free student account from Ireland’s largest bank. There is a good range of loan options available including the popular “J1” loan of €1,000 which allows deferred payments for three months.

There is a Preferred Faculty Loan which is interest-free and available to students on professional courses. There is no overdraft with Bank of Ireland, but students can apply for a Student Mastercard which offers a reasonable rate and 6 months interest-free on purchases.

This account is hard to beat and is sure to remain very popular this year. Excellent student account.


Signup incentive: none

Fees: no maintenance and transaction fees

Visa debit card: yes

Contactless payments: yes

Mobile app: yes

Internet banking: yes

Overdraft: no student specific overdraft

Student credit card: up to €1,000 credit limit, 14.54% rate and 0% on purchases for the first six months.

Student loan 1: up to €1,000 student loan at 1% APR. Repayments can be deferred for three months, but loan must be fully repaid after 12 months.

Student loan 2: up to €5,000 multi-purpose student loan at 9.7% APR to be repaid over 1 – 5 years.

Student loan 3: Preferred Faculty Loan - up to €2,500 can be borrowed interest-free per year to assist with college/living expenses for students of Medicine, Accountancy, Engineering etc.

Student loan 4: Postgraduate Loan - up to €14,000, 5.6% variable APR to be repaid over 1 - 5 years

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

AIB Student Plus Account

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.


Signup incentive: none

Fees: no maintenance and transaction fees

Visa debit card: yes

Contactless payments: yes

Mobile app: yes

Internet banking: yes

Overdraft: up to €1,500 interest-free overdraft

Student credit card: yes – limit up to €1,500 and the rate is 14.85%. Introductory rate of 3.83% for the first 12 months

Student loan 1: Contribution Charge Loan - €3,000 available each year for four years with interest only repayment option at 8.15% APR

Student loan 2: up to €50,000 available at 8.15% APR for terms of 1 to 5 years

Features and freebies: Google Pay and Apple Pay are available

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 the best 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 2018, and come back and see us in a few years.


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