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Personal Finance

Ireland's best student bank accounts for 2011

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Simon Moynihan

Simon Moynihan

Staff Writer

The annual review of student bank accounts

Last week, years of hard work paid off for thousands of students as the CAO began offering places at colleges and universities across the country.

Those few weeks between getting a place and starting college are an exciting time with tons to plan and organize. And with so much to do before universities open their doors, we thought we’d do our bit to help out the college bound crowd.

We’ll be reviewing student current accounts again this year so you can spend your time on the important stuff like finding a new place to live and finding your way around campus.

The good news is that even though the banks are broke, some are still offering good deals to students. They have tightened their belts, but there’s still free banking, free loans and even free flights. So our advice to students is to take advantage of them while you can!

Any working stiff will tell you that when you graduate, the flow of money between you and the banks is pretty much one way. And that’s strictly from you to them.

So what freebies are on offer this year then?

Sadly, signup freebies are becoming a thing of the past. The only decent signup deal left is from Bank of Ireland. They are offering15,000 free return flights to European cities for new current account customers. And they are cities you’ve actually heard of like London, Amsterdam and Barcelona.

Ulster Bank used to give students €100 cash for opening a new account and we thought that was the best freebie last year, but sadly, they aren’t handing out cash for the fresher party fund anymore.

They only other signup freebie is from AIB who’ll will give you a Travel Card. But you can buy one of those for €12 so it’s not much to shout about.

What have the banks stopped doing since last year?

Loads… but the most noticeable thing is that banks are not paying interest on student current accounts anymore. Now I can’t imagine that paying three quarters of a percent to broke students was hurting Bank of Ireland much, or paying 1% was crippling AIB, but they’ve yanked them anyway. Permo and Ulster Bank didn’t pay current account interest in the first place, so there was nothing to take away.

So what’s new for this year?

Well, Ulster Bank is the big mover this year. They’ve started offering a proper student account, with a student credit card, a student loan and a student overdraft.

Both Ulster Bank and Permanent TSB are offering Visa Debit Cards to students and Bank of Ireland and AIB say that they’ll have them soon too.

In bad news, AIB is now charging an extra 2% on its student loans.

The best deals in each category

Best Signup Offer or Freebie

Bank of Ireland free flights. Why? Well, it’s just about the only decent signup freebie left – current economic climate and whatnot.

Best Loan Offer

Bank of Ireland - €2,000 travel loan. It's interest free for 9 months or you can make no payments for 9 months. Brilliant because you can use your free flights next summer, have a great time on the borrowed cash and not have to worry about pesky payments or interest until spring of the following year.

Best Overdraft

AIB €1,500 interest free overdraft. Why? Because it’s the biggest available and it’s interest free. Simple.

Best Credit Card

AIB MC2 Student Mastercard. Very close race between this card and the Bank of Ireland Student Credit Card. Both have decent introductory purchase offers and ok interest rates, but AIB wins again because of the higher credit limit of €1,500 (Bank of Ireland's limit is €850). Good luck getting one though. It’s well rumoured that credit cards from our nationalised banks are very hard to come by.

If a credit card is important to you, Ulster Bank may be the place to go, although their limit is a miserly €450. Probably just enough to get you out of trouble but not enough to get you into any!

Best Current Account Interest

Nobody! None of the banks are offering current account interest to students anymore.

The Overall Winner

And the award for best student account 2011 goes to...  Bank of Ireland's Student Account.

They give students more of the things they want and need than any of the other bank - like like free flights, free travel loans, free banking and a decent credit card.

The full list of nominees

Bank of Ireland –  Student Account

Signup Incentive
15,000 free return flight to a European city available for opening a current account. To get the flight, you need to use the account 10 times before 31/10/11 including at least one online transaction. First come first served, loads of notice required before travel and you might not get the city you want, but heck, it's still hard to beat free.

  • Fees: No maintenance or transaction fees.*
  • Overdraft: An interest free overdraft for up to 9 months then 11.9%.
  • Interest: Interest is no longer paid on current account balances
  • Loans: A travel loan of up to €2,000 interest free for 9 months, or no payments required for 9 months.
  • Loans II: A discount of off the standard personal loan rate. Currently 11.9% APR.
  • Credit Card: Student Credit Card (Mastercard) with a limit of up to €850. This card has an introductory purchase rate of 0% for 6 months. The APR is 18.1%.
  • Visa Debit Card: No
  • Student Website: - videos, blogs, competitions and offers.

Allied Irish Bank – Student Plus Account

Signup Incentive
Student Travelcard – good for travel discounts of up to 40% and discounts from participating retailers. Worth €12.

  • Fees: No maintenance or transaction fees.*
  • Overdraft: An interest free overdraft of up to €1,500.
  • Interest: Interest is no longer paid on current account balances
  • Loans: A discount of 1.5% off the standard personal loan rate. Currently 11.45% APR.
  • Credit Card: MC2 Student Mastercard with a limit of up to €1,500. This card has an introductory purchase rate of 3.83% for 12 months. The APR is 20.3%.
  • Visa Debit Card: No
  • Student website: - discounts, blogs, competitions and giveaways.

Ulster Bank – Student Account

Signup Incentive

  • Fees: No maintenance or transaction fees*
  • Overdraft: An interest free overdraft of up to €650.
  • Interest: No interest paid on current account balances.
  • Loans: Up to €1,300 per year at 7% APR.
  • Credit Card: Student credit card available with a limit of €450 and APR of 17.9%
  • Visa Debit Card: Yes
  • Student Website: No

Permanent TSB - Student Account

Signup Incentive

  • Fees: No maintenance or transaction fees*
  • Overdraft: No special offers but overdraft available at regular rates.
  • Interest: No interest paid on current account balances.
  • Loans: No special loans offers for students, but student account holders can apply for regular loans.
  • Credit Card: No specific student credit card but students can apply for a regular Permanent TSB credit card.
  • Visa Debit Card: Yes
  • Student Website: No


* For all banks there are exceptions to the “fee free” rule like bounced cheques and international or foreign currency transactions.
** does not list all student current account incentives on its comparison pages because they are seasonal and subject to change at short notice. The information and incentives listed here are as accurate as we can verify on 2nd September 2011.
*** National Irish Bank has an account called Freedom for 18 - 27 year olds but it's not strictly a student account so it's been left out.


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