Often going to college is the first time that young people have had to take control of their own finances. And on top of that responsibility, there’s all the other stressful factors such as living away from home, making new friends, and getting to grips with your academic subject. It is no wonder that a percentage of students find themselves getting into a financial mire.
It is therefore very important that you quickly get on top of your finances and your choice of bank account is a key part of this process. The first thing to note is that all good high street banks offer specialised Student accounts. Most of them, though, require you to lodge your main source of income (grant, parental contribution, etc) with them in order to qualify for the preferential account features. It’s important therefore that you choose the account that’s right for you. Here are some key things to consider:
1. What overdraft facilities are on offer?
As a student, you are likely to be walking a financial tightrope. You will likely need to dip into your overdraft on a fairly frequent basis. Therefore, it’s important that you choose a bank that offers students decent overdraft limits. Often these limits vary by year of degree so make sure that you do a comparison from a few banks.
2. What charges apply if you exceed your overdraft limit?
Unauthorized overdraft charges and paid referral charges (i.e. where the bank allows a payment that takes you into excess) can be quite hefty, so again check to see which bank offers the best deal.
3. Convenience of bank
Does it offer Internet and Telephone banking? Maybe even mobile phone banking? Is there a branch on campus? Does it have Saturday opening? These are a few of the things that may be important alongside the competitive nature of its Student account.
4. Friendliness of staff / impression of branch
Sometimes customer experience can be quite different depending on what branch of a particular bank you are in. Some of the things to consider are whether you had to queue for a long time, were you afforded a personal interview, did the member of staff seem to know what he or she was talking about? Personal rapport is sometimes overlooked but can be important. If you get into difficulties, you want someone that you feel comfortable approaching.
5. Special offers/incentives
Most banks offer student incentives, such as travel railcards. If these are offered on top of good banking services, then great. However please don’t just choose your account based on the appeal of the incentive – over the 3 or 4 years of your study a good overdraft and low charges are far more important!
Also, remember that once you’ve opened a bank account you are not obliged to remain with that bank. They have to provide a good enough level of service to maintain your loyalty. If you are unhappy with the service provided, then you are free to switch banks.
Having opened your account, it’s important to keep track of your spending and how much you’ve got in your account. And don’t feel afraid or embarrassed to seek advice from your bank if you’re having difficulties or if you’re bewildered by bank jargon, etc. If your branch is any good, the staff there will be happy to help and should be understanding of how you’re feeling. After all, most of us have been in that position of starting out in our financial lives and the burden of coping with the challenges that are thrown at us!