Students: they're like a red rag week to a bull at the banks
Forget the marketing ploys. Get a good deal on overdrafts
Sunday 09 July 2006
Since putting their pens down on their A-levels, teenagers across the country have been out celebrating. But soon the day of reckoning will come into view - 17 August, when they find out the results that will determine their future. And if they do get the grades to start visualising university life, those dreams may be tarnished by worries over loans, tuition fees and the rapidly increasing cost of living as a student.
The average graduate debt for 2005 stood at £13,500, according to Barclays, and that figure can only rise from this September, when universities in England will be able to charge up to £3,000 a year in top-up tuition fees to all new students.
Undergraduates can apply for the new Student Loan for Fees, as well as loans to cover living costs, and these won't have to be repaid until they are working and earning more than £15,000 a year. There are further grants and bursaries available for those from lower income households.
And last week, the Higher Education minister, Bill Rammell, announced new measures to "simplify the delivery of student finance", to be phased in during the 2009-10 academic year.
This will mean students can apply for loans and grants online at the same time as applying for their place at university.
In the meantime, however, those planning to go into higher education this autumn should be thinking now about how they are going to manage their finances - and who they will entrust with their money.
The banks have already begun cranking up their marketing in a bid to get this year's crop of undergraduates through their doors. They will continue to do so in Freshers' Week and beyond. Students may not have much cash to spare while they are studying, but the banks are keen to lure in the next generation of what are regarded as relatively low-risk debtors but potentially high earners.
They hope that by being generous to customers during their student years, they will encourage them to stay loyal in the future - first as graduates, then as working adults on good salaries - and later to buy expensive mortgages, loans and insurance policies.
"Students are valued because they are viewed as lucrative long-term customers," says Stuart Glen - dinning from the price-comparison service Money-supermarket.com. "Banks will make little profit out of students; payback will start when they graduate."
Because they will only have just started work, he adds, and will be tenants rather than homeowners, graduates won't have had the chance to build up a good credit profile. "This will limit their ability to shop around, locking them into accepting deals with the bank that has supported them through university."
One of the main marketing ploys is the offer of freebies if undergraduates open an account. Leading the way are HSBC, which is trying to tempt students by dangling a video MP4 player, and Lloyds TSB with the promise of an iPod Shuffle. NatWest is offering a five-year Young Persons Railcard, and Barclays a three-year National Express Coachcard.
On top of these initial incentives, many providers are offering discounts at selected shops on "student essentials" such as books, music and clothes - as well as commission-free currency.
However, it's important to look beyond these incentives to the most critical features of any student account: the level of the interest-free overdraft; the rate of interest earned on balances in the black, and paid on balances in the red; and any charges levied.
Of these, the first priority should be the interest-free overdraft, which usually increases year on year.
"The Co-operative Bank and Lloyds are two of the few providers to have increased their one-year interest-free limits," says Lisa Taylor from the financial analyst Moneyfacts.
For the first year, Lloyds and the Co-op are now offering £1,500 and £1,400, respectively, compared with £1,000 at HSBC and Barclays. However, Ms Taylor says the best overdraft package is offered by the Halifax, where undergraduates can borrow up to £1,750 in year one and £2,100 in year three.
You should also find out whether your bank will be prepared to increase your overdraft later in the academic year - and what happens if you need to exceed your limit.
Dipping further into the red without authorisation can prove very expensive, so make sure you are aware of the charges for doing so. HSBC offers the lowest rate of interest at 14.8 per cent; it rises as high as 32.9 per cent with the Co-op.
Mr Glendinning urges students to try to avoid getting into this situation. He adds that many banks will consider extending an agreed overdraft if you ask.
You also need to look at how much interest you earn when you're in credit. Most banks pay a paltry 0.1 per cent on account balances in the black, and the Co-op pays nothing, although its online bank, Smile, is paying 3.04 per cent. But Ms Taylor points out that as the majority of students won't ever be in the black by much, if at all, this is not really much of a benefit.
As well as looking at the student package, you should check what will happen when you graduate. Most banks should give you an interest-free overdraft for at least a year.
Philippa Gee from independent financial adviser Torquil Clark adds that many people end up staying with the same bank for the rest of their lives. So it's vital to make an informed choice at the outset.
"The decision you make as a student cannot be based on the immediate package. You must also consider whether the bank looks after all its customers in terms of ongoing competitive deals and a good range of facilities.
"If not, you could find yourself stuck there for the next 40 years - ripped off with high charges and inflexible accounts."
Many people, she adds, insist they will switch accounts when they have finished studying. "But this just doesn't happen as they feel they are tied in with overdrafts, loans and credit cards which they then carry through to their working life."
More immediately, undergraduates should also ensure they will have easy access to cash and any other essential banking services on their campus or near where they live. Not only will a local branch offer convenience, it may provide specially trained student advisers.
An iPod alone isn't enough
Emma Waldron, 18, from Lingfield, Surrey, has just finished her A-levels and is now waiting to find out if she has made the grades to take up a place at Durham University studying politics.
She has already begun thinking about the financial implications of going into higher education - especially with the introduction of top-up fees.
"I have thought more about which bank to choose in the past few days, since I received a letter from Ucas (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) which included promotional material from one of the banks," she says.
"I know Lloyds is offering an iPod Shuffle, and NatWest a railcard, when you open an account. But I think it's more important to find out what the banks are offering in the longer term."
Emma plans to shop around for her account, choosing one that offers a large interest-free overdraft for three years, as well as branch facilities and easy access to cashpoints in the city centre - though she also plans to do her banking over the phone and internet.
- 1 Rihanna 'nude pictures' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 2 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned PR disaster
- 5 Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
iJobs Money & Business
£65000 Per Annum Benefits + bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: If you are...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...
Day In a Page
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize