It’s officially been over a month since we launched Answers and with well over 300 questions and answers submitted it looks like you’ve all taken quite a shine to it. One of the questions that crops up regularly is “what are the best accounts for students?”. So to find out who’s top of the class, here are a few things to look for when choosing bank accounts, credit cards and personal loans for students.
Students are a frugal bunch at the best of times, and if you’re looking to save enough change for some $7 Pad Thai for lunch, the humble bank account is one place where you can save a few pennies by avoiding unnecessary charges on everyday transactions.
First of all, you want a student bank account with as few fees as possible. That means no monthly service fee, no own-bank ATM fees, and no eftpos fees. You also want to make sure that there aren’t any minimum requirements or conditions for the account fees to be waived, as chances are you won’t be able to meet them with just a casual wage and centrelink. The other key component is the availability of a debit card so you can shop online using your own money. All of the Big 4 (ANZ, Commbank, NAB and Westpac) have accounts that match this criteria, and seeing as they have the largest ATM networks you’re best off sticking with them as it’ll mean you’ll pay less foreign ATM fees.
Some of the big banks offer specific student credit cards, whilst there are other ‘normal’ credit cards that are an ideal fit for students. What is an ideal fit? By and large students are looking for a no frills, low cost solution that can act as a type of overdraft. So the things to look out for are interest free days, annual fee and interest rate. My recommendation? Take a look at the self-titled ‘HSBC credit card’ or BankWest’s Zero Mastercard. Both have low fees, 55 days interest free days, a reasonable purchase rate and relatively low income thresholds for applications.
As far as income goes, the combination of youth allowance and some part-time work will get you over the line for most no-frills cards. When you apply, make sure you take documentation for all your income in the form of payslips and centrelink documents if need be.
For those looking to avoid the potential pitfalls of credit card ownership, some banks offer specific student loans to help cover the costs of textbooks, living costs, fees etc. These loans tend to feature reduced fees and/or interest for students and some even allow you to defer interest payments till after you’ve completed your studies! Victoria Teachers Credit Union’s Student Loan currently leads the market, offering an unsecured loan with no monthly fee, a low application fee of $20 and an extremely low variable rate of 11.55%.