Getting the most out of your bank account – part one

University may be the first time you’ve needed to manage your own money – and getting into good habits with your bank account can help. Although we can’t tell you who to bank with or guarantee that your balance will always be in credit, we can advise you on how to take simple steps to make the most of your account – and your money – with our two-part guide.

Part one – which looks at choosing a student bank account, checking your balance regularly, and limiting transfers – is below.

Choose the best account for you

There is a wide selection of student bank account options – what you can apply for will depend upon your circumstances (such as credit history, and residency). There are plenty of deals around, but look beyond the welcome freebies and think about factors such as overdraft availability and limit instead.

For further information, see our Student bank accounts post, and Money Saving Expert and Save the Student websites for up-to-date details and comparison of different accounts.

Check your balance regularly

It’s simple advice, but it can easily be forgotten when you’re busy with student life – always check your bank balance regularly (whether this is at the cashpoint, by logging in online, or through an app) so that you always know how much you have in your account.

In addition, check and double-check the dates of regular direct debits/ standing orders so that your balance is suddenly less than what you were expecting; this will avoid any unnecessary charges, fees, or returned payments.

Don’t avoid looking at your balance if you know that you’ve overspent or are worried about your finances – the first step in taking control of your money is to acknowledge where you are, and then start to make changes. Unfortunately, financial problems rarely get better if they are left hidden. It is also easier to spot any potential problems like fraudulent activity if you check your balance regularly, and then take steps to get help to resolve any problems.

Limit your transfers

Making transfers between accounts is so simple – it’s great that your mum can send you thirty pounds towards your food shopping, or that you can quickly transfer a tenner to your flatmate if you owe them for last Friday’s night out. But if you have many ad-hoc transfers coming in and out, it can be very difficult to keep track of how much money you actually have – it’s so much easier to keep on top of your finances if you limit the frequency of these. In addition, if you are frequently lending money to friends and family (especially if there is a delay in repayment or they can’t afford to give it back), this can affect your own ability to afford essentials like rent and food.

If you can’t cut down on these, make sure you use online banking or an app to check on your bank balance regularly.

Having problems? Get in touch

The Financial Guidance team are here to help. If you’d like further guidance on money management, including help putting your budget together, please get in touch.

For further ideas on getting the most out of your bank account, see part 2 for guidance on understanding overdrafts, checking unnecessary spending, having two bank accounts, and where to find further support.