Going to university is a big and exciting step, but with tuition fees and living costs at an all-time high, many students are feeling the financial strain and are looking to save money where possible.
Whether it is a new laptop, bank account or household essentials for their new accommodation, Which? is sharing a selection of Great Value products for students going to university this September.
1. Choose the right student bank account
Many banks offer perks to students opening a new student bank account with them. According to Which? analysis, NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) offer the most valuable perk. Both offer a £100 incentive for signing up – plus a four-year Tastecard membership (worth £34.99 a year), which works out as a saving of £139.96.
Elsewhere, Natwest, Halifax, RBS, Nationwide, Lloyds and HSBC are offering new account holders £100 in cash. Santander offers a free railcard for four years, granting passengers a third off rail travel. The card usually costs £30 for a year, or £70 for three years.
Student bank accounts tend to offer interest-free overdrafts. Which? found the top student accounts offer £3,000 interest-free overdrafts by year three of study. These are currently offered by Nationwide, HSBC, NatWest and RBS. However, students may not get the maximum overdraft limit, as most banks will assess eligibility on an individual basis based on credit score. While a student overdraft is interest-free for the duration of a course, the loan will start to attract interest, usually two years after you graduate. So you’ll need a plan on how to pay it back, ideally before the interest kicks in.
2. Buy a Great Value laptop for £250
Most students opt for a laptop at university over a desktop computer as they are smaller and portable. However, students don’t need to overspend on a laptop that is too powerful for their needs. Which? suggests between £200 and £400 should be enough for a student primarily using the laptop for research and creating text documents.
Which? found several laptops that performed well in its tests and earned a ‘Great Value’ endorsement. Including the Acer Spin 311 CP311-3H, £209, which scored 69 per cent and was commended for its battery life.
The Acer Swift 1 SF114-34 also impressed, scoring 71 per cent. It is priced at £389, but is often on offer for less than £300. Which? experts commended its long battery life, which makes it ideal for heading out and about.
Another high-performing laptop is the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3 14-inch Gen 8, which also received a score of 71 per cent. While it is a bit more expensive at a typical price of £449, it’s one of the ‘nippiest’ sub-£500 Windows laptops Which? experts looked at, making it perfect for the student who likes to have a few things on the go at once. Users will also get more than six hours of use from just a 30-minute charge.
Finally, the Asus Vivobook 16X impressed with its speedy performance thanks to its six-core AMD processor and generous 16GB of Ram. It too scored 71 per cent and costs £479. Its large size means it has lots of ports for accessories.
3. Find Great Value everyday items
Whether it’s a frying pan or electric blanket, Which? experts have recommended the best Great Value items for university and useful products that aren’t a kettle or toaster.
For the kitchen, Which? recommends Dunelm’s Essentials stainless steel frying pan, priced at £9.80. The frying pan has an excellent non-stick surface and is easy to clean.
To cook crispy cheese toasties, the George Foreman 25810 Small Fit Grill, £23.73 from Amazon, is an affordable option. It heats up quickly and has a handy drip tray to catch melted cheese or butter. It’s easy to clean with a wipe of a damp cloth.
The Braun MQ100 hand blender from Robert Dyas was the best one Which? tested. Costing just £25, it was awarded a Best Buy as well as a Great Value endorsement. Testers found it to be the best blender for smoothies, blitzing frozen berries with ease.
Another household suggestion to keep students warm without turning on the heating is the Comfort Control Electric Underblanket from SilentNight. The blanket is £35 and costs just 3p an hour to run. It heats up evenly and is available in different sizes.
Which? also granted a Best Buy to Ankerspace’s noise-cancelling Soundcore A40 headphones, costing £79.99 – at the pricier end of a student’s budget. Testers found they provide great sound quality and comfort overall.
4. Be wary of student deals that are too good to be true
At the start of term, students can find themselves bombarded with student deals and offers from an array of companies, but they might not always be as good as they appear.
It’s worth doing research to ensure a deal is genuine. Compare prices from a number of retailers when searching for laptops or other university essentials, as student discounts are often overstated at best and can, in some cases, even promote products that are more expensive than previously listed.
Natalie Hitchins, Which? Home Products and Services Editor, said:
“Whether it’s kitchen appliances or a laptop, it’s crucial that those heading to university this autumn are properly kitted out.
“Perks on bank accounts, like railcards, could save students precious pounds throughout their time at university.
“Which? has compiled a list of the best value deals on the market – and students can have peace of mind that the products have been rigorously tested by our experts.”
Notes to Editors:
- Which? offers exclusive lab-tested reviews covering a wide range of home and tech products, making it the go-to destination for informed shopping decisions. Alongside our Great Value selections, we also showcase top-performing choices as Best Buys, and caution against disappointing options as Don’t Buys.
- Prices correct on Friday 25th August 2023.
- Best student bank accounts 2023
- Best laptops for students
Full table of student bank accounts:
|Student bank account||Which? customer score||Interest-free overdraft limit||Perk||The total value of perks|
|Nationwide Building Society FlexStudent||79%||Year 1: up to £1,000Year 2: up to £2,000Year 3+: up to £3,000||£100||£100|
|Bank of Scotland Student Account||76%||Year 1: up to £1,500 (0-6 months £500, 7-9 months £1,000 and 10 months+ £1,500)Year 2 to 3: up to £1,500Year 4 to 6: up to £2,000||£100||£100|
|Halifax Student||75%||Year 1+: up to £1,500||£100||£100|
|Lloyds Bank Student||74%||Year 1: up to £1,500(0-6 months £500, 7-9 months £1,000 and 10 months+ £1,500)Year 2 to 3: up to £1,500Year 4 to 6: up to £2,000||£100||£100|
|Santander 123 Student Current Account||73%||Year 1 to 3: up to £1,500Year 4: up to £1,800Year 5: up to £2,000||Four-year 16-25 railcard||£100*|
|NatWest Student||72%||Year 1: up to £2,000 (1-4 months £500, 5 months+ £2,000)Year 2: up to £2,000Year 3: up to £3,250||-£100-A four-year Tastecard (worth £34.99 a year)||£239.96|
|Royal Bank of Scotland Student||72%||Year 1: up to £2,000 (1-4 months £500, 5 months+ £2,000)Year 2: up to £2,000Year 3: up to £3,250||-£100-A four-year Tastecard (worth £34.99 a year)||£239.96|
|HSBC Student Bank Account||71%||Year 1: at least £1,000Year 2: up to £2,000Year 3: up to £3,000||-£100-One-year student subscription to Headspace (worth £7.99 a year)||£107.99|
|Barclays Student Addition||70%||Year 1: up to £1,000 (first term up to £500)Year 2+: up to £1,500||12-month subscription to Perlego||£96|
|TSB Student||66%||Year 1: up to £1,500 (0-6 months £5007-9 months £1,000and 10-12 months £1,500)Year 2 to 6: up to £1,500||5% AER on balances up to £500||£25|
- The customer score is taken from Which?’s survey of the Best and Worst banks, you can use this guide to see how each provider scores in several categories including customer service and mobile banking.
* Three-year railcard cost £70, and one-year railcard costs £30.
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