For all you cute young things about to start Uni (sans flying pay): Walk into any bank looking for a student account and you can be pretty certain they will throw money at you. Not to mention helpful loans and overdrafts. You could even be showered with free gifts, vouchers and discount cards. Ambassador you're spoiling us. If only it was that simple. The financial commitment required for further education is second only to a mortgage in terms of the amount of money involved and the length of time it takes to pay it all back. Shopping around to find the best banking package during your student years wont protect you completely from debts but it could make your money work harder and save you from the scariest interest rates. However, although banks will compete for the custom of students when it comes to current accounts, it is a different matter with credit cards. Many of the competitive deals in the market are not on offer to them because providers are unwilling to take the risk of extending credit without a track record. If students are offered a credit card, the choice will be limited. The credit limit will be low and the exposure to more debt will in turn be limited. However the interest rate is not likely to be lower than 17% which is two and a half times higher than some standard rates available and a world away from the 0% introductory rates on offer. One potential benefit of opening an account is the prospect of money for nothing from the government. Almost 300,000 teenagers in England have received payments of up to Â£30 a week for staying in education. Education Maintenance Allowances, aimed at preventing poorer students from leaving school at 16, were introduced last September and students must sign agreements and attend courses regularly to qualify, with bonuses of up to Â£500 over two years offered for outstanding records. Young people from households earning less than Â£30,000 a year are eligible but you must have your own bank account to receive the cash. So just what is on offer? The Student Account from Halifax has the type of sliding scale for overdraft limits offered by most: 0% interest up to a maximum of Â£1,750 in year one, up to Â£1,900 in year two and Â£2,100 in subsequent years. The interest on any unauthorised overdraft is typically 24.2% effective annual rate (EAR). Account benefits include free online banking and the option to receive statements online, three-in-one Chip and Pin Visa Debit Card, 10% discount on Halifax World Explorer Travel Insurance and commission-free foreign currency on travellers' cheques. Interest-free overdraft continues for one year after graduation. There is no special student credit card available. NatWest's Student Account overdraft limits offer 0% interest up to Â£1,250 in the first year, Â£1.400 in the second year, Â£1,600 int he third year, Â£1,800 in the fourth year and Â£2,000 in the fifth year. Interest on unauthorised overdrafts is 17.81% EAR. Account features include a free Young Persons Railcard, giving you a third off most rail fares in Britain, access to student advisers for practical advice on money management a servicecard with Maestro (or a Cashcard with Solo) that you can use to pay for goods and services and to withdraw cash. You can apply for a Student MasterCard that gives you 56 days interest free and no annual fee. The typical APR is 18.9%. Branches on or near campus plus 24hour online and telephone banking. Discounts are also offered on home and car insurance. Internet-based Smile bank provides 0% interest overdrafts up to Â£1,000 in year one, Â£1,400 in year two, Â£1,800 in year three and Â£2,000 in year four. Unauthorised overdrafts are charged at 25% EAR. You can transfer cash electronically, withdraw up to Â£250 per day cash from any one of Â£32,000 UK Link cash machines and withdraw up to Â£250 from any UK post office using your debit card. If you need more than Â£250 you can go to any Co-operative Bank branch. You can also use a smile chequebook. There is no special student credit card available. Overdrafts with Co-operative Bank's Student Account are interest-free up to a limit of Â£1,000 in the first year, Â£1,400 in the second, Â£1,800 in the third year and Â£2,000 in the fourth. The bank has the highest high street charges for unauthorised overdrafts at a whopping 32.92%. You can access your account online by telephone, at branches and kiosks, at LINK cash machines and at local Post Offices. Co-operative bank provides a Visa Delta payment card and you can apply on-line or by post for Co-operative Bank Visa credit cards but there is no special student credit card. HSBC's Student Service provides interest-free overdrafts up to Â£1,000 in year one, rising by Â£250 each year with a fifth year available for Architecture, Medical, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine students. Unauthorised overdrafts are charged at 14.8% - the lowest listed here. They also love to pile on the freebies. If you apply for the account online before 8 October this year you get a free 512mb MP3 player or 10 CD's from cdwow.com. Alternatively, Â£50 cash is paid into your HSBC Bank Student account. You also receive a discount card for music, film, fashion and other products. You can withdraw cash at over 600,000 Cirrus/Maestro cash machines worldwide and apply for a fee-free MasterCard (typical 18.9% APR variable). Price Promise Insurance and 24/7 Internet and Telephone banking are available. There's a free BSM driving lesson and dedicated University branches with experienced student advisors. Special rates on student possessions insurance and Youth Travel Insurance and commission-free travel money. Barclays Student Additions account offers an interest-free overdraft up to Â£1,000 in year one, rising by Â£250 in subsequent years with an option to extend beyond five years. Unauthorised overdrafts cost 27.50%. You get free mobile phone insurance for the first year of study (ends 30 September 2006), a three year National Express Coachcard and a 20% discount on restaurants and great days out. Student Barclaycards are available with 17.9% typical APR and there is the chance of a Professional Studies or Career Development Loan. Online Banking, E-savings. contents cover, commission-free travel money and a VISA connect card are also offered. Lloyds TSB Student Account overdrafts work on the same scale as Barclays and their rate for unauthorised overdrafts is 29.8%. They offer internet Banking and PhoneBank Express, a debit card for quick easy access to money plus free weekly text alerts straight to your mobile, giving you updates on your account wherever you are. There is an option to top up your 'pay as you go' mobile at most Lloyds TSB Cashpoint machines, personal advice from specially trained student banking telephone team and the option to apply for a credit card (typical variable 17.9% APR). Figures and account details from moneysupermarket.com as at 2 August 2005.