Go Higher: Make friends with your bank

Ignore special offers and choose the bank that will suit your needs best, writes Alex Watts

As a student, one important person to have on your side is your bank manager. He or she can make a big difference to the smooth running of your bank account and you need to keep in his or her good books.

But before you can impress your bank manager with detailed financial plans for the coming three years you need to choose your bank.

Which bank to join can be a daunting question as there are so many to choose from at the moment - all with tempting little offers.

One piece of good news is that banks are still falling over themselves to get the accounts of students who are destined to go into the red.

The reason banks are so keen to take on student debt is that they look at the long-term view.

They know that the beer swilling, curry eating, head-under-the-duvet- till-lunchtime student of today will be the pension buying, mortgage-paying, pillar of the community in a few years time.

When choosing which bank to join you should shop around. All the banks have very tempting offers to lure in students but a home-brew kit or the complete Boyzone back catalogue may not really be the thing you need the most.

Some banks offer rail cards, which could save you a fortune during your three years at university while some offer cash up front, which might help buy those essential core textbooks for your studies.

However you select your bank the main thing you need to check is how easy it is to withdraw your money. Many banks have cash tills on campus, which can be a real bonus as you can soon lose friends if you have a five- mile cycle into town when the time comes to buy your round.

Also check out the arrangements for overdrafts and loans and ask what they would do if you had to leave university or college.

With developments in technology banks are changing and it may be that students might want to hook up to new Internet banking or telephone banking services.

Brian Capon, spokesman for the British Bankers' Association, said: "Banks want to attract students because they are going to be the higher earners of the future.

"You can open your student bank account while still at home so that by the time to get to university all the details will have been sorted out at the university branch.

"It should be up and running for your arrival and be one less thing to worry about in your first few weeks.

"You want to make sure that you keep on the right side of the bank manager overwise you could end up being charged. It is important to keep your bank informed about your situation.

"Most banks have Student Advisers who were once students themselves. They understand the difficulties of student life and can offer advice and help.

"I heard of one case where the student adviser got on so well with the student that he was invited to the student's wedding. Although I think that was an exceptional case."

"Overall students tend to be responsible people. Banks are not encouraging people to get into debt.

"It is more of a case of the banks being practical about the situation as hopefully it is an opportunity for the student to develop a relationship with a bank which will last all their lives."

If you think you can handle a bit more debt banks will also offer credit cards, normally with a low credit limit of about pounds 250.

And if you should have some savings around make sure you check out all the competition and put your money in an account that is going to earn you a little extra cash.

Banking deals

EVERY YEAR banks battle it out on the high street offering free gifts, cash and student packages which promise hassle-free banking.

Incentives in the past have included vouchers and small cash bonuses but this year student account "sweeteners" are better than ever.

Here are some of the deals that those heading to university this autumn can expect.

Barclays urge students to "Get a Head Start". They offer freshers the chance to own a mobile phone or receive pounds 30 when they open a Barclays student account.

NatWest have designed their student services to help "smooth the way". University students can expect pounds 35 or a BT EasyReach Pager.

Students who sign up with the Midland are being offered either pounds 50 cash or a Young Persons Railcard, worth pounds 72 which gives them one third off most train trips.

Finally, Lloyds is offering pounds 35 to new customers.

Although the offers may look tempting, read the small print. What you will probably need most of all is an understanding bank manager who will increase your overdraft when you need it.

Also check out any charges that you might have to pay for borrowing money or perks you might want like discounted insurance, or air miles on your credit card purchases.

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