The current accounts that pack more in

The Halifax is making a play to break into the packaged current account market with its Ultimate Reward account, to be launched tomorrow. This boasts a headline rate of 6 per cent (for deposits up to £2,500) as well as a £300 interest-free overdraft.

Packaged deals of this type carry a range of personal finance products alongside the current account - usually at competitive rates - but they come at a price.

In the case of the new Halifax account, customers will have to pay a fee of £10 a month. For this, the bank claims they will receive benefits "worth over £800 in total". These include family worldwide multi-trip travel insurance, RAC breakdown cover, mobile phone insurance and one percentage point extra on the rate of interest if they open separate Halifax Guaranteed Saver or Instant Saver accounts.

There is no minimum monthly funding requirement for the new current account, which is available at branches, over the phone and online. And as a further incentive, those customers who switch banks and open an Ultimate Reward account before 23 March will get a "£100 switchers' bonus payment".

But there is a catch: to qualify for this bonus, you'll have to pay £1,000 a month into your account - on top of the £10 monthly fee.

Packaged accounts don't usually find favour with consumer bodies or price- comparison websites, chiefly because the various parts of the package can usually be bought much cheaper individually.

"I'm generally not a supporter of packaged accounts as they're not designed to meet customer needs but to boost profitability," says Stuart Glen- dinning of the price-comparison service Money-supermarket.com. "But of all the packaged accounts I've seen, [the Halifax's] is easily the best."

However, as with any packaged account, he urges potential customers to weigh up the benefits first and to look at how many of the features they'll actually use.

Samantha Owens of financial analyst Moneyfacts says it is difficult to compare the range of benefits available with packaged accounts on a like-for-like basis. She urges consumers to ask themselves whether they would be better off having a non-fee-charging current account and buying the relevant benefits separately.

If you're simply after high interest on credit in your current account, you could try the Premier Direct account from Alliance & Leicester. It pays 5.94 per cent (up to £2,500) provided you pay in £500 a month.

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