21/09/2012 11:56 BST

The Best Student Bank Accounts Revealed

With 450,000 students set to head off to university later this year, we've highlighted the top bank accounts specifically for students.

One of the first things students need to do to get their financial life started is to compare student bank accounts before choosing the ideal account to suit their own, personal needs.

Given that most students will spend much of their degree courses 'in the red', the first thing to look for in a student bank account is a generous interest-free overdraft. The best accounts offer fee-free, interest-free overdrafts of up to £3,000. However, this upper limit usually applies only to year three, so it starts off lower and then rises with each academic year.

Also, you must understand that you may not get the maximum overdraft advertised, as your individual limit will be based on your credit score. However, some banks do guarantee to give you this upper limit, so always check whether the overdraft limit on offer with the student bank account is 'guaranteed' or only 'up to'.

In addition, don't be tempted to exceed your overdraft limit without permission. Remember, it's a limit, not a target – and you must pay back all this borrowed money one day. If you do go overdrawn without permission, then you could be charged sky-high rates of interest, plus painful penalties of up to £30 per transaction on top.

After 0% overdrafts, the next features to consider are credit interest rates (how much you'll be paid when your balance is above zero) and freebies, gifts and other incentives. Also, convenience does play a part, with many students signing up to banks which have branches or cash dispensers on campus.

The latest student deals

All of the UK's leading banks have now released details of their student bank accounts. Here's what's on offer to students today (banks listed in A-Z order):

These deals could be altered at short notice.

Looking at this list, I can't see any really fantastic, stand-out deals on offer for students.

Nevertheless, you can see that some student accounts are better than others. For example, students should avoid Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank, as these don't offer interest-free overdrafts. Also, seven banks – Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds TSB, NatWest and RBS – only offer 'up to' maximum overdraft limits, so you may not qualify for these upper limits.

Of these, HSBC and Halifax have the highest potential limit of £3,000.

Of the remaining deals, the Co-op offers one of the biggest guaranteed overdraft limits and has a good reputation for customer service. Also, Santander's £50 cash gift, plus sensible overdraft limits, is well worth considering.

Finally, signing up to one bank's student account does not mean that you have to stick with it for life. You can switch student accounts from one year to the next, as well as moving to a top graduate account once you've got your degree.