Budgeting may be dull, but it's better than having a mid-term cash crisis

STUDENTS all over Scotland are nervously awaiting this year's exam results, coming out tomorrow.

For many the results will also fire the starting gun for preparations for university life - including what bank account to choose.

Banks are always hungry for a share of the student banking market, regardless of the economic climate. After all, students are the potential big earners of tomorrow, and the UK's banks and building societies will be bidding to sign them up in the hope of securing their profitable investment, pension and mortgage business in later life.

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The big high street providers as usual are offering an array of incentives in an effort to win the custom of the new intake.

But the most important element of a student bank account for most people will be the ability to borrow as much money as cheaply as possible. So even though free music downloads or discounts off a laptop or mobile phone package may sound tempting, the following numbers should convince you to give the gimmicks a miss.

If you could borrow an additional 1,000 interest-free, you would save almost 100 every year compared with a student bank account that was to charge you interest at a rate of 9.9 per cent for authorised borrowing. That's a huge saving over the course of your time at university and far outweighs the value of any incentives on offer.

If you've done your sums and you're likely to need to borrow 2,000 from year one, then Bank of Scotland, HSBC or Barclays should be your first choice.

Bank of Scotland and HSBC will lend you up to a maximum of 3,000 interest free - but don't exceed these limits, as you'll end up paying additional unauthorised borrowing costs.

Try to avoid the urge to sign up for a student credit card. If you really must have one in your purse or wallet make sure it's only used for emergencies.

Don't be tempted to use it as an extension to your overdraft because unless you've got the cash to clear the account in full, your measly budget will be squeezed further, with interest charges at rates approaching 20 per cent APR.

The banks will make it easy for you to apply for a card when you open your bank account, but they really are best avoided until you have a regular salary.

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As well as studying, university is also somewhere you'll pick up some life skills, including managing your money. Budgeting may sound boring, but it's better than running out of cash half-way through the year.

If your money isn't going as far as you'd thought when you're at college and you're in danger of going over your limit, speak to your bank - if there's a branch on campus you'll usually be able to speak to a student specialist who can help you out.

Don't ignore the problems - they won't go away and could end up distracting you from your studies.

• Andrew Hagger is head of communications at Moneynet.co.uk