How we chose the best college checking accounts
SuperMoney's list of the top college checking accounts is based on our community members' qualitative recommendations and the quantitative recommendations of our ranking algorithms. We analyzed hundreds of accounts and looked for checking accounts with no monthly fee, low minimum deposit, and free ATM transactions. We then considered other important factors, such as availability, flexible terms, and loan amounts.
How to find the best checking accounts for college students
If you (or your children) are planning to attend school, it's a good idea to choose a bank account as soon as possible. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB
) recommends opening an account as soon as possible. Once you have an account, sign up for direct deposit with your college. If you're expecting money from your financial aid office, you'll often get it faster this way. Otherwise, you can wait weeks before the college gets to writing you a paper check.
Here are some features to consider when choosing the best student checking account for you.
- Low or no monthly account maintenance fee.
- No minimum deposit requirement.
- Fee-free ATMs.
- High interest rates.
- Conveniently located branches.
- Low or no overdraft fees.
- Easy-to-use online banking and a top mobile banking app.
- Interest-bearing checking account.
- Free starter box of paper checks.
Most student accounts are not interest-bearing accounts and don't offer an annual percentage yield (APY). However, some do, so it's worth shopping around.
How to manage a college checking account?
Choosing the college checking account for you is only the beginning. Learning how to use the account responsibly to minimize fees and maximize savings is also very important. Here are some tips on how to manage your money with a student checking account.
Avoid minimum balance requirements. When shopping for an account, you prioritize banks and credit unions that don't charge a fee when your average balance drops below a certain amount. However, that doesn't mean you need to take advantage of that feature. Do your best to save some cash for emergencies.
Focus on convenience. Choose banks and credit unions with ATMs or branches close to your home and school. This will save you time and money.
Avoid overdrafts. It's important to understand how overdrafts work. Otherwise, you could be in for an expensive surprise. Overdraft charges range from $30 and $35. Just a couple of slip-ups a month can add up quickly. Also, consider extended-overdraft fees and non-sufficient funds fees. Even if your bank covers your overdraft fee, you could still be charged with daily extended overdraft fees.
Set up automatic savings. Whenever you deposit money into your account, consider putting aside a percentage for savings. For example, you could set up automatic transfers to a linked savings account. Regularly saving money and reaping the rewards of compound interest is one of the best financial habits you can learn at an early age.
What are the pros and cons of opening a student checking account?
- It helps you develop good financial habits early on.
- The convenience of having a debit card or a credit card.
- Learn how banking working.
- Faster access to your money via direct deposit.
- It gives you access to funds when you need them.
- Managing your own money will require time and attention.
- You will need to be careful about protecting your financial information.
Having your own checking account when you are a student can be an important step toward financial independence. It gives you a way to save money, pay bills, and establish a relationship with a banking institution. A personal checking account is particularly useful if you have a job because it allows you to deposit your wages. It also allows you to pay for some of your own expenses, such as a cell phone or car insurance.
Do you have to choose a local bank"?
Don't think that you have to choose a bank with a physical location close to your campus or home. Many banks, credit unions, and fintech companies are part of ATM networks or will reimburse the ATM fees charged by other banks. You may find the best offers come from credit unions and banks that don't have a local branch but provide all the features you need and offer excellent customer service online or over the phone.
Are low overdraft fees a must when choosing a college checking account?
It is smart to choose a checking account with low or no overdraft protection fees. However, remember you can avoid these fees altogether by not signing up for overdraft protection in the first place.
Fees and the best college checking accounts
The best student checking accounts don´t charge maintenance fees. These are usually marketed as "free," "no-fee," or "easy" checking accounts. However, that doesn't mean they don't charge any fees. For instance, most checking accounts charge out-of-network ATM fees. Read the fine print in the disclosures that come with your new account. These legal documents explain how your account works and what fees you could be charged.
Some credit unions and banks will waive the fees of their regular checking accounts for students. This means you could enjoy a premium checking account for free while you are at school. Of course, college graduates will have to start paying fees.
What are the advantages of checking accounts for high school students?
Student checking accounts are not just for college students. Students attending high school can also open student accounts jointly with a parent. These accounts are often called teen accounts or youth accounts
Here are some of the main advantages of opening a checking account while in middle and high school.
- Learn the value of saving for goals.
- Discover how to research products and make cost comparisons.
- Start receiving small financial responsibilities and build smart spending habits.
- Learn about the rewards and dangers of credit cards.
- The convenience of credit and debit card purchases.
- You can deposit checks and transfer money easily.
- Start building good credit.
- Get a start on your financial goals.
- Access to budgeting tools and online checking.
Opening a checking account while at high school is a good idea because it helps teenagers learn how to manage money. This skill will be invaluable when they go to college and no longer have their parents around to help.
What is the best checking account for college students?
It all depends on who is asking because not all students have the same needs. However, the best college checking accounts offer no maintenance fees, low minimum balances, and perks useful to students. The list of checking accounts above is a great place to start if you are interested in a college checking account.
What's the difference between a student bank account and a normal one?
The quick answer is there isn't much of a difference between a student and a regular checking account. In many cases, banks and credit unions change the name of their free or online checking accounts and add a couple of student-friendly perks. However, student checking accounts usually offer the following features.
Features the best student checking accounts have.
- Fee waivers. No monthly service fee is probably the main differentiator of college checking accounts.
- No ATM fees. College students tend to be on the move and need their money to be easily accessible.
- Low minimum balance requirement. Not requiring a minimum amount of money to keep the account open is a great feature for cash-strapped students.
- No direct deposit requirements. Many students don't have jobs or a regular income source and therefore can't set up a direct deposit.
- Great online access. This is a given for most checking accounts, but college students will also expect an excellent mobile banking app.
How do you open a student bank account?
The account opening process varies depending on the credit union or bank you choose. However, most financial institutions allow you to open an account online, over the phone, or by visiting one of their physical locations. You will need to provide some documentation, such as an ID and proof of student status.
What do you need to open a student checking account?
Many credit unions and banks have offers for students with ages ranging from 17 to 24. If a student is under 18, she may require a parent or legal guardian to open the account.
Requirements vary, but typically you will need the following:
- A valid ID and proof of address.
- Social Security number.
- Proof of student status.
- Some cash to open the account.
Is it worth getting a student bank account?
Yes, it is a good idea to open an account with a credit union or bank before you go to college. It will help you manage your money more efficiently and allow you to develop good financial habits. These accounts offer low monthly fees. Many banks offer students freebies or perks to try to get them to sign up.
What happens to a student bank account when you graduate?
It depends on your bank, but your student checking account will typically convert to a regular checking account once you have graduated. As you are no longer a student, you may lose access to special student banking products and fee waivers.