If you don’t have much experience opening and using a bank account, choosing the best bank account for college can feel a little overwhelming.
Fortunately, there are many banks and types of accounts that actually cater to students who may be new to living on their own–and managing their own money for the first time.
The best accounts for students (which may or may not be labelled “student accounts”) are ones that don’t require a lot of money to open and maintain, have conveniently located ATMs, and also waive monthly fees and other pesky hidden costs that can drain a modest budget.
Here are key things to consider when shopping for a place to keep and manage your money while you’re in school.
The Best Banks for College Students
When selecting a bank, college students often have a range of options. You may want to consider a large national bank that has branches all over the country or a smaller, regional bank that’s conveniently located to your campus.
Another option that can work for students is a credit union. These are smaller, nonprofit institutions that offer many of the same services as a big bank, but may have more personalized service, lower fees, and higher interest rates.
Online-only banks can also serve college students well. While they don’t have branches you can visit in person, they often partner with large ATM networks, so you can access your cash easily (and often without paying any fees).
Since overhead can be significantly lower than brick-and-mortar banks, online banks also tend to have lower fees and offer high interest rates than traditional banks.
What Type of Account Should I Open for College?
A basic checking account can be a great option for college students because it allows you to have easy access to your money, as well as write checks.
If you are also interested in saving for longer-term goals—maybe tucking money away for future student loan payments or an emergency fund—opening a savings account could be one strategy to help reduce the temptation to think of that as available, spendable money.
Savings accounts also often offer higher interest rates than checking accounts, which typically offer zero to nominal interest on your money.
Having one checking and one savings account can help you separate and keep track of funds that are earmarked for spending and those meant for savings.
Some banks offer accounts specifically for students. While you don’t have to open a “student” bank account just because you are a student, these accounts often come with benefits, such as lower minimum deposit requirements and low or no monthly fees.
If you open a student account, the bank may also waive ATM fees and forgive overdrafts, reflecting the fact that students often don’t have a lot of extra income to spare.
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How Do I Choose a Bank?
There are a few key factors you may want to find out about and consider when choosing a new bank. These include:
Something students may want to avoid is a bank that charges monthly maintenance fees for student or traditional checking accounts, or a fee for keeping money below a certain minimum that will be difficult for you to meet.
Another fee to watch for is the overdraft fee. You can get hit with this if you ever lose track of how much money is in your checking account and then have a check, ATM transaction, or automatic bill payment go through that exceeds your account balance.
These fees can run about $30. For students who may not keep a lot of money in a checking account, an overdraft fee could end up being more than the total account balance.
You may also want to look into what the bank charges (if anything) for using ATMs. Many banks will charge a fee only if you use a machine outside of its network to withdraw cash.
College students might also want to consider researching interest rates. If building up a savings account for post-college expenses or loan payments is a priority, it could be helpful to look into a bank that offers high-yield savings accounts, which typically earn a higher interest rate than checking or traditional savings accounts.
The bank’s location can also be a major determining factor when you’re in college. A national bank that has branches located both near school and home can be a good option for students, as can a regional bank that has a branch close to campus.
Location also includes ATM access. You may want to make sure the bank has in-network ATMs that are conveniently located. If the evening’s entertainment is somewhere that only accepts cash, having an easy option to access funds could mean the difference between having fun with friends or sitting out.
Another piece of the puzzle is online banking. This can be especially important when choosing a bank that does not have a location near school. Making sure the bank’s app or website is up to snuff could make banking transactions that much more convenient.
Some banks may offer mobile check deposit through an app, which could mean even fewer trips to a physical bank branch.
The best bank accounts for college students feature no or easily avoided monthly fees, good overdraft policies, solid interest rates, extensive (fee-free) ATM networks. and user-friendly mobile adn online banking.
These accounts might be labelled as being for “students” or they might not. The key is finding the perks and features that can be helpful to you while you’re in school.
Looking for Something Different?
Another option that can work well for college students is a SoFi checking and savings account.
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Funds can be managed and accessed from anywhere—complete with mobile transfers, photo check deposit, access to 55,000+ (fee-free) ATMs worldwide, and customer service available through the app.
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SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 1.25% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). Members without direct deposit will earn 0.70% APY on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. Rate of 1.25% APY is current as of 4/5/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.