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What Is a Student Checking Account and Do I Need One?

By Jamie Cattanach · June 07, 2022 · 6 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

What Is a Student Checking Account and Do I Need One?

A student checking account is a checking account with special features designed just for young people who are beginning their independent financial lives. If you’re heading off to college soon, it’s a super busy and exciting time. You may be focused on things like which classes to select and how to set up your dorm room. We get it! But opening a student checking account might be worth a bit of your attention, too. It can be a good way to start banking at a low cost.

Even if college is a few years away, a student checking account could help you secure some much-desired financial distance from mom and dad. It’s a good way to start taking responsibility for your money and how you manage it.
So let’s look at what you need to know about these specially-designed-for-students accounts. We’ll cover:

•   What these student checking accounts are

•   How they differ from standard checking accounts

•   The pros and cons of student checking accounts

•   How to get one.

Student Checking Accounts, Explained


Let’s get going and answer the question, “What is a student checking account?” It’s a lot like a regular checking account. It’s a place to stash your cash safely. You can then access those funds to make purchases and pay bills using a debit card, direct transfers, and possibly paper checks, too—though some banks are eliminating this feature.

However, a student checking or college checking account is, as its name suggests, designed with students in mind. (You may sometimes see it called a college student checking account, by the way.) It’s usually only available to people in a specific age range, about 14 to 25, though this will vary from bank to bank. (If you’re a minor under 18, you may need to open the account jointly with a parent.)

Student checking accounts may offer special perks that make sense for students. For instance, you might have the ability to connect your account to your college ID, which can be super convenient. Or you might show your school pride by getting a debit card with your university’s logo on it.

Since most students are just starting out financially, these products tend to have low or no monthly maintenance fees and minimum balance requirements. Other costs, like ATM fees or overdraft fees, may also be waived.

In other words, these accounts allow students to start to learn good financial habits and banking basics — which is why opening one can be a good item to add to your college-planning checklist. At a moment when you may be learning how student loans work and what it means to go into forbearance, it’s wise to make sure that you are also getting your everyday banking needs managed.

How Does a Student Checking Account Work?


As mentioned, a student checking account works a lot like a regular checking account does. You fund the account with money, which you can access using ATMs, checks, and your debit card. These days, a lot of banks make it easy to initiate direct peer-to-peer transfers, too.

To open the account, you may need to bring a parent with you, depending on your age. If you’re 18 or over, you should be able to do it on your own as a legal adult. You’ll need to provide the bank with personal information and documentation, such as your driver’s license (or other government-issued photo ID) and proof of address.

Although they tend not to have monthly maintenance fees, some student checking accounts do carry minimum opening deposits. This means that to open the account, you need to give the bank a bit of cash. The amount is usually fairly low—on the order of $25 or so.

Once you fund your new account and everything is finalized, you’ll be able to use your debit card to make point-of-sale transactions and purchases. You can also take cash out of your account through ATMs or using an in-person teller transaction, if your bank has physical locations.

That said, many banks today are online-only and still totally legit. These financial institutions often offer checking and savings accounts with higher interest rates, or APYs, and lower (or zero) fees than bricks-and-mortar banks. So you may still forego monthly maintenance fees even after you age out of your student checking account.

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What Is the Difference Between a Student Checking Account and a Normal Checking Account?


The main difference between a student checking account and a standard checking account is right there in the name. Student checking accounts are designed for students!

Along with their age restriction and student-specific perks, though, the main difference between a student checking account and a normal checking account is the fee structure. Student checking accounts are far more likely not to have monthly maintenance costs than other types of checking accounts. They may also waive overdraft fees, ATM fees, and other expenses. This can make them a great fit for a student on a budget.

However, as with opening any banking account, make sure to read the fine print or ask questions to make sure you’re clear on fees and expectations. It’s wise to know policies on minimum monthly balance, negative balances, and other features in advance. No surprises, right?

Pros of a Student Checking Account


There are lots of great reasons to open a student checking account, including:

•   The ability to get some financial independence from mom and dad

•   Low or non-existent monthly maintenance costs

•   Waived-fee overdraft protection, zero-liability fraud protection, and other built-in safety nets created with students in mind

•   Special perks, such as university-branded debit cards

Cons of a Student Checking Account


That said, there are a few drawbacks to student checking accounts, as well:

•   Features may be limited. For example, some student checking accounts don’t carry check-writing privileges

•   Student checking accounts are limited to customers within a certain age range. Once you age out, the bank may automatically move you to an account that assesses a monthly maintenance fee and other charges.

How Can I Get a Student Checking Account?


As mentioned above, opening a student checking account will require you to provide certain documentation and identifying information to the bank. Typically, you’ll be asked to share:

•   A government-issued, photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport

•   Potentially a second form of ID, such as a student ID card

•   Proof of address, such as a utility bill or other official statement with your address on it

•   If you’re under the age of 18, you may need to bring a parent with you to jointly open the account.

Is a Student Checking Account Better Than a Normal Checking Account?


A student checking account is different from a normal checking account in many ways that may make them more attractive to, and suited for, students. Among these perks are their low fees, built-in safety protections, and college-specific features.

That said, if you’re already out of college and “adulting” or are college-age but not attending school, a normal checking account may have fewer limitations. It’s possible to find a free one or waive the monthly maintenance fee by meeting certain requirements. The choice, as with most financial products, is all about what suits your specific lifestyle and needs.

Things to Consider When Looking for a Student Checking Account


As with any financial product, it’s worth shopping around before you choose a student checking account. Although many of them share the same sorts of features, here are a few items to take a close look at as you browse:

•   Monthly maintenance fee Free is best, of course, but if there is one, see if there are manageable requirements that allow you to have it waived.

•   ATM fees, overdraft fees, and other costs Whether you’re a freshman or a college senior, you want your checking account to be as forgiving as possible. Look for as many waived fees or free services as possible.

•   Overdraft and fraud protection Scammers are out there! When it comes to financial mishaps, banks should be on your side. Look for free overdraft protection services and $0-liability fraud protection, as well as free debit card replacement services.

•   Student-friendly perks Although they’re not essential, additional Easter eggs such as the ability to connect your account to your student ID or a debit card that sports your school’s colors may seal the deal when you’re shopping around.

The Takeaway


A student checking account can be a great way for college students and other young adults to kickstart their financial life. These accounts are designed with low fees and monthly requirements, which can be helpful for those who are just beginning to bank. They also usually carry specific features designed with students in mind. If you’re in your late teens or early twenties, shopping around and seeing if these accounts work well for your needs is a wise move.

That said, whether you’re a college senior or a plain-old senior, there are plenty of options out there if you’re looking for free checking. SoFi is one! In fact, SoFi’s online bank account, when opened with direct deposit, does away with monthly maintenance fees, overdraft fees, and minimum balances. That means you keep more of the money in your account. You also earn more on your dough: We offer a hyper competitive interest rate up to 1.50% APY so your cash grows faster.

Check out the smarter way to bank with SoFi.

FAQ

What are the benefits of a student checking account?

Student checking accounts tend to have low costs and lots of in-built protections to help students learn how to be financially responsible. There are often extra perks like school-branded debit cards and more.

What do I need to open a student checking account?

As with a regular checking account, the process of opening a student checking account requires official identifying documentation. If you’re a minor, you may need a parent to co-apply with you. You may also need a small opening deposit of, say, $25.

Can a 16-year-old open a checking account?

Yes, a 16-year-old can open a checking account — but as minors, they’ll need an adult to co-apply with them.


Photo credit: iStock/RgStudio

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 1.50% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). Members without direct deposit will earn 0.90% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. Rate of 1.50% APY is current as of 06/28/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
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