Student Bank Account Guide
- February 20, 2017
- Posted by: Jeff Gitlen
- Category: Personal Finance
There are few experiences that generate as much angst as they do excitement – your first real job; getting married; buying your first home; but the first such experience for many students is the time spent preparing for college. Out on your own for the first time, you need to be prepared for everything, including managing your own personal finances, which doesn’t come naturally for most students. Not only is it crucial for surviving college life, it will become one of the more important disciplines students will need for life after college. Now is an excellent time to acquire the knowledge and tools you’ll be using to manage your finances for the rest of your life.
This guide will take you through the best banking tools students will need and provide you with helpful tips for selecting the right products. You probably already know that there is a vast universe of banking products out there, and many are targeting young college students in the hopes of capturing your business for years to come. So, to a great extent, you can be somewhat picky when selecting a banking institution to work with, and you should be able to find products with the most competitive features. It’s knowing what to look for and asking the right questions that will ensure the best banking experience.
You will find everything you need to know in this guide, from understanding the difference between the best bank accounts and how they work, to learning how to choose an account that best suits your needs.
The Importance of Opening Your First Student Bank Account
There are a lot of events that mark the transition from high school to college, but few will have the significance of opening your first student checking account. Having your own student checking account is your acceptance of the financial responsibility that comes with adulthood. Of course you will need one if you have to paybills or deposit paychecks in college, but there are several other reasons why opening a student bank account is important:
To Become Financially Literate
Going to college is more than getting a degree. It’s also a pathway to the things you need to learn about in life – how to live as a productive adult. A big part of that is being able to manage your personal finances and that begins with your student checking account. Even if you never write a check in your life (using online bill pay, debit cards and your smartphone instead), your student checking account is like your spine. It connects all the nerve endings of your finances. Understanding money going in and money going out and balancing the two is critical to your financial life from the beginning. In the digital world, most everything you need to know about your student checking account can be found instantly online or with a mobile app.
So You Can Earn a Paycheck
If you plan on working part-time as a student or during the summer, your paycheck will need a receptacle, which is typically a student checking account. Many employers offer direct deposit of your paycheck which gives you quicker access to your funds, but you need a student checking account.
When You Need Money Quickly
With many of the best banks, you can link your student checking account with your parent’s checking account, which would allow for immediate fund transfers between your accounts when the need arises. Even if you prefer not to have your accounts linked, getting a cash infusion from your parents is easily done with an electronic funds transfer from their separate account to yours.
When You Need to Pay Bills
Whether you are paying for utilities or a parking pass, most transactions today don’t require you to write a physical check. Many bills can be paid online and a large number of transactions throughout the day can be paid with a debit card. But, for that convenience you will need a student checking account. You should learn how to write a check regardless of how often you will use them.
For the Mobile Apps
Chances are you use a smartphone, so why not let it be your personal finance hub as well. When you have a student checking account, you not only have access to your account information through an online account, but most of the best banks also provide a mobile app that will enable you to track your money, pay bills, and even split a restaurant tab with a fellow student.
Learning How to Budget
For most students, college life is about learning how to do more with less. It is the first opportunity to develop the invaluable habit of living under your means just to be able to stretch your fun money even more. If you are fortunate enough to carry that habit into life after college, you stand a better chance of saving for your goals and reaching financial independence more quickly.
What is the Difference Between a Checking Account and a Savings Account
When you open your student checking account, you may be offered the opportunity to open a student savings account along with it. Both are places to store your money. They are each considered to be demand accounts, meaning you have access to your money at any time, and both are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). However, in managing your personal finances, they serve different purposes.
Purpose of a Checking Account
The primary purpose of a student checking account is to provide a safe store of your money while facilitating withdrawals and deposits for its use. The most common use of a student checking account is for managing personal finances. Accounts can be established individually or jointly by two people. The second most common use of a checking account is for businesses to manage their cash flow.
Checking accounts today come with tools and resources for managing your money. Most come with a debit card which can be used for purchases or ATM withdrawals. Make sure to check which ATMs your campus has before opening a student checking account. Many banks provide online access to your account, allowing you to monitor it and to transfer money between your accounts or to other people or businesses.
Student checking account users expect their money to be readily available anytime without restriction, which is why most basic accounts don’t pay any interest on deposits. However, there are student checking account products which do pay interest on deposits, but there may be some restrictions on money access. People or businesses who want to have a portion of their money earning interest could also link their checking account to a student savings account which would allow for any excess funds to be moved there.
Purpose of a Student Savings Account
The primary distinction between a student checking account and a student savings account is that one is an interest-bearing account. Student savings accounts are used primarily as a longer-term store of money that isn’t needed to meet current living expenses. Deposits to your student savings account do earn a low rate of interest. The other distinguishing feature of a student savings account is the restriction on access to funds. Federal regulations limit the number of times money can be withdrawn each month from your student savings account to six. If more withdrawals are made, the bank could change the status of the student savings account to a student checking account without interest.
Generally, student savings accounts don’t come with checks. Withdrawals have to be made in person at the bank or from an ATM using a debit card. Deposits can be made in person, transferred from a checking account, or through direct deposit from your employer.
Most bank student savings accounts require a minimum deposit of between $25 and $100 and some charge a monthly maintenance fee unless a minimum balance is maintained.
Student savings accounts are best utilized for accumulating sums of money needed for short-term goals, such as saving to buy a car or some other major purchase. They are also ideal for accumulating a cash reserve fund, where funds can be easily accessed for emergencies, such as a major car repair or a big medical expense.
Student Checking Accounts
How Student Checking Accounts Differ From Regular Accounts
There is little to distinguish a student checking account from a regular checking account on the surface. The checks look the same and the accounts work pretty much the same. However, beneath the surface you may see some differences, especially in how fees are charged. With regular checking accounts, monthly maintenance fees can be waived if you maintain a minimum balance. Sometimes that minimum balance requirement can be as high as $2,500 or $5,000. Most students don’t maintain that high of a balance. Student checking accounts tend to have either very low minimum balance requirements, or the requirement is waived altogether.
Also, some banks may be more lenient with student customers who bounce a check, sometimes waiving the first overdraft fee. Other than that, students are expected to manage their checking account the same way as anyone else.
Common Fees to Know About
When searching around for a student checking account, you are bound to come across many promoting completely free checking. On the surface that sounds very tempting. However, it is important to know the type of fees banks charge on the surface and the ones they charge under the surface.
Monthly Maintenance Fee: The most common surface fee is the monthly maintenance fee. Many banks charge a monthly fee in the range of $10 to $25 for checking unless a minimum monthly balance is maintained. If you maintain the minimum balance you don’t pay a fee. So, this is the first thing you look for when shopping for an account. Many banks, especially online banks waive the monthly fee for students if you have a minimum number of transactions, set up direct deposit or enroll in electronic statements.
ATM Fees: The other surface fee to worry about is the ATM fee. With most banks, you are charged a fee when you use an ATM outside of their network. ATM fees typically range from $2 to $4, which can add up quickly over the course of a month. That’s why it’s important to open an account with lots of ATMs in your college town. Online banks may offer to reimburse you for out-of-network ATM fees, or they may belong to a large, shared network that will have ATM locations in your area.
Overdraft Fees: There is one under the surface fee that can really hurt you if you have difficulty managing your money, and that is a bank overdraft fee. Overdraft fees are charged when there is not enough money in your account to cover a check. The average overdraft fee is around $31. Of course, if you don’t write checks, it is not likely to happen, except it can also happen when using a debit card. The key is to never let your student checking account balance get close to zero. Always maintain a cushion of at least $100.
You could avoid overdraft fees by opting out of overdraft coverage on your account. That means the bank won’t cover your deficiency and it won’t charge you an overdraft fee. However, you may still be charged a fee for insufficient funds or a returned item.
How to Avoid ATM Fees
It’s not at all unusual to find yourself at a venue or in a restaurant that only takes cash. If you’re like many people who don’t like to carry a lot of cash around, you may be limited to finding an ATM to get some. If you can‘t find one of your bank’s ATMs, you’re looking at a $2 to $4 hit on your account to get your cash. Most people absolutely hate forking over ATM fees, but there are a few things you could do to avoid them.
Find an ATM in your bank’s network: Most banks provide a mobile app with GPS capabilities to locate their ATMs. Unless you are really out in the boonies, you should be able find an ATM in your bank’s network.
Get cash back at a supermarket: If you’re near a grocery store, go buy yourself a soda and get cash back. Most of the large grocery store chains and some retail store chains offer no-fee cash back on any purchase. Some convenience stores also offer cash back, but they might charge a small fee, usually around 35 cents.
Choose a bank that reimburses ATM fees: In choosing a bank for your checking account, you might consider looking for one that offers reimbursement on fees charged at out-of-network ATMs. Some offer unlimited reimbursements, while others limit them to $10 or $25 per month. Alternatively, you could look for a bank that operates ATMs within a large, shared network, which increases your chances of finding a no-fee ATM.
How to Pick the Student Checking Account That’s Right For You
For college students living away from home, the three key elements to look for in a student checking account are convenience, product fit, and fees. The optimal banking solution would feature the best in each, however, that may not always exist, so it would be important to set your priorities as you begin your search.
Banking is all about access, so it is important that your bank provide both physical and digital access to your account and your money. You also have to think about where your money will be coming from. If you will be making your own deposits, then you may have more choices. However, if your parents are making the deposits, you may have to work with their bank or mutually select a bank.
Locations: Your bank should have locations both in your college town as well as your home town.
ATMs: College students need access to ATMs, and while any ATM can access your account, you may be charged a fee if it is not within your bank’s system. Some banks offer ATM fee rebates on a limited basis. You can also check to see if your bank belongs to a larger, shared network of ATMs.
Online access: These days much of your banking can be done online, i.e. account transfers, bill pay, and even check deposits. Online management with free bill pay is a must. Online account management is also the essential tool for managing your finances with budgeting tools and the like. A mobile banking solution is helpful for checking an account balance on the run.
Mobile and Text Banking: You do almost everything else on your phone, so why not use it to manage your money. Most banks provide a smartphone app that will allow you to check your balance, pay bills, transfer money and deposit checks using your phone’s camera. Most online accounts allow you to set up text alerts to let you know of low balances or payment due dates.
Most major banks have a product line specifically tailored for college students. They offer student checking accounts and student savings accounts not unlike standard products; however, they may come with student-friendly features such as lower minimum balance requirements and lower fees. If you plan on obtaining a student credit card, it should be from the same bank where you have your checking account so it can be used for overdraft protection. Certain banks offer special credit cards designed for college students with low or no fees and reasonable interest rates.
The best student checking accounts charge no fees. Although you can expect to pay overdraft fees on bounced checks, you should be able to get by without paying monthly fees.
Using Online Banks Designed for Students
The fast-growing world of fintech has seen an explosion in the number of Internet-only banks. These banks operate solely in the cloud with no brick and mortar locations. The idea is they can offer better deals and better rates because they don’t have the overhead of brick and mortar branches. A search of online banks with student checking accounts largely backs that up. Most Internet-only banks offer no-fee student checking accounts with full access to an online account management platform.
Some people might be a little leery of banking in the cloud with no physical location. Essentially you can do everything with an Internet-only bank that you can do with a physical bank, except walk through a front door. Besides, how often does anyone actually visit their bank anymore? With remote capture deposit, you don’t need to go to your bank to make a deposit, which was probably the main reason for going to a physical location.
These banks are federally-chartered with FDIC protection. They offer a debit card with access to a shared network of ATMs. Many offer refunds for ATM fees charged by out-of-network banks.
A Word about Online Banking Security
All online banking platforms are supported with the most advanced encryption (SSL) technology and password protection, ensuring your information is secure. Banks employ an intricate system of multi-layer firewalls to protect their internal systems, and they adhere to the strictest standards in monitoring all activity to ensure their customers’ account information is secure. Some would argue that online banking is far less risky than getting in your car, driving through rush hour, and handling paper checks - any of which can pose a risk hazard.
You’re the First Line of Defense in Online and Mobile Banking
The debate over online banking and mobile banking security continues with both sides making a case for technology as either the strength or the potential flaw in their capacity to protect users. No matter which side of the fence you are on, the best course of action is to err on the side of caution. Sophisticated encryption technology and security is always advancing, but you are still the first line of defense in protecting your banking security:
- Change your passwords often, staying away from common words or phrases and simple number sequences.
- Never access your online bank account from a public computer
- Never open a link in an email unless you recognize the bank’s logo and there’s evidence of encryption in the web address line, such as a padlock symbol, a green-shaded address bar, and especially an “https” at the beginning of the bank’s web address (the “S” at the end of https indicates secure encryption)
- Trust but verify. Many banks are releasing downloadable apps which can truly enhance your mobile phone-banking experience. Just make sure it’s the real deal from your bank.
Student Savings Accounts
The Importance of Saving
Most college students feel fortunate when they can scrape together the money they need each month to pay their bills and have a little left over for a few nights out. Asking them to think about setting money aside in a student savings account often results in a quizzical look that screams, “Seriously?” It may seem like it's asking a lot of a college student who hasn’t really thought about life outside the ivy-covered walls of college.
With their whole life ahead of them and the expectation they will one day be earning a real income, why should they further postpone the little gratification they might get from the extra $25 or $50 left over at the end of the month? Will they be that much better off at the end of one, five or ten years by having done so? The answer is an unequivocal “Yes!” and there are several reasons why.
Expect the unexpected
As a college student you are pretty much on a fixed income and a fixed budget. Although many college students have an emergency fund they call “the bank of Mom and Dad,” some don’t, or at the very least it is a limited resource. Having money set aside for unexpected expenses, especially those you may not want to share with Mom and Dad is just smart money management. Later in life the size of your emergencies increase as your income increases. Getting in the habit of having a cash reserve for the unexpected will pay off now and in the future.
Building a Cushion
Once you get your degree and set out to find a job, you won’t have much to fall back on, other than the “bank of Mom and Dad” if it's still open for business. Setting a goal to save a couple of thousand dollars as a cushion during your job search is responsible and smart.
It’s never too early to think about the long term, and having goals that can put you ahead of the game when others are struggling just to stay even. Your most valuable asset is time, and you will never have more of it than you do right now. By taking advantage of time and the magic of compounding with a high interest savings account, you can easily accumulate the money for a down payment on a house without breaking a sweat. If you were to save just $50 a week starting at age 18, you would have more than $50,000 by the time you are 38 (assuming 1.75% interest).
How Interest Bearing Student Savings Accounts Work
When you put money in a student savings account, you are essentially loaning the bank money to use. The bank takes a big portion of your deposit and loans it out to other people or businesses. It pays you interest for the use of your money, while it earns interest on the money it loans. Sounds like a scheme, but it is perfectly legitimate as long as the bank keeps enough reserves to pay you when you demand a return of your deposit. That’s why they call it a demand deposit.
The Magic of Compounding Interest
For most types of students savings accounts, the bank credits interest once a month. So, with each month, your account earns interest on your principle (your deposit) and on the interest accumulating in the account. The effect is called compound interest, which when you extrapolate over time becomes quite magical.
Given the choice to receive $10,000 each day for a month, or a single penny that doubled in value each day for a month, which would you choose? If you chose the former, you may feel kind of silly when you find out that your $10,000 daily gift amounts to $300,000 while the doubling single penny would have produced around $5 million. Such is the magic of compounding.
Compounding interest stems from the fact that your money not only earns interest on the principle; it also earns interest on the interest that is earned. A thousand dollars earning 5 percent a year (compounded annually) will grow to $1,050 at the end of the first year. In the second year, it earns interest on both the original $1,000 and the $50 of interest, for a total amount of $1,102.50. That is the compounding effect of interest earning interest. At this rate your account will double to $2,000 in about 14 years. (If you want to know how many years it will take for your money to double, divide the number “72” by the interest rate).
Time Provides the Magic
Of course, there can be no magic without time. The “time value of money” is the absolute key to the magic of compounding interest. When the compounding effect of interest earned is combined with time, the growth of your money becomes exponential, as in the case of the penny. Consider the following example of two people who invest the same amount of money for retirement at different periods of time in their lives:
- Starting at age 25, David contributes $20,000 a year to his retirement plan. Then, at age 45, he stops saving altogether.
- Wendy waits until age 45 before contributing $20,000 to her retirement plan and continues to save until age 65.
- If we assume they each earn 6 percent per year on their retirement savings, at age 65, David will have accumulated more than $2,500,000 while Wendy would have just less than $800,000. Yet, they both saved the exact same amount of money.
As you can see, there is an absolute cost of waiting to start a systematic savings plan. Time is a wasting asset – you can never get it back. By allowing your money to compound over time, it’s like financially paying it forward for your future goals. All you have to do is adhere to a systematic savings plan to provide the money.
Tips on How to Save More While You’re in College
Even on a college student’s budget it’s possible to find a way to put money aside into your student savings account. It starts with watching your spending. There are a lot of ways to cut back on the tightest of budgets, including:
- Buy a coffee maker to avoid the Starbucks temptation
- Forego cable – go with Netflix or Hulu instead
- Use student discounts – shop where discounts are available
- Don’t buy new text books – beg, borrow or rent instead
- Leave your car at home – avoid parking fees, insurance and fuel costs
- Dine in – if you’re on a meal plan use it; if not, stock your refrigerator with easy to make meals
There are dozens of other ways to cut back on spending. In creating a spending plan, have a goal of setting aside $10, $20 or $30 a week in a student savings account. The key is to make saving your first expenditure of the month and budget around it.
Some banks have programs that allow you to automatically move a certain amount from your student checking to your student savings account each month. Wells Fargo has round-up checking, which rounds your expenditures up and moves the excess into your student savings account. For example, if you spent $4.40 at the grocery store, it is automatically rounded up to $5.00 and $0.60 is moved into your savings.
What to Look for in a Student Savings Account
The same criteria used for finding the right student checking account applies to finding the right student savings account – convenience, product fit, and fees.
Ideally, your student savings account should reside with the same bank as your student checking account. You might be tempted to shop around for the highest yielding student savings account, but for the extra .25 or .50% in interest you might earn, you would be giving up a lot of convenience which could make it harder for you to save. Most banks offer a savings plan that links to a student checking account. The advantage of linked accounts is the ease of transferring money and the possible use of your savings for overdraft protection. Plus you can manage both accounts more easily through a single online platform.
You may find that your options are limited based on how much you expect to save. Unless you are able to prime your new student savings account with a lump sum of $2,500 or more, you should stick with accounts that don’t require a large minimum balance to waive the monthly fee. Some student savings accounts are created with very low or no minimum initial deposits or minimum balance requirements. In exchange, however, you shouldn’t expect the highest interest rates. At this point, you should value flexibility and convenience over the highest possible returns.
The only fee you really have to worry about is the monthly maintenance fee. Many banks waive the fee for student savers or they have a very low minimum balance requirement. Avoid opening a student savings account with a high minimum balance requirement because the $10 to $15 per month fee can eat into your savings.
Opening a Checking Account
You will probably never see a bank representative any happier or friendlier than at the moment you ask to open up a student checking account. It’s a very easy process requiring little time. You will need your Social Security number, your driver’s license, proof of student status and some references, such as your parents.
If you are under 18, you will probably need to open a joint account with your parents. If you are using the same bank as your parents, you might consider linking your account with theirs to allow for instant transfers.
At the time of opening your account you will need to fund it with cash, a check or a money order. For opening an online account, you can fund it with a debit or credit card.
Upon opening your account you will be given temporary checks and deposit slips. An ATM or check card will be sent to your home. With most banks your card is activated with its first use at an ATM machine at which point you will create a PIN number. Your online account should be available the same day, so you should become familiar with the tools for managing it.
Read the Fine Print
With your student checking and student savings accounts you will be given an agreement that includes the details of your account. Be sure to review it carefully and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Look for the following:
- A complete list of account fees and how they are applied
- A description of ATM fees and information on how to find locations with free access
- Details of your debit card, including applicable fees and any restrictions in its use
- Details on check writing, including how many you can write each month and any minimum balance requirements
- Who to contact if your ATM or debit card is lost, stolen, or if you suspect fraud with your account
- How and when you can contact customer service for any questions or issues you might have
- Description of online banking, including how to access a list of services and fees
A note about identity theft and fraud: One of the fastest growing methods for stealing your identity is ATM theft via skimming and just plain old looking over your shoulder. When using your ATM card, be sure to look for any unusual devices attached to the ATM machine. Try to use familiar machines, but if you use a foreign machine (one not affiliated with your bank), make sure it has only one slot for scanning your card and that it doesn’t look like it has been attached over the front cover of the ATM. Never give your PIN number to anyone,but If you must keep a copy of your PIN number, make sure it is securely locked away. You should review your account online frequently to check for any unusual transactions or errors.
Student Checking Account Reviews
Although not an exhaustive list of student checking accounts, the following reviews include some of the more popular offerings found at some of the larger banks.
Wells Fargo Every Day Checking
Minimum Balance Requirement: $1,500
Minimum Initial Deposit: $25
Annual Percentage Yield: 0%
Wells Fargo is one of the largest banking institutions in the country, which addresses the key issue of locations. There are Wells Fargo branch locations in most college towns and their ATMs are found on many campuses. The Wells Fargo student Everyday Checking account is a solid account with average to above average fees. The minimum deposit is lower than the national average by about $25. The big negative is the high minimum balance requirement of $1,500 for avoiding the monthly fee. However, its $5 monthly fee is lower than most.
The monthly fee can also be waived if the account receives at least $500 in total direct deposits or 10 debit card purchases or payments. The fee is also waived if the account is linked to a Wells Fargo Campus ATM or Campus Debit Card.
In terms of its other fees, the Wells Fargo account ranks slightly above average in most categories. You will pay $2.50 for ATM withdrawals outside of the bank’s system. That’s above the national average of about $1.75. The overdraft fee of $25 is above average as is the fee for insufficient funds and returned items.
Although its fees are higher than average, Wells Fargo Student is a good choice due to the availability of physical locations and ATMs. It also has a robust online platform for monitoring and managing your account.
Capital One 360 Checking
Minimum Balance Requirement: $0
Minimum Initial Deposit: $0
Annual Percentage Yield: .2%
The Capital One 360 Checking account is technically not a student checking account. However, it is ideal for college students because there are no monthly fees, no minimum balance requirements and no overdraft fee. On top of that, the account pays interest on the entire balance (no minimum requirement for earning interest).
Capital One is an Internet-only bank, but it is one of the largest financial institutions in the country. You’ve no doubt seen its credit card commercials – “What’s in your wallet?” Capital One offers a full range of banking services designed to compete aggressively with the big brick-and-mortar banks. It also stands out among the dozens of Internet-only banks that have sprung up in the last decade.
It’s a great choice for college students because it has a network of more than 40,000 ATMs. Although there are not many physical locations, account holders have access to a very robust online platform for monitoring and managing their account. The system allows for money transfers to other individuals or businesses and there is no cost for online bill pay. Checks can be deposited using your smartphone camera for instant crediting. It is also one of the few online banks that allow for cash deposits through its ATMs.
Although there is no overdraft fee per se, if Capital One chooses to decline a check due to insufficient funds, you could be charged a $9 NSF fee.
There’s little not to like with the Capital One 360 Checking Account, and when you’re ready to link it to a student savings account, there are several options available.
Chase College Checking
Minimum Balance Requirement: $0
Minimum Initial Deposit: $25
Annual Percentage Yield: 0%
Overall, the Chase College Checking account may be a good choice if having a physical location is important to you. In terms of its requirements and fees, it rates about average. The good news is the $6 monthly fee is waived for up to five years while you are in college. Otherwise, the waiver requires a $5,000 minimum balance or a direct deposit made to the account each month.
With Chase you can expect to see a lot of physical locations and several ATMs in and around campus. But if you are ever stuck having to withdraw cash from a non-Chase ATM you’ll pay $2.50 for the privilege. You will also want to avoid overdrawing your account because you’ll be charged $34 for insufficient funds. If your account remains overdrawn for five or more consecutive business days, you’ll be hit with another $15 charge. Chase allows you to bring your account current by the end the day to avoid a charge and it will not charge a fee for any item that is $5 or less.
Generally, there is nothing spectacular about the Chase College Checking Account. It does provide you with full access to its suite of online and mobile banking tools. Its fees tend to be higher than average and there are no features that make it stand out. Chase is a solid overall bank, with fairly good coverage in campus towns. But, the only good reason you might consider Chase is if it's the bank your parentsuse, so you can link accounts.
U.S. Bank Student Checking
Minimum Balance Requirement: $0
Minimum Initial Deposit: $25
Annual Percentage Yield: 0%
U.S. Bank is one of the smaller national banks, with just over 3,000 branches and 5,300 ATMs. So, if you are choosing a bank based on its physical presence, you should check its availability in and around your campus and town. Beyond that, its banking account fees are average to above average, although all you need to do to waive the low monthly fee of $2 is elect to receive electronic statements.
Although it has a relatively small ATM network, the bank will not charge you a fee on your first four non-U.S. Bank ATM transactions each statement cycle. After that, it will cost you $2.50 per transaction. At $36, its overdraft fee is much higher than the average and you’ll pay another $25 if your account is overdrawn for eight straight days.
Along with a free debit card, you get free access to its online platform and bill pay. Beyond that, the account offers all of the basic services. As long as you don’t overdraw your account or withdraw money from a non-U.S. Bank ATM, it’s possible to use your student checking account without paying any fees.
SunTrust Essential Checking for Students
Minimum Balance Requirement: $0
Minimum Initial Deposit: $100
Annual Percentage Yield: 0%
With just 1,430 locations, SunTrust is the smallest bank reviewed here with most of its branches located in the south and southeast regions of the country. The Essential Checking for Students account is well designed for college students with a low minimum initial deposit of $100 and no minimum balance requirement for the first five years of attending college. There is no monthly fee, but you will pay a $3 monthly fee if you elect to receive paper statements.
There are 2,100 ATMs, which may be enough to blanket the 14 states the bank serves. But, if you withdraw cash from a non-SunTrust ATM, you will be charged $3 per transaction. You will also want to avoid the bank’s overdraft fee which is higher than average at $36. If your account is overdrawn for six days in a row, you will be hit with another $36 fee.
Student account holders receive a free debit MasterCard and have access to online banking and bill pay. The bank supports Apple Pay and Samsung Pay when you use your smartphone for payments. SunTrust would be a solid choice for student checking if you’re attending school in the southeast region of the country.