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Student Loans

Can You Get Student Loans Without a Bank Account?

Student loans can make paying for college easier, but where does the money go once you’re approved? And do you need a bank account to get student loans?

The simple answer is this: it depends. While loan funds are typically sent straight to your school, that’s not always true. If you’re one of the 4.5% of Americans in the “unbanked” category—meaning you don’t have a bank account—that could add a wrinkle to the student loan process. 

If you plan to finance your education using federal or private options, keep reading to learn how getting student loans without a bank account works. 

Can you get student loans without a bank account?

You don’t need a bank account to apply for and obtain a student loan. As a general rule, neither federal nor private student loan applications require you to provide proof of a bank account to be eligible for a student loan.

However, you may be required to have a bank account to make monthly payments to your loans. Federal regulations prohibit loan servicers from accepting credit cards as a form of payment for federal loans. Private student loan lenders may impose similar restrictions. 

In addition, private lenders typically expect you to show proof of income to apply. If you have one, you (and your cosigner) may be asked for bank account statements or direct deposit pay stubs. If you’re interested in private student loan options, here’s a quick overview of how bank accounts are treated. 

LenderBank account required to applyPayment optionsCredit cards accepted
AscentNo, but credit and income history are both considered for eligibility.Automatic draft from a bank account

One-time ACH payment

Debit card

Online bill pay 
Paper check
College AveNo, but credit and income history are both considered for eligibility. Automatic bank draft

One-time ACH payment

Online bill pay
Paper check
CredibleNo, but credit and income history are both considered for eligibility. Depends on the lenderDepends on the lender
EarnestNo, but credit and income history are both considered for eligibility.Automatic bank draft

One-time ACH payment

Paper check
Sallie MaeBorrowers and their cosigners may be required to furnish bank account statements when they apply. Automatic bank draft

One-time ACH payment

Debit card

Online bill pay

Paper check
SoFiNo, but credit and income history are both considered for eligibility.Automatic bank draft

One-time ACH payment

Online bill pay

Paper check

Wire transfer

Do you need a bank account for the student loan disbursement process?

Disbursement just means a payment of money. When your student loans are “disbursed,” the amount that you’re approved for is released to pay your education expenses. Here’s how it works:

  • The lender tells your school how much aid you’ve been approved for.
  • The school certifies the amount needed to cover your cost of attendance. 
  • Once the amount is confirmed, the lender sends the funds to your school.
  • The school applies the disbursed amount to your costs and then releases any leftover funds to you. 

The certification process can take several business days or several weeks to complete. Student loans are typically disbursed at the beginning of each new term. For example, if you’re attending fall and spring classes, you’d have two disbursements for the academic year. 

Lenders send funds to college or university

If you’re approved for federal student loans, the Department of Education disburses the money to your college or university. That means you can get federal student loans without a bank account. Again, you might need a bank account to pay through your loan servicer. 

Many private student loan lenders also disburse funds directly to the school. That saves you the trouble of ensuring that your education expenses are paid. 

Here’s how disbursement works at top private student loan lenders. 

LenderWho receives fundsTime frame for disbursement
AscentSchoolVaries by school
College AveSchoolVaries by school
CredibleVaries by lenderVaries by lender
EarnestSchool1-3 weeks, plus a three-day cooling period
Sallie MaeSchoolVaries by school
SoFiSchoolVaries by school

School typically sends the excess to your bank account

Once your lender disburses funds to your college or university, the school can turn over any extra money remaining to you. 

In most cases, the school would send that money to your bank account electronically. You’d just need to provide your bank account number and routing number. 

You can then use the overage to cover other eligible education expenses, such as rent or groceries. Or you might send the amount back to your lender if you don’t need it to pay for any school-related costs. 

Ask the expert

Chloe Moore


I recommend receiving excess student loan funds directly into a bank account instead of by check. This way, you have a paper trail and you can avoid costly transaction fees that come with check cashing services. Be careful when using excess student loan funds and stick to necessary school-related expenses. Remember, this is money you must pay back eventually, so using it for everyday spending is not wise.

Options for students without a bank account 

Not having a bank account isn’t the end of the world, but it can make managing your financial life a little more difficult. If you have excess student loan money coming back to you, there are a couple of things you might consider to accept those funds. 

Option 1: Can you set up a bank account?

If you don’t have a bank account to accept an electronic transfer, the first step may be to set up a bank account for this express purpose. Many banks allow clients to set up accounts with low initial deposits.

For example, you can open a SoFi Checking and Savings account with no minimum deposit. Capital One is another online banking option with a $0 deposit requirement. 

If you prefer branch banking instead, these banks offer checking accounts with low opening deposit requirements:

Keep in mind that traditional banks may charge more fees than online banks. Also, consider opening a student bank account instead of a standard checking or savings account. Student accounts may allow you to enjoy lower fees and deposit requirements while in school. 

What do you need to open a bank account? Typically, banks expect you to have the following:

  • Valid, government-issued photo ID
  • Social Security number or Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
  • Proof of U.S. residence
  • Email and phone number

If you’re an international student applying for a bank account in the U.S., you may be asked for other documents to verify your identity. For example, you might need to show your passport or student visa and proof of a valid U.S. address. 

Ask the expert

Chloe Moore


In addition to avoiding costly fees that can come with check cashing services or prepaid debit cards, having a bank account comes with protections. The money in your checking and savings accounts is insured and easier to recover than a lost check, prepaid debit card, or cash would be. A major drawback can be account fees, but many no-fee checking options are available, especially for students. 

Option 2: Can you get a check instead?

You could also talk to your college or university about giving you a check for the excess funds and use this check to open a bank account. If you’re not able to open a bank account for any reason, you might consider:

  • Cashing the check at a check-cashing store, which usually requires a fee
  • Adding the money to a reloadable debit card, which, again, may require a fee
  • Signing the check over to a trusted friend or family member who could cash it and give the funds to you

You could also ask your school if they issue prepaid debit cards to students instead of checks for student loan overages. That may be the most convenient way to get student loans without a bank account if you expect to get a little money back. 

Getting a student loan without a bank account might be more challenging, especially if you’re taking out extra money to cover living expenses, but it’s possible. However, it may be worthwhile to consider opening a bank account so that you have a convenient way to make deposits and pay bills.