Getting a student checking account is a high priority if you're off to college. By finding the right account for your needs, as well as the best debit card for students, you can cut your costs and make everyday life much easier.
Look for an account with no monthly fee or minimum balance, which offers simple and quick online banking options to save both time and money, and let you settle into student life more easily.
Looking for the best banks for college students? You’re in the right place. Read on for all you need to know about choosing a student bank account, and finding the best banks for students.
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One great option for a college student account is to look to online banks for simple - and often cheap - ways to manage your finances.
Ally Bank is a good place to start. Ally offers interest bearing checking accounts which you can open and operate online, with no minimum balance or monthly fee. You’ll be able to get checking facilities for free, and can pay checks into your account online too.¹
There are a few fees to know about - which are clearly set out on the Ally website - and some limitations to the account functionality. For example, you can’t send international wires from your account,² which may be problematic if you need to get money to friends or family abroad, or use your account to pay for your travel.
Chase offers checking accounts aimed at both high school students and college student accounts for those aged over 17.
If you’re an international student you might be able to apply for an account in a Chase branch - US citizens should be able to get their accounts opened online.
Fees are waived on the Student Checking Account for up to 5 years as long as you’re enrolled in an eligible education course. You’ll get access to mobile banking, an ATM card, and can make Zelle payments to friends and family in the US easily. There are some fees you’ll want to know about before you sign up, though, including out of network ATM fees and relatively high costs for arranging international payments.
Chime is an online bank, and offers accounts with no minimum deposits or monthly fees. ³ ⁴ You can also get free ATM withdrawals at 38,000+ networked locations.
Chime accounts aren’t specifically aimed at students, but can be a good option. If you’re aged over 18 and a US citizen and resident, with an SSN, you’ll be able to apply online. Chime claims applications take only 2 minutes - and they won’t make any impact on your credit score no matter whether or not your application is successful.
There are very few fees to worry about - but you will be charged for using an out of network ATM, so it’s worth checking the small print on that before you get started.⁴
Bank of America offers Advantage Checking Accounts without monthly fees to students under the age of 24 and enrolled in an eligible program of education. ⁵ You’ll have access to 4,500 branches and nearly 16,000 networked ATMs - making this a convenient option if you like to talk to someone face to face about your finances.
Students with an Advantage Checking Account will get mobile banking, simple domestic payments with Zelle, and a load of tools to help you manage your money including the ability to link savings accounts and switch your debit card on and off via online banking.
Read more about student banking with Bank of America in our handy guide.
Depending on how you intend to use your student account, you might find that the best product for your needs isn’t from a bank at all. Check out the multi-currency account from TransferWise as an example. TransferWise isn’t a bank, but their multi-currency account offers many of the features of a regular bank account, and a few more too.
You can open an account online, and there’s no monthly fee or minimum balance to worry about. You’ll be able to hold dozens of different currencies in one place, and send and receive payments all over the world.
This makes it handy for international students covering their costs from overseas - and anyone who loves to travel. Day to day spending at home and abroad is also simple, thanks to a linked debit MasterCard.
|TransferWise's multi-currency Mastercard can be up to 4x cheaper when spending abroad, compared to banks and PayPal|
If your priority is to manage your budget tightly, and you’re happy to bank online, Simple might be the place to go. Simple offers online only accounts, which combine checking or saving functions with smart budgeting tools - ideal if you’re learning to manage your money or saving for specific goals.⁶
With Simple, you’ll be able to open a checking account online within minutes. Accounts are compatible with tools like Venmo and and Square Cash so you can send money to friends easily - and you’ll also get a linked account card and checks.
There’s no minimum deposit, no monthly fee, and it’s free to make ATM withdrawals. However, it’s worth checking the full terms if you’re interested in this account as there are some charges, for a personal check, for example, or if you use your ATM card overseas.⁷ You won’t be able to send wire transfers from your Simple account, either - which could be tricky if you want to make direct bank payments.⁸ Receiving wires, however, is possible.
With over 8,000 branches, and 13,000 ATMs, Wells Fargo can be a convenient choice if you like to do your banking face to face. As one of the largest banks in the US, you’ll be able to find a convenient branch no matter where you choose to study.
If you’re a student, aged 17 to 24, you can open an account with Wells Fargo without needing to pay a monthly fee.⁹ This will save you $10 a month - and you’ll also have access to online banking, Zelle for domestic payments, and a paired Visa card for easy spending. Depending on the school you go to, you may be able to get a Wells Fargo Campus Card, which can be used as an ATM card and also a college ID for campus services like using the library or buying meals.¹⁰
As with any account, you’ll need to read the terms and conditions carefully before selecting a Wells Fargo account - there are fees and limits to consider, including international transaction fees, wire fees and non-network ATM charges.
Learn more with our guide to the Wells Fargo Student Account.
USAA offers accounts to active members of the military, veterans and cadets, as well as their family members. If you’re eligible, a USAA account might be a good option for you when you head off to college.
You’ll be able to open a Youth Checking Account if you’re under 18, which will then be converted to a regular checking account when you reach 18.¹¹ The USAA Classic Checking Account comes with no monthly fee, free access to over 60,000 ATMs, and you’ll get a rebate of up to $15 a month if you use out of network ATMs. There’s also online banking options, overdraft protection, and no minimum balance once you’ve opened your account.
Checking accounts offer interest on higher balance amounts - and there’s a specific savings account product if you’re looking for a way to keep and grow your money over time.
There’s no specific bank or account which is the best for all students - the right one for you will depend a lot on your personal needs and preferences. Doing some research, and thinking carefully about how you intend to use your account is crucial to make sure you get the best account possible. Read all the small print and check out the features and fees carefully before you commit. Finding an account with no monthly fees will likely save you money - and an account with simple and intuitive services can save you time too.
Check out the specific student accounts available from large traditional banks, low cost mobile options from online banks, and smart modern alternatives like the multi-currency account from TransferWise to see which will work best for you. Good luck!
5)Banking for Students: Checking Accounts & Debit Card Options
6)Free Online Checking Accounts
All sources last checked 6 February 2020
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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