Updated August 31, 2021

What is the Best Bank for College Students?

A bank can be an important resource for college students. Read about what to look for in a bank and the best banks for college students.

author of the post
Kara McCaleb
Head of Banking
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There’s a lot to plan for when you’re heading off to college. You have to choose your classes, buy your textbooks, and pick out everything you’re going to need for your dorm room.

And you may have to open your own bank account for the first time.

With so many banks to choose from, it’s tough to decide which is right for you. Many banks charge unnecessary fees or make it hard to access your money.

But there are some banks that stand out as being good options for college students! 

In this article, we’ll give you a list of the 10 best banks for college students, as well as what you should look for when choosing the right bank for you.

What to look for in a bank

When you’re looking for the right bank, it’s important that you find one that understands the needs of college students and offers features and services to help meet those needs. 

Sure, there are plenty of banks to choose from. But not all of them will offer the services you need.

Here are nine factors to consider.

What to look for in a bank account

1. Student banking options

Plenty of banks offer special student checking accounts for those currently in college or under a certain age. These accounts usually waive certain fees that the bank normally charges. 

They also come with no (or low) minimum deposit requirements to accommodate for the fact that many college students don’t have much income of their own.

2. Types of accounts

Your banking needs while in college might be pretty simple, but it’s important to make sure the bank you choose offers the types of accounts you need. 

For most people, that will mean at least a checking and savings account. But you also might want a bank that offers a credit card or high-yield savings account—perks that not all institutions offer.

3. Online and mobile banking

These days, most people are doing their banking online. And when you’re in college, it’s even more important that you’re able to manage your bank account from anywhere. After all, if you’re going to school away from home, you may find yourself in different cities throughout the year.

Look for banks that offer features like mobile check deposits, online transfers, online bill pay, and more.

4. No monthly maintenance fees

Plenty of banks charge monthly maintenance fees on checking accounts, especially if you don’t have direct deposit set up or don’t have a certain amount of money in your account. 

Luckily, it’s not too hard to find banks that offer accounts with no monthly maintenance fees. And as we mentioned earlier, plenty of banks that do charge these fees will waive them for a student account.

5. No or low balance requirements

During college, there’s a good chance that you don’t have a ton of money sitting in your checking account. 

Because of that, it’s important that you find a bank that won’t require you to have a certain amount of money in your account at all times. These minimum balance requirements can be hard to stick to and often result in fees if you don’t meet them.

6. Excellent customer service

Be sure that whatever bank you choose offers excellent customer service that can help you navigate any problem you come across. 

It’s important that you’re able to access your money easily, and good customer service can solve any problem that prevents that.

7. Rewards and interest rates

While you don’t have to choose a bank that offers cashback on your checking account spending or a high interest rate on your savings account, it’s certainly a nice perk. 

No, you won’t get rich off these features. But they’ll help you earn a few extra dollars here and there.

FDIC insurance

No matter what other features you want in a bank, it’s essential that you choose one that is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). 

FDIC insurance protects your money up to $250,000 per person, per account type. If the bank goes under, you’ll get your money back. Nearly all banks are FDIC-insured today, but it’s important to double-check, especially if you’re going with a new bank.

Availability 

Make sure your bank is easily available to you. 

If you expect to do any in-person banking, make sure there’s a branch nearby your university. And check the bank’s ATM network to make sure you’ll have easy access to a fee-free ATM.

Bank vs. credit union for college students 

When you’re opening a bank account, you’ll have the choice between a bank or a credit union which have some slightly different features and benefits.

Both banks and credit unions offer the same basic services, such as checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, and loans.

The first major difference is that while banks are for-profit companies, credit unions are nonprofit organizations where the members are the owners. Because of this, credit unions often have lower fees and lower interest rates on lending products.

But credit unions are often local, while banks are often national. That means that banks are usually more accessible, have larger ATM networks, and have better technology. 

As a college student, you’ll have to decide which financial institution is a better fit for you.

What type of bank accounts do you need as a college student?

There are plenty of types of accounts available at banks, including checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposit, money market accounts, credit cards, and more. 

But as a college student, you probably only need two accounts to start with.

Checking vs

A checking account is a type of deposit account you use for spending. You deposit money into the account, and then you can use your debit card to spend or take out money.

A savings account, on the other hand, allows you to save money. It doesn’t usually have a debit card, and you can only take out money so many times per month.

In most cases, you’ll want both a checking and savings account so that you can easily spend your money when you need to while also growing your savings.

10 best banks for college students

Now that we’ve talked about what to look for in a bank and the types of accounts you’ll need as a college student, let’s look at the 10 best banks for college students.

Best Banks for College Students

1. Discover

Discover is one of the most popular online banks, and it’s easy to see why. It offers many types of accounts to choose from with great features and rewards.

With Discover, you can get an online checking account with no fees whatsoever. It offers 1% cashback on your spending up to $3,000 per month, which means you could earn an extra $30 per month just for spending your money.

Discover also has a network of more than 60,000 fee-free ATMs you can use with your debit card, and it has some of the best online features of any bank.

Discover also offers an online high-yield savings account with a current interest rate of 0.40%. Like the checking account, Discover’s savings account doesn’t charge any fees.

2. Chase Bank

Chase is one of the largest banks in the country, which means it’s easily accessible, has excellent technology (which is important for online banking), and has branches and ATMs just about everywhere.

Chase makes our list partially because of its college checking account for students ages 17–24. The account doesn’t charge a monthly service fee while you’re in school and doesn’t require a minimum balance.

The college checking account has great mobile banking features like online bill pay, the ability to receive money from family, and account alerts. Plus, you can use your debit card at thousands of ATMs around the country.

Chase also offers a basic savings account. While it normally charges a fee for small balances, their savings account is free to anyone with a linked college checking account for overdraft protection.

3. Capital One

Like Discover, Capital One is a popular online bank that offers just about everything you’d expect from a bank. 

Capital One has its 360 Checking Account, which doesn’t charge any fees and has no account minimums. As an online bank, Capital One’s mobile banking is top-notch. It also has a network of more than 70,000 ATMs around the country. 

Plus, unlike most checking accounts, Capital One’s account allows you to earn interest on the money in your account.

Capital One also has an online savings account that currently allows you to earn 0.40% on your savings. Like the checking account, there are no fees. 

And, it’s easy to instantly transfer money back and forth between your checking and savings accounts to either boost your savings or make it easier to spend your money.

4. Bank of America

Like some other major banks, Bank of America offers a student bank account that doesn’t make you pay some of the fees they normally charge on their accounts.

Bank of America’s Advantage SafeBalance Banking doesn’t come with a monthly maintenance fee for students. It also helps you avoid unnecessary fees by preventing you from spending more than you have.

The account also has great mobile banking features and a network of thousands of ATMs around the country.

Bank of America’s savings account also normally requires a maintenance fee for low balances, but they waive the fee for students under the age of 24. 

5. U.S. Bank

U.S. Bank also offers a student checking account, which means it waives the monthly maintenance fee that the bank charges on some of its other accounts. 

Another perk of U.S. Bank is that they have a relationship with many schools around the country in their campus banking program. If your college is a part of this program, you’ll have access to campus cards, on-campus branches, and on-campus advisory centers.

The one major downside of U.S. Bank is that, unlike many banks, they won’t waive your fee just because you’re a student. You’ll have to either meet their minimum daily balance requirement or pay a $4 monthly fee.

6. PNC Bank

PNC is another bank that has features for students. Its Virtual Wallet Student is a checking and savings account combo that waives the monthly service charge for the first 6 years.

PNC’s checking account also has other features that can benefit students, such as alerts to tell you when your balance is getting low, payment controls, and one courtesy refund of an overdraft fee.

Plus, unlike other banks, PNC has cash management features to help you budget and create a savings plan.

7. Ally Bank

Ally Bank has quickly become one of the most popular online banks, and for good reasons.

First, Ally’s checking account has no fees or minimum balance requirements. It also allows you to earn a small amount of interest on the money in your account. 

And while Ally doesn’t have any branches, it has a network of more than 43,000 fee-free ATMs. Plus, as an online bank, it has awesome online banking features.

Ally also offers a high-yield savings account, which is what it’s most well-known for. 

The savings account allows you to sort your money into ’buckets’ that you create based on your financial goals. It also has a round-up feature to help you save without even thinking about it.

8. Axos Bank

Axos doesn’t have checking accounts specifically for students. However, it offers different types of checking accounts that you can choose from so that you get the one that best matches your needs.

It has three accounts that you choose from: 

  • A direct deposit checking account 

  • A high-interest checking account

  • A cashback checking account 

As an extra bonus, the high-interest account doesn’t have overdraft fees or monthly balance requirements, making it great for college students.

Axos also offers a high-yield savings account that you can pair with your checking account. It has no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements, but you'll need $250 to deposit into your account to open it.

9. TD Bank

Like some of the other banks we’ve talked about, TD Bank waives its monthly fees for any account holder who’s younger than 24. 

TD Bank has some great mobile banking features, including its digital wallet and budgeting worksheets that help you plan your spending.

TD Bank offers a bank savings account that does charge a monthly fee, but the fee is waived for students and young adults. 

10. USAA

USAA isn’t available to everyone, but for military members, veterans, and their family members, it’s a great option. USAA’s checking account doesn’t charge monthly service fees no matter what your balance is.

With this bank, you also have access to a network of more than 60,000 fee-free ATMs, as well as mobile banking features that help you track your spending, receive money from family, make easy deposits, and more.

USAA also has an online savings account, and while it doesn’t earn a high interest rate, it also doesn’t have monthly fees.

Conclusion 

Don’t let analysis paralysis hold you back when choosing a bank account! 

Plenty of banks out there have features perfect for college students. And by choosing one of the banks on our list, you really can’t go wrong.

The most important thing to keep in mind is what you really need in a bank. Is it a branch location near you? Fee-free ATMs? Easy online transfers?

Once you know what’s most important to you, it’ll be a lot easier to narrow down the right bank for you.

Visit Mos.com for help getting the financial aid and advice you need to pay for college.

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