Banking •

Updated August 30, 2021

9 Best Student Bank Accounts for 2021

The best student bank accounts in 2021 offer outstanding features and mobile banking without many of the fees that banks often charge.

author of the post
Kara McCaleb
Head of Banking
Cover image best student bank accounts

When you’re heading off to college, it might be the first time you’re responsible for managing your own finances. And a part of managing your own finances is opening a bank account.

Unfortunately, many bank accounts come with restrictions and fees that aren’t friendly to students. They might require a monthly direct deposit, a large minimum balance, or monthly fees to maintain the account.

Luckily, there are plenty of banks that offer student bank accounts without any of these burdensome requirements.

In this article, we’re sharing what to look for in a student bank account, how to open a student bank account, and the nine best student bank accounts on the market today.

What is a student bank account? 

A student bank account is one specifically designed for the unique needs of college students. 

What is a Student Bank Account?

While they come with many of the same features as a traditional account, banks understand that when you’re in college you may not have a regular income or money to pay the fees of standard accounts.

Student bank accounts usually waive minimum balance requirements and monthly maintenance fees. In some cases, student bank accounts might even come with educational resources to help you learn the ropes of managing your money.

Student accounts are often only available if you’re under a certain age or can provide proof that you’re attending college.

Let's break down a couple main differences:

Student bank account vs. traditional bank account

The primary difference between a student bank account and a traditional account is that student accounts have age or attendance requirements, fewer fees, and no (or low) minimum balance requirements.

Student bank account vs. teen bank account

Teen checking accounts are for high schoolers living at home. As with a student account, you have to meet the age requirement and they waive certain requirements. But in the case of a teen account, a parent or guardian must also be on the account.

What to look for in a student bank account

When you’re looking for the right student bank account for you, there’s no shortage of options. While every bank account might come with slightly different features and selling points, there are certain features that you should look for in any student account.

What to Look For in a Student Bank Account

1. No monthly maintenance fees

Plenty of banks charge a monthly maintenance fee for checking accounts. This fee comes directly out of your bank account each month. 

Sometimes they only charge the fee if you don’t meet certain other balance or direct deposit requirements, while some banks charge it no matter what. Most student accounts allow you to avoid the monthly fee, keeping more of your money in your account.

2. No balance requirement

Some banks require you to have a certain amount of money to open a bank account or to keep a certain amount in the account on an ongoing basis.

But when you’re in college, you might be on a tight budget, and meeting any sort of minimum balance requirement may be difficult.

Luckily, you’ll find that most student bank accounts don’t require you to have a large balance to open the account and have no minimum monthly balance requirements.

3. No direct deposit requirement

Another rule that some traditional bank accounts have is that you must have a direct deposit set up for the account. Some banks charge fees if you don’t have this setup.

For working adults after college, it’s easy to set up a direct deposit from your job to go into your bank account. But when you’re in college, you might not have a regular income or may have a job that doesn’t pay via direct deposit.

When you’re choosing a student bank account, be sure to choose one that doesn’t have a direct deposit requirement.

4. Strong online and mobile banking

As a college student, you probably rely heavily on technology to manage your life. Your bank account should be no different.

The best student bank accounts include mobile banking features like mobile check deposits, simple transfers, bill pay, spending insights, and more.

5. Large ATM network

When you’re heading to campus events or out with friends, you may often find yourself needing to pull cash out of the ATM. Unfortunately, out-of-network ATM fees can really add up. If you choose a bank that has a large ATM network, then you’ll have an easier time finding fee-free ATMs to use.

6. Nationwide availability

Local banks and credit unions can have their perks, but might not have the features or the accessibility that you want. National banks tend to have more robust features, as well as more availability of ATMs and branches.

7. Excellent customer service

Customer service is important no matter what service you’re shopping for, but even more so for banking. You want to make sure that no matter what goes wrong, there’s someone who can help you solve the problem or access your money as quickly as possible.

8. No or low fees

When you're in college, you probably can't afford to have your money going toward fees. Look for a student bank account that gets rid of these fees with services like overdraft protection.

9. Rewards 

It’s easy to find credit cards with rewards or savings accounts that offer high-yield interest rates. But now, more and more banks are offering similar rewards for checking accounts. 

Some checking accounts offer cash-bank on debit card purchases, similar to a credit card. Others allow you to earn interest on your balance like you would with a savings account.

10. FDIC insurance

No matter what other features you need in a bank, you should always make sure the account you choose is covered by Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insurance. 

FDIC insurance covers bank accounts up to $250,000 per person, per account type. If your bank goes under (yes this happens), FDIC insurance guarantees you get your money back.

How to open a student bank account

Luckily, opening a student bank account isn’t difficult. Most banks allow you to do it either online or in person. Setting up an account online can take as little as five minutes, so you’re not spending much time out of your day.

How to Open a Student Bank Account

When you sign up for your account, you’ll have to provide some basic personal information, including:

  • Name

  • Birthday

  • Address

  • Social Security number (SSN)

  • Government-issued ID

If you’re under 18, you might need your parent to open the account with you. And depending on your bank, you might have to prove enrollment at a college to sign up. Luckily, however, most banks just base eligibility on your age.

If you sign up online, you may have access to your account right away. Then you can go about depositing money, ordering your debit card, and handling any other setup tasks.

The 9 best student bank accounts

Best Student Bank Accounts

Chase Bank College Checking Account

The Chase College Checking is an account designed for college students from the ages of 17 to 24. If you’re 17 years old, you’ll have to open the account at a Chase, but if you’re 18 or older, you can open your account online.

The account comes with no monthly service fee for up to 5 years while you’re in school. After you graduate, you can keep the account until you’re 24, and simply pay a $6 service fee or meet a direct deposit or minimum balance requirement.

The account comes with features that include:

  • Overdraft protection with a Chase Savings account

  • Money management

  • Bill pay

  • Money transfers

  • Account alerts

  • Peer-to-peer transfers with Zelle

  • Autosave tool to help you save for your goals

  • Educational content around money management

Capital One 360 Checking Account

Capital One’s 360 checking account isn’t technically a student account, but its features are just as good. 

This account comes with no minimum balance requirement to open the account, or on an ongoing basis. It’s easy to open your account online. You’ll just have to provide some personal information, and then you’ll have access to your new account immediately.

Capital One has excellent mobile banking features that include:

  • Mobile deposit

  • Purchase notifications

  • Card lock

  • Bill pay

  • Zelle transfers

  • Spending tracking

Capital One’s account also comes with free credit monitoring, a network of 70,000 fee-free ATMs, and interest earnings on your checking account balance.

Bank of America Advantage Banking

Bank of America’s Advantage Banking technically comes with a monthly maintenance fee if you don’t meet certain requirements. But Bank of America waives the fee for students under the age of 24.

As a national bank, Bank of America has fee-free ATMs all over the country, allowing you to withdraw your money for free.

A unique feature of Bank of America’s account is Erica, your virtual banking assistant. Using the mobile app, you can ask Erica questions, find local ATMs, and more.

Another benefit of the Advantage Banking account is the budgeting features it includes. You can see a weekly snapshot of your month-to-date spending, receive bill reminders, and more.

Other features include:

  • Zelle payments

  • Fraud monitoring

  • Custom alerts

  • Debit card controls

  • Mobile deposits

  • Credit score monitoring

Discover Cashback Debit Account

Discover offers a rewards checking account that allows you to earn cashback on your purchases like you would with a credit card. Right now, the account offers 1% on up to $3,000 in purchases each month.

There's no monthly maintenance fee on this account, making it perfect for college students. There are also no overdraft fees or closure fees and there are more than 60,000 fee-free ATMs nationwide.

Discover offers a mobile app with plenty of features that college students need, including:

  • Mobile deposit

  • Debit card freeze

  • Zelle payments

  • Money management educational content

PNC Virtual Wallet Student Account

The PNC Virtual Wallet Student checking account is available for anyone 16 years of age or older. Unlike some of the other student accounts, there’s no maximum age limit on this card. Instead, you’ll simply lose the benefits after 6 years.

The PNC student account comes with no monthly service fees, and it has measures in place to help you avoid an overdraft fee. When you go over your account balance, you’re given 24 hours to deposit money and bring your balance to zero before you’re charged a fee. 

You can also get an alert when your account dips below a certain balance to help you avoid overdrafting.

Like other student accounts, PNC’s student account comes with some excellent mobile banking features, including:

  • A bill calendar

  • Budget tools

  • Low cash mode

  • Savings goals

  • Mobile deposit

US Bank Student Checking Account 

US bank is another national bank known for its excellent student checking account. Like many others on the market, this one offers no monthly maintenance fee, as well as overdraft protection to help you avoid overdraft fees.

US bank also has a campus banking feature designed to make it easy for college students to manage their money. Features in addition to the student checking account include:

  • Campus card programs

  • Convenient ATM access

  • On-campus branches and support centers

Chime Spending Account 

Chime is one of the most popular online banks on the market today, and its features are perfectly suited to college students.

First, you won’t pay any hidden fees with this account. It gets rid of many burdensome requirements like:

  • Monthly maintenance fees

  • Minimum balances

  • Overdraft fees

  • Foreign transaction fees

Chime also has a network of more than 60,000 fee-free ATMs, so it’s easy to avoid an ATM fee.

Another feature of Chime’s checking account, which is particularly useful for college students, is that you get your direct deposit payments 2 days early.

Ally Bank Interest Checking

Ally is another popular online bank on the market. The company’s checking account combines the perks of a typical online checking account with those of a high-yield savings account. You’ll get 0.10 interest on a balance of less than $15,000, and 0.25% on a balance of $15,000 or more.

Ally makes banking for students affordable by requiring no monthly maintenance fees, overdraft fees, low balance fees, or fees on ires and transfers.

Because it’s an online bank, you can expect Ally to have some robust mobile banking features, including:

  • Debit card controls

  • Automatic round-ups to help you save

  • Mobile check deposit

  • Zelle transfers

TD Bank Convenience Checking

TD’s Convenience Checking is available to anyone, but it has a special student perk of no monthly maintenance fee for customers ages 17-23.

TD Bank offers plenty of mobile banking features you might need as a student, including:

  • Mobile deposit

  • Digital wallet

  • Zelle payments

  • Contactless debit cards

TD Bank also allows you to connect your account to a TD Bank student savings account and turn on overdraft protection, allowing you to avoid overdraft fees as well.

Conclusion

There are plenty of student bank accounts to choose from, and it can feel overwhelming to choose the best one. The truth is that all of the banks on our list have some great features to offer, and you’d probably be happy with many of them.

When it comes to finding the right student bank account for you, pay special attention to any student-friendly features they offer, as well as whether there are any fees. With the number of fee-free student bank accounts on the market, there’s no reason to pay fees.

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