Banking •

Updated November 16, 2021

The Best Student Checking Accounts: What to Look for and Which is Right for You

Learn about what you should look for in a student banking account, such as a large ATM network or reduced fees.

author of the post
Kara McCaleb
Head of Banking
Learn about what you should look for in a student banking account, such as a large ATM network or reduced fees.

A great student checking account is an important tool to help you handle your finances.

A student checking account helps you earn interest on your money, and makes it easy to receive payments through direct deposit. It can also expand your payment options (think debit cards, checks, and online payments).

But before you pick any student checking account, you need to know what to look for. 

It’s key to avoid common banking traps. For example, some checking accounts require you to have a certain amount of money in your account at all times. If you don’t, they’ll charge you $10-$15 per month!

Let’s quickly review what a student checking account is, and some tips to help you choose the right student checking account. Then we’ll jump into a list of the best student checking accounts currently on the market.

What is a student checking account?

A student checking account is a specific type of student bank account that holds your money until you need to use it. 

What is a Student Checking Account?

It’s called a checking account because this type of account used to be mainly for sending and receiving checks.

Today, banks provide other ways to access your money in student checking accounts, such as online banking, automatic teller machines (ATMs) to withdraw cash, and debit cards.

How is a student checking account different from a regular checking account?

A student checking account is only available to students. To open a student checking account, you’ll need to prove that you attend an eligible school. 

Some banks may have additional requirements. A common requirement is to be over a minimum age or under a maximum age.

What are some common features of a student checking account?

Common features of student checking accounts include:

  • Debit card: A debit card is connected to your checking account. The debit card allows you to make payments in person or online using a unique account number. Unlike checks, debit cards require no fee (unless you need to replace a lost card).

  • ATM: Instead of taking out your money in person from a bank teller, you can use your debit card to withdraw it from an automated teller machine (ATM). There’s no charge when you make a withdrawal from an ATM within your bank’s network, but there may be one when using an ATM outside that network.

  • Direct payment: You can use your checking account’s number and bank’s routing number to receive money (such as an employer’s check) and make direct payments (such as a utility or cable bill).

  • Online and mobile banking: Some banks allow you to check your balance and make transactions through an online portal. They may also offer you access to a mobile app so you can make transactions through your phone.

  • Checks: Most banks offer a couple of checks for free when you first open your student checking account. Additional checkbooks often require a fee. Checks are useful for making payments to people and companies that don’t accept debit or credit cards. 

Common Features of Student Checking Accounts

Does a student checking account pay me interest?

Not necessarily. A student checking account isn’t the same as a savings account—a bank account that pays you interest on your balance. 

Some student checking accounts pay you interest, while some don’t.

Can I keep my high school checking account when I go to college?

A high school checking account is a student checking account only available to high school students. 

Most high school checking accounts are only available to students who are 13–17 years old. 

Typically, these accounts charge no fees to high school students but start charging fees once you turn 18 or graduate from high school. 

Because of this, you should consider opening a new student checking account when going to college.

Why do I need a student checking account?

The main reason to get a student checking account is to receive payments faster.

Here are some scenarios where a student checking account can be helpful:

  • Financial aid: Waiting for a paper check from a financial aid office can take several days—even weeks! Setting up a direct deposit to your student checking account speeds up the process.

  • Employer check: You can set up a direct deposit of your paycheck to your checking account. 

  • Deposit checks without setting foot in a bank branch: If your student checking account has a mobile app, you’ll be able to use your phone’s camera to make a mobile deposit.

  • Tax refunds and stimulus checks: If you file your own taxes, you can shorten your wait time for refunds and stimulus checks from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and your state government.

Get Your Money Faster with a Student Checking Account

With a student checking account, you’ll not only receive money faster but also have that money ready to use via debit card, check, or direct payment!

What do I look for in a student checking account? 

Here’s your checklist of what you should think about when choosing a student checking account.

Checklist for Choosing Student Checking Account
  • Low or no minimum balance requirement

  • No monthly account maintenance fee

  • No cap on the number of transactions

  • Access to a large network of ATMs

  • Online and mobile banking access at no cost

  • FDIC insurance (or NCUA insurance)

  • Competitive savings rate 

Let’s break down each one of them.

Low or no minimum balance requirement

Some accounts require you to have a certain amount of money in your account at all times. If you don’t meet that minimum account balance, some banks charge an average $10–$15 per month! $10-15 per month. Look for a free student checking account that has a very low balance requirement—or none at all.

No monthly account maintenance fee

A great student checking account won’t make you pay a monthly account maintenance fee. Make sure that you keep track of the requirement to keep that $0 fee. Common requirements include that you’re within a certain age (usually 17–24) or that you’re attending school.

No cap on the number of transactions

It’s important that your student checking account doesn’t come with a limit on the number of transactions that you can complete per month. Often, going over transaction limits means you have to pay a hefty penalty fee.

Access to a large network of ATMs

It’s not fun running around town looking for an ATM that you can use. Look for an account that offers you plenty of ATMs in easy-to-access locations near your school.

Online and mobile banking access at no cost

Visiting a physical bank branch takes time out of your day. This is the reason you need a student checking account that empowers you to bank wherever you go. 

Online and mobile banking features aren’t a new thing anymore, so there’s no need to pay extra for these useful features.

FDIC insurance

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is an independent agency that protects national finances in many ways. 

One of those ways is by insuring your deposit in eligible bank accounts up to $250,000 in case the bank closes or commits fraudulent activities.

To keep your money safe, only work with a bank that's insured by the FDIC.

Competitive savings rate 

A student checking rate that pays you interest on your deposits is usually better than one that doesn’t.

When you have two student checking rates with very similar features, you should choose the one with the higher savings rate as the tie-breaker. 

By law, a bank has to present an account’s savings rate as an annual percentage yield (APY), often expressed as a percentage (such as 0.40% APY). The APY is the interest rate that your account balance earns over time.

In this example, a 0.40% APY means that you'll receive $0.40 for every $100 in your account.

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Best student checking accounts

Now that we’ve reviewed what student checking accounts are and what to look for in them, let’s look at 6 of the best student checking accounts.

1. Chase Bank College Checking Account

Chase Bank is one of the largest US banks, so opening this student bank account will give you access to a large network of physical branches and ATMs.

To open a Chase College checking account, you need to be between 17–24 years old and provide proof of student enrollment. If you’re under 18, you must visit a physical Chase Bank branch to open up an account. If you’re 18 or older, you can open an account online.

Features making it a best student checking account:

  • No monthly account service fee for up to 5 years while attending college

  • No minimum deposit to set up an account

  • Full-featured mobile app with good reviews

  • FDIC-insured

Things to watch out for:

  • No APY—your money earns no interest

  • Once you turn 25, you have to maintain a $5,000 balance to avoid a $6 monthly account service fee 

2. Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Checking Account

The Bank of America Advantage student bank account comes with three settings. You want to consider the Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance checking account because it waives the $4.95 monthly service fee for eligible students.

Offered by the Bank of America, this account has a large network of ATMs and branches. Unlike other checking accounts, this one focuses on payment options other than checks.

Features making it a best student checking account:

  • Eligibility starts at age 16

  • No monthly fee for students under 24

  • No minimum deposit to set up an account

  • Full-featured mobile app and online banking portal with good reviews

  • FDIC-insured

Things to watch out for:

  • $25 minimum deposit for account opening

  • No APY—your money earns no interest

  • No checks

3. PNC Virtual Wallet Student Checking Account

The PNC Bank Virtual Student checking account is another great option for banking without fees. 

The feature that makes this account stand out is the combination of a checking and savings account. While you won’t earn interest on your checking account, you can set aside part of your balance in a savings account to earn a 0.40% APY. 

Features making it a best student checking account:

  • No monthly account service fees for 6 years from account opening date

  • Full-featured mobile app and online banking portal with good reviews

  • Ability to set aside funds to earn 0.40% APY

Things to watch out for:

  • $25 minimum deposit to open an account

  • 0.40% APY is only for funds transferred to a savings account

4. U.S. Bank Student Checking Account 

The U.S. Bank student checking account is a good choice if your school is within its campus banking network in 16 states. 

If your school is on the list, then you’ll likely have access to campus card programs, easy-to-access ATM locations, and other on-campus services.

U.S. Bank student checking accounts are also available to students who go to a school that is not within their campus banking network. However, when this is the case, they provide you with a reduced list of features.

Features making it a best student checking account:

  • No monthly maintenance fee for students under 24

  • No minimum deposit to set up an account

  • Full-featured mobile app and online banking portal with good reviews

  • FDIC-insured

Things to watch out for:

  • To avoid the $2 paper statement fee, you must enroll in electronic statements (e-statements)

  • No APY—your money earns no interest

5. TD Bank Convenience Checking

TD Bank is another financial institution with a large network of branches and ATMs. The TD Bank Convenience Checking waives fees to students who are between 17–23 years old.

In addition to this age requirement, you must provide proof of student enrollment. If you’re under 18, you have to visit a physical branch to open an account. If you’re 18 and over, you can open an account online.

Features making it a best student checking account:

  • No monthly fee

  • No minimum account balance requirement to set up an account

  • Full-featured mobile app and online banking portal with good reviews

  • FDIC-insured

Things to watch out for:

  • No APY—your money earns no interest

6. Capital One 360 Checking Account

The Capital One 360 checking account isn’t specifically a student checking account. Still, it has many of the great features that you'd look for in a student checking account. 

0.10% APY, no fees, a network of 70,000 fee-free ATMs, and mobile and online banking make the Capital One 360 checking account an app that you should include in your student checking account search.

A drawback of this account is that it’s only accessible to students 18 years old or older.

Features making it a best student checking account:

  • 0.10% APY—earn $0.10 for every $100 per year

  • No monthly account service fees

  • No minimum account balance requirement to set up an account

  • Full-featured mobile app and online banking portal with good reviews

  • FDIC–insured

Things to watch out for:

  • Must be 18 years old or older

Conclusion 

A student checking account can be a game-changer for your finances.

Since some banks’ fees add up to more than $350 per year, take the time to shop around. When looking for the right student checking account, look for a bank that charges no monthly maintenance fees—that means zero overdraft fee, late fee, or in-network ATM fee. 

Plus, look for a free student checking account that doesn’t have a minimum balance requirement.

For more help with college finances, check out Mos.com.

The Mos app offers a no-fee debit card and gives you tips on what financial aid to apply for and how to apply correctly. This helps guarantee you get every dollar for college.

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