Banking •

December 29, 2021

The Best Student Debit Cards: What to Look for and Which is Right for You

The best student debit cards have no fees and provide a large network of ATMs at no charge—learn about what debit cards can give you that.

The best student debit cards have no fees and a large network of ATMs.

A student debit card is a must-have for making the most out of your money while you’re in college.

A student debit card makes it easier and safer to make payments in-person and online. It also helps you better manage your hard-earned dollars. And it can prevent you from getting into debt since you usually can’t spend more than you have.

But before you pick any student debit card, you need to know what to look for. 

It’s key to avoid common banking traps.

For example, some debit cards charge you ATM fees to access your cash.

Let’s review what a student debit card is, some tips to help you choose the right student debit card, and a list of the best student debit cards.

What is a student debit card? 

A student debit card is a specific type of debit card only available to students that allows you to use your money from a student checking account. 

What is Student Debit Card?

A student checking account is a type of bank account only available to students that holds your money until you need to use it. Typically, you get a student debit card when opening a student bank account.

How is a student debit card different from a regular debit account?

A student debit card is only available to students. To get a student card, you’ll need to provide evidence that you’re enrolled in an eligible school and to be a certain age.

Age and school requirements

Some student debit cards are only available to high school students 13–17 years old. 

Other student debit cards are available to students who have completed high school or are at least age 18. 

Besides meeting a certain age requirement, you must also be attending school.

No fees

Student debit cards typically charge fewer fees or no fees at all for a number of years. 

Student debit cards available to those ages 13–17 usually charge no fees until you turn 18.

Typically, student debit cards available to those age 18 and over charge no fees until:

  • You turn 24 or

  • Up to 4–6 years have passed since the card’s opening date

What are some common features of a student debit card?

Common features of student debit cards include:

  • Connects to a checking account: Your student debit card is connected to a checking account. You can make deposits to the checking account. The money that you spend on your debit card comes from your checking account.

  • Can be used in-person and online: Your card has a unique account number that allows you to make payments in-person and online. Making payments with your card has no fee (unless you need to replace a lost card).

  • Comes with ATM access: A student debit card is safer and more convenient than cash. But sometimes, you’ll need to make payments in cash only. You can use your student debit card to take out cash from an automated teller machine (ATM). There’s no charge when you take out money from an ATM within your bank’s network, but there may be one when using an ATM outside that network.

  • Enables direct payments: Since your student debit card is connected to a bank account, your bank account has a unique account number. You can use that number and your bank’s routing number to make direct payments or receive a direct deposit. 

  • Offers online and mobile banking: Some student debit cards have an online portal where you can check your balance and make transactions. Some may also have a smartphone app you can use to make transactions and deposit checks.

Common Features of Student Debit Cards

Does a student debit card pay me interest?

No, a student debit card doesn’t pay you interest. However, your checking account may pay you interest.

Some checking accounts pay interest, but some don't. A savings account is another kind of bank account that pays you interest on your account balance.

Some student debit cards may offer you cash back on the money that you spend.

Can I keep my high school debit card while I attend college? 

Most of the time, no. 

Typically, high school debit cards expire once the student graduates from high school or becomes age 18.

The good news is that once you head for college, you’ll have plenty of student debit cards for college students to choose from.

Why do I need a student debit card? 

The main reason to get a student debit card is that it’s safer and more convenient than cash. 

With cash, you’re limited to making in-person payments. You can use a student debit card to make payments online, in person, and in places that don’t accept cash.

About 17% of US small businesses only accept cashless payments. That percentage is even higher in some states—about 45% in California!

Another reason to get a student debit card is that you’ll be able to receive payments faster. 

Student Debit Cards Make Payments Easier

Waiting for a physical check from your financial aid office or employer can take a long time. That check may get lost in the mail, and even if it does get to you, you’ll have to take the time to cash it. 

With a student debit card, you can set up automatic deposits to your card’s bank account. 

Also, a student debit card with a smartphone app allows you to snap a pic of any check and deposit it into your bank account.

What do I look for in a student debit card? 

Here’s your checklist of what you should look for in a student debit card:

  • Low or no monthly account maintenance fee

  • No transaction limit

  • No overdraft fees

  • Access to a large network of ATMs

  • Refund of ATM fee when using an out-of-network ATM

  • Free online and mobile banking

What to Look For in a Student Debit Card

Let’s dive into each one of them.

1. Low or no monthly account maintenance fee

Most student debit cards have no fees (unless you have to order a replacement for a lost card).

But the checking account connected to your student debit card may have a monthly maintenance fee. Some banks charge up to $15 in fees unless you maintain a minimum account balance. 

Look for a free student checking account with a very low balance requirement—or none at all.

2. No transaction limit

In exchange for lower or no fees, some banks may put a cap on the number of transactions for your student debit card. If you go over that cap, the bank may start charging you fees or convert your student bank account to a regular bank account. 

The whole point of having a student debit card is to use it, so look for a card without a transaction limit.

3. No overdraft capability

A pro with a student debit card is that you can’t spend more than you have. 

An overdraft fee gets around that by letting you spend more than what’s in your account and then charging you a fee for doing so.

Having a college student budget and sticking to it is a great financial habit, so look for a student debit card with no overdraft capability—that way, you won’t have to worry about paying an overdraft fee.

4. Access to a large network of ATMs

When you need cash, you need it right away. 

Look for a student debit card with access to plenty of ATMs in convenient locations in and outside your school. 

Some banks include school campuses in their network of branches.

5. Refund of ATM fee when using an out-of-network ATM

A student debit card can make up for its lack of a large ATM network by refunding your fees from using an out-of-network ATM. 

This refund feature is a nice-to-have when shopping for student debit cards.

6. Free online and mobile banking access

Free online banking and free mobile banking are must-haves. A student debit card with online banking allows you to save time and develop better money management skills. 

With online and mobile banking, you can make transactions, track your account balance, and deposit checks.

Avoid These 3 Student Debit Card Fees

Best student debit cards 

Now that you know what a student debit card is and what to look for in a student debit card, let’s look at the best 7 student debit cards.

1. Mos student debit card

The Mos student debit card helps you save money on traditional banking fees (think no overdraft fees and no late fees). It also allows you to take out money free at over 50,000 ATMs across the country.

The digital app of the Mos student debit card gives you access to a pool of $160 billion in scholarships. Fill out your profile and the app we’ll let you know what scholarships you could qualify for!

Also, receive advice from real human experts on how to save while attending college.

Features making it one of the best student debit cards:

  • Cashback rewards

  • Access to a network of no fee 50,000 ATMs nationwide

  • No fees: zero overdraft fees, minimum balance fees, and late fees

  • Full-featured mobile app and online banking portal

Things to watch out for:

  • Physical debit card takes 7-10 business days to arrive to you via mail–you can still add your card to Apple and Google Play to start using it right away

2. Chase Bank College debit card

College students between the ages of 17-24 can get a Chase College Checking account that includes a student card. You’ll need to provide evidence that you’re a college student.

You can open an account online if you’re at least 18. If you’re 17, you’ll need to visit a physical branch of Chase Bank.

Features making it one of the best student debit cards:

  • No cap on the number of transactions

  • Network of 16,000 ATMs across the country

  • No monthly account maintenance fee for up to 5 years while in college

  • No minimum deposit to set up an account

  • Free online and mobile banking

Things to watch out for:

  • If you’re 17, you can only open an account at a Chase Bank branch

  • Starting at age 25, keep a $5,000 minimum account balance to keep away from a $6 monthly fee

3. Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance debit card

The Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance debit card includes free online and mobile banking. Students under 24 don’t have to pay the $4.95 monthly service fee.

This card is a great option for younger students because eligibility starts at age 16.

Also, the Bank of America has a large ATM network. 

Features making it one of the best student debit cards:

  • Earlier eligibility: age 16

  • No cap on the number of transactions

  • No monthly account maintenance fee for up to 5 years while in college

  • No minimum deposit to set up an account

  • Free mobile app allows mobile check deposits

Things to watch out for:

  • $25 minimum deposit for account opening

4. PNC Virtual Wallet student debit card

The PNC Virtual Wallet debit card is one of the best student debit cards because it charges no fees for 6 years from when you open the account. 

Besides a checking account, you’ll also get a savings account that pays you a 0.40% annual percentage yield (APY) on money that you set aside there. For every $100 you put into the savings account, you’ll earn $0.40 per year.

Features making it one of the best student debit cards:

  • No fees for 6 years from account opening date

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

  • Savings account with 0.40% APY

Things to watch out for:

  • $25 minimum deposit for account opening

5. U.S. Bank student debit card

The U.S. Bank has a campus banking network in 16 states. If your school is in this network, then the U.S. Bank student debit card is a great option for managing your money.

Benefits of the banking campus network include on-site ATMs, campus card program, and additional on-campus services!

Features making it one of the best student debit cards:

  • Campus banking network in 16 states

  • No monthly maintenance fee for students under 24

  • No minimum deposit to open an account

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

Things to watch out for:

  • Must enroll in paperless statements to avoid a $2 paper statement fee

6. TD Bank Convenience debit card

The TD Bank Convenience debit card charges no fees for eligible students who are ages 17–23. Also, you won’t need a minimum deposit to open an account. 

You don’t need to maintain a minimum balance on your student account to waive fees. 

Features making it one of the best student debit cards:

  • No minimum deposit to set up a student account

  • No fees for students 17–23

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

Things to watch out for:

  • Students who are 17 years old have to visit a physical branch to set up an account

7. Capital One 360 debit card

The Capital One 360 debit card isn’t a student debit card. But its great features make it part of this list.

Some of this debit card’s benefits include free online and mobile banking, no fees, and a network of 70,000 fee-free ATMs.

Features making it one of the best student debit cards:

  • No minimum deposit to set up an account

  • No fees 

  • Full-featured mobile app and online banking portal

Things to watch out for:

  • Only available to people age 18 and older

8. CashApp debit card

Square is a fintech (short for financial technology) company behind the CashApp mobile app. Think of Square as an online bank. Through the app, you get a free checking account and a debit card. 

The CashApp mobile app doesn’t pay you interest, but it does give you cash rewards (called ‘cash boosts’) on certain debit card purchases. Also, the app allows you to send and receive instant transfers with other app users. 

Features making it one of the best student debit cards:

  • Cash rewards at select national and local retailers

  • No monthly fee 

  • Mobile app with several features

Things to watch out for:

  • Slow customer service response times

Conclusion 

A student debit card is safer and more convenient than cash.

Take the time to compare student debit cards before choosing one. Some banks charge $350 or more per year. The reality is that the best student debit cards charge no fees—that means zero in-network ATM fees, overdraft fees, or online banking fees!

Make sure to include in your search the Mos app. It offers a no-fee debit card and gives you other college savings tips to guarantee you save every dollar possible.

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