Best Student Checking Accounts in 2021
We’ve compiled a list of the best student checking accounts in 2021. Options include online and traditional banks that pay bonuses, high interest rates, or both.
As we head toward a new school year, thousands of young adults will be heading to college for the first time. It’s important to get started on the right financial foot. A free student checking account is a good tool, particularly when combined with a savings account. Obtaining a student checking account that’s convenient for both students and their parents should be one of the first steps after deciding which school to attend and before moving in. For those students living at home, finding a convenient student checking account may be even easier.
Steal of the day: Chime’s Savings Account now offers a 1.00% APY! With this FREE banking service you dont need to worry about minimum balance requirements or maximums on interest earned
The best student checking accounts often have desirable features, like no monthly fees, free checks, and low or no minimum balances. Completely free student checking accounts are a little difficult to come by, but many can be made free with a little effort. I often wish I could still qualify for free student accounts. After graduation or otherwise leaving the world of academics behind, you often find that you’ll need to pay fees or maintain a balance to maintain the same level of service from your bank.
Here are some of the features of common student checking accounts. There may be differences depending on where you live. Why focus on the big banks first? Consumerism Commentary readers check in from all over the country – well, all over the world, really – and at least one of these banks will be in everyone’s backyard. Big banks aren’t the only games in town, though, so continue reading for more options, some of which might be more attractive.
If you’re in need of accounts specifically for adults, check out our best online checking accounts review.
Best Student Checking Accounts
Best for ATM fees: Ally
Best for saving: Bank of America
Best for investing: Stash
Best for rewards: Radius Bank
Best for direct deposit: Chime
It’s not exactly an account geared towards teens only, but Radius’s Rewards Checking account is a great choice since there are no monthly maintenance fees and it earns 0.10% APY on balances $2,500 and above, or 0.15% APY on balances $100,000 and up. Granted, this isn’t exactly considered a high rate, but it’s better than none, or the low ones many major banks offer.
Besides, you don’t have to pay any ATM fees and receive unlimited ATM rebates. And if your teen uses their debit card on qualifying purchases, they’ll get 1% cash back. Radius has also partnered with Wallit, an app that helps your entire family budget, such as when you give your teen an allowance.
While not specific for students, Ally Interest Checking is a fantastic option for students to consider. The best feature is that Ally has NO monthly maintenance fees, no rules to follow; just the peace of mind that you’ll never be charged a monthly fee for this product. They’ll also refund up to $10 per month from other bank’s ATM fees. They’re on the Allpoint ATM network so any of those ATM’s can be used fee free. Checks can be deposited remotely using your smartphone and money can be transferred person to person (fee free) using Popmoney.
Remember, this is Ally Interest Checking. All balances less than a $15,000 minimum daily balance (MDB) will receive a 0.10% APY and all balances greater than a $15,000 MDB will receive a 0.60% APY. While the higher interest rate may be attractive, I have two reasons why it’s really not. First, it’s rare for a student to have more than $15,000 in a checking account and second, if they do, that money should be placed in a high yield savings account or CD. Current interest rates are more than double that of 0.60% … no sense in leaving the money in checking.
This account can also be for adults, but it’s a good step for teens wanting to get off on the right foot financially. There are no hidden fees and fee-free ATMs at over 38,000 locations (though there are no ATM reimbursements).
What’s more, you can show your teen that saving money doesn’t have to be difficult using Chime’s automatic savings feature. Every time your teen uses their debit card, Chime will round up the purchase and save the difference in a savings account. And if your teen opens a savings account, they’ll be able to earn 0.50% APY.Chime Disclosure - Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services and debit card provided by The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC.
1Chime cannot guarantee when files are sent by the IRS and funds can be made available.
^Early access to direct deposit funds depends on payer
What’s so great about Stash is that for a low monthly fee, you can also open a custodial brokerage account for your teen. As in, you can use this as an opportunity to teach them about the value of investing. You can have them choose from rounding up spare change from purchases and investing that amount, setting aside a specific amount, or letting the app provide suggestions.
As for the banking app, your teen can earn rewards in the form of fractional shares of stocks every time they use their debit card. There are no hidden fees and account holders have access to a large network of in-network ATMs (out-of-network ATMs incur a surcharge).
Despite another large network of bank locations, Bank of America wants to direct its student-customers towards “eBanking.” These accounts are designed to encourage staying out of bank branches and instead using with ATMs, online banking, and mobile banking. With the account, students will receive a free debit card, online and mobile banking, a savings account with “Keep the Change,” a feature that automatically rounds your spending up to the nearest dollar and places the remainder into a savings account for you.
The Bank of America Core Checking product is perfect for students. Any student under the age of 24 will get the monthly fee waived. If you’re older, then the $12 monthly fee can be waived in any of the following situations:
- You have at least one direct deposit each month of $250 or more
- You maintain a minimum daily balance of $1,500
- You enroll in the Preferred Rewards Program
Unfortunately, there is no refund on ATM fees. The minimum opening deposit on a Bank of America Core Checking account is just $25.
Try the Bank Down the Street
Your local community bank, regional bank, or credit union — these banks are some of the largest banks in the United States in terms of assets. It’s likely one or more of the four banks above will be convenient for both students and their parents or guardians. These aren’t the only choices, however. As long as each major national bank feels they only need to compete with the other three major national banks, there won’t be much incentive for the big companies to offer the best products. Smaller banks don’t have the resources to mount strong marketing campaigns that can compete for your attention. Credit unions hardly advertise at all.
It may take a phone call, but you might find that smaller banks offer better deals for students than what the large banks offer. As long as your checking account is protected by FDIC or NCUA insurance, you shouldn’t feel that smaller banks are riskier than larger banks.