Best Student Checking Accounts in 2021

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Last updated on August 15, 2022 Comments: 21

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 2.00% 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

Radius Rewards Checking

Radius Bank

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.

Ally Interest Checking

ally.com_210x100

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.

Chime Spending Account

Chime logo 210x100

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 60,000 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 2.00% APY.

Chime Disclosure - Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services and debit card provided by The Bancorp Bank, N.A. or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC.
1Save When I Get Paid automatically transfers 10% of your direct deposits of $500 or more from your Checking Account into your savings account.
^Round Ups automatically round up debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and transfer the round up from your Chime Checking Account to your savings account.

 

Chime APY Disclosure - The Annual Percentage Yield (“APY”) for the Chime Savings Account is variable and may change at any time. The disclosed APY is effective as of October 25, 2022. No minimum balance required. Must have $0.01 in savings to earn interest.

 

Chime ATM Disclosure - Get fee-free transactions at any Moneypass ATM in a 7-Eleven location and at any Allpoint or Visa Plus Alliance ATM. Otherwise, out-of-network ATM withdrawal fees may apply.

 

Stash Banking

stashinvest_210x100

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).

Bank of America Core Checking

BOA logo 210x100

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.

Article comments

21 comments
Tom says:

Hey!, I’m just putting some feelers out there to see if there’s anyone interested in making a pretty substantial amount of cash in a short amount of time. Only thing this requires is that you have an active bank account or credit card in the US. No cash is required up front to start. Which means your account can be on a zero balance and that’s completely fine. +1(314) 856 1730, lets talk about the next deal

Anonymous says:

i live in Los Angeles. Midcity/Midtown area. I want to open up my first bank account since my financial aid money is coming soon and would like to keep it in a savings account since i do not plan on spending much of it. After reading all these comments I’m thinking I’ll go to a credit union or local bank. just not a big bank. does anyone have any suggestions on where i should go? Or any feedback in general

Anonymous says:

The Berkshire Bank offers a new free college checking account called Ultimate College Checking. Unlimited transactions, no monthly maintenance fee and no Berkshire Fee to use a non-Berkshire ATM – Pretty great.

This community bank has locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, New Jersey and the Hudson Valley.

Anonymous says:

The Berkshire Bank now offers a free college checking account, unlimited transactions and no fee on their end to use a non-berkshire ATM.

Great Account!

Anonymous says:

I should mention – its called Ultimate College Checking

Anonymous says:

Effective November 14th, all student checking accounts (aka “College Combo”) will be charged a $10 fee unless you keep a direct deposit of $500 or more in your checking account, OR $1500 minimum daily balance, OR a monthly automatic loan payment from this account to a WF home equity/personal loan or line of credit, or WF Home Mortgage loan. If you have a complete account with savings, then the fee is discounted by $2 monthly service fee.

Yeah WF sucks. 🙂

Anonymous says:

Happened to me this morning. I’m changing banks now.

Anonymous says:

Am i missing why i’d want a “student” checking account when i can get free checking that is not directed toward students?

One thing to look at with national banks if you are setting up an account before you head off to school; make sure there are convenient locations to school and your new home. Should go without saying. I however did not realize this until i got out to school to find no Bank of America locations within 50 miles.

Luke Landes says:

Accounts branded as “student checking accounts” generally have fewer limitations that standard “free” accounts. Many free, non-student accounts have minimum balance requirements or other restrictive features that are often missing from accounts directed towards students. While that’s the general trend, it’s not always the rule, so it’s worthwhile to examine the details.

Anonymous says:

M&T Bank also offers a solid student account called @College Checking:
-Monthly Fee: $0.00
-Minimum Balance: $0.00
-Features: debit card, bill payment, mobile banking, alerts, free checks, free access to non-bank ATMs (4 times per month), free incoming wire transfers

Anonymous says:

I agree with Tyler – going to an online bank is the way to go. I think most young people don’t really have _that_ many uses for needing to go into a bank as it is.

I use Schwab which has free ATMs (worldwide), free checks, and now has check deposit through smartphones (what used to be the biggest downside to schwab was having to mail in checks for deposits)

They try to hook you onto schwab by making you open a brokerage account with the bank account, but you dont actually have to use the brokerage part…

Anonymous says:

I am opening a Schwab account for my son. They refund other bank’s ATM fees and the check deposit via iPhone/Android is great. No longer will he have to hold onto checks that he gets at school until he can get home to deposit them.

Anonymous says:

I’m a college student who decided to get away from big branch banks. I have my checking and savings accounts through Ally. Their customer service is great, and you can use any ATM nationwide and they reimburse the fees the ATM charges. They also pay the highest interest rates in the industry on checking and savings accounts.

Going to a totally online bank is a big jump for some people to make, but there are great benefits in doing so.

Anonymous says:

US Bank does provide free non-bank ATMs, but only 4 transactions per month.

Anonymous says:

Although not a “student” account, Capital One offers a Rewards checking account with no miminum balance requirement, no monthly fees, and it includes free online bill pay and a free mastercard platinum debit card, initial deposit of just $50. They also offer a Simple Savings account with no monthly fee, no minimum balance requirement, initial deposit of just $25 and .7% on any balance of $2500 or more.

Anonymous says:

Forgot the big banks and find a credit union. You should never pay money for basic banking.

Anonymous says:

i agree. i can understand if your are utilizing many different services at a bank, but, as you say, for basic banking, there should be limited, if any, fees.

Anonymous says:

My Credit Union offers great accounts Checkings and savings for Students. I been with them since College as well.
http://www.mynefcu.org

Anonymous says:

Dude, how many people get registered following you links?

Luke Landes says:

I don’t know. There are no affiliate links in the article. I don’t track them and Consumerism Commentary isn’t paid for them. I included links to the bank’s pages because during this time of year many people are looking for this type of information.

Anonymous says:

Looking at the fee schedule, only TD student and US Bank give a break for students. Apparently, they realize if you get them early, they will stay with the bank. The large banks do not care about small customers as the fee schedule may indicate.