We’ve complied a list of the best student checking accounts in 2017. Options include online and traditional banks that pay bonuses, high interest rates, or both.
As we head into a new 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.
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.
Banking Deal: Earn 1.30% APY on an FDIC-insured savings account at Synchrony 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 for accounts specifically for adults, check out our best online checking accounts reviews.
Best Student Checking Accounts
Chase College Checking–Chase Bank is a large nationwide financial institution with many branches throughout the United States. Chase Total Checking is the basic checking product offered, and the student version of their checking account adds to these features and reduces the fees. Chase College Checking comes with a free debit card, online bill payment, mobile banking, and account alerts. You need only $25 to open a checking account at Chase. The monthly service fee is $6, but it will be waived for the first five years the account is opened. After that, it can be waived when you have a monthly direct deposit set up, OR maintain at least a $5,000 average daily balance.
For a limited time, Chase is offering students a $50 bonus to sign up for a Chase College Checking account. After your initial deposit is made, make 10 qualifying transactions in the first 60 days and the bonus is yours.
Chase also offers a version of this account for high school students, too. For high school students, there is no monthly fee when the account is linked to a parent’s account. It’s easy to convert the account from high school checking to college checking once the student is enrolled in an institute of higher learning.
Ally Interest Checking–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.
Wells Fargo Teen Checking–If you’re a high school student, the Wells Fargo Teen Checking account might be for you. Created specifically for High School students between the ages of 13 and 17, this account gives parents oversight into a teen’s bank account. Students will get their own debit card and parents can set the limits on purchases and withdrawals. There is no monthly service fee so long as you agree to paperless statements and the initial deposit required is just $25.
Parents will receive daily alerts via text message, email or online every time there’s activity on their child’s debit card. You’ll also have the option to use Overdraft protection by linking a Wells Fargo savings account just in-case. All Wells Fargo Teen Checking accounts include their standard security features like zero liability protection and 24/7 fraud monitoring.
Santander Student Value Checking–The Santander Student Value Checking account is the most straightforward offer of any student checking account. It’s available to any student ages 16-25. There is no monthly fees associated with this account and the minimum deposit to open is a cool Hamilton ($10). While this account does not earn interest, there is also no minimum balance required to keep the account open.
If you own a Santander Student Value Checking account, you can choose to open either a savings or money market account with Santander, and that account too will not carry a monthly service charge. ATM withdrawals from non Santander ATM’s will cost you $2 (plus whatever the other bank charges) which can get expensive if you plan to make a lot of ATM transactions.
Key Student Checking–KeyBank offers a very terrific student checking option centralized around no fees. The minimum deposit to open the account is $50 and there is no minimum balance to maintain. The Key Student Checking account is available to any student age 16 or older who has a valid social security number. The nicest benefit comes if the form of ATM refunds. When other banks charge you a fee for withdrawals, KeyBank will reimburse you up to $6 of those fees per month.
There is a $5 monthly fee associated with the Key Student Checking account. That fee can be waived in one of two ways:
- Have deposits of at least $200 per month
- Make at least five account transactions per month
Bank of America Core Checking–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 banking completely with ATMs, online, and mobile. 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 to 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.
Updated November 6, 2017 and originally published June 6, 2011.