College students only need two things when it comes to a bank account. They don’t want to pay any fees. And they want easy access to their money. Fortunately, there are a number of student checking account options that satisfy these requirements.
As you evaluate your student bank account options, keep in mind the following five things:
1. Availability: Not all banks are available nationwide. The bank your parents use in your hometown may not be available across the country where you are going to school.
2. Fees: No monthly maintenance or ATM fees is a must. You’ll pay fees if, for example, you bounce a check. But you shouldn’t pay any fees just for having an account or accessing your money.
3. Student Accounts: Some banks market checking accounts specifically to students. That doesn’t mean, however, that they are your best options. Some of the “student” bank accounts listed below are not specific to the college crowd.
4. Prepaid: Remember the goal–no fees and easy access to your money. These goals don’t always require a bank account, at least not a traditional one. A very good prepaid card made our list below.
5. College Banks: The banks with direct relationships with your college may be a great option. Then again, maybe not. Don’t assume the bank on campus is your best choice.
List of the Top Banking Options for College Students
Online Banks: The first on our list is a category rather than a specific bank. Online banks generally offer no fee accounts with the best interest rates. Unless you need a branch, banks such as Ally and Capital One 360 are good options. Both of our children who are in college use the Capital One 360 Money account. It has worked out well.
PNC Virtual Student: The PNC Virtual Wallet Student has several features ideal for college students. The monthly fee is waived with proof of active student status for six years. PNC has online tools to help you track spending, and parents can receive account alerts. Keep in mind, however, that PNC is only a reasonable option if it has bank branches near the student’s college.
US Bank: Their student account has no monthly fee, a Visa V +0.25% debit card, and mobile banking. US Bank also reimburses you for up to 4 non-US Bank ATM withdrawals a month. For those that actually write checks, the first order of checks is free.
SunTrust: There are no monthly fees for five years and free mobile banking. As with most of the banks on this list, however, it’s a reasonable choice only if SunTrust is located near the student’s school.
Bank of America: BofA waives the monthly fee for students under the age of 23. Called Bank of America Core Checking, it also has free ATM withdrawals at any BofA branch. It comes with the online and mobile banking most banks offer today.
Chase Student Checking: Chase offers accounts designed for both high school and college students. The college account is for those 17 to 24. There are no monthly fees for up to 5 years. Account holders receive a debt card and have mobile banking.
American Express: You wouldn’t normally expect a prepaid card to make the list of the top student bank accounts. The American Express Serve prepaid card, however, is worth considering. Its cheapest version costs just $1 a month (which is waived with a direct deposit of $500 or more). It offers free ATM withdrawals at over 24,000 locations. Paychecks can be added to the card via direct deposit. It also comes with many of the benefits offered to American Express credit card holders.
(Contributing Source: forbes.com)