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Headed to college? It’s time to open a student bank account.
“Having a bank account is one of the most important first financial literacy steps a person takes,” said Matt Rosenberg, a CPA and member of the American Institute of CPAs’ Financial Literacy Commission.
Whether your scholar is moving away for school or if she’s working a part-time job, she’ll need a safe place to deposit and access her cash.
“You’re not going to stuff it under your bed,” said Jason Reposa, CEO and co-founder of MyBankTracker.com, a website that provides data on banks and credit unions.
Institutions want to establish ties with college students. They know that when a person graduates from college, their income is likely to see a bump, said Rosenberg.
Tread carefully. Many colleges have marketing agreements with banks, and the terms aren’t always favorable for students.
Some of these college-sponsored accounts carry hefty overdraft and penalty fees, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Choosing the right student bank account
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Here are some factors to consider when selecting a student bank account:
• Location. Choose a bank with convenient locations — both at home and at school.
“You want a bank where you can get money at school and at your parents’,” said Reposa.
A lot of schools are also creating relationships with banks directly, which might allow people to pay for things on their campus with a student ID, Rosenberg said.
• Convenience. Accessibility to your cash should be key when searching for the right account.
Check to see if the bank offers a mobile app, which will allow you to deposit checks quickly as well as monitor your balance.
Community banks might not have a mobile app, which means you’ll need to go to a branch.
“If someone hands you a check, are you going to be able to deposit that?” Reposa said. “You need access when you need access and you don’t want to have to jump through a bunch of hoops.”
• Fees. Be on the lookout for ATM fees, overdraft charges and other penalties. Most student accounts won’t charge monthly fees — but it’s something to check, since high fees can really dig into your wallet.
If you’re planning to study abroad, Reposa recommends picking a bank with small or no fees in other countries.
The top student bank accounts
MyBankTracker.com looked at the cost benefits, including monthly fees and ATM refunds, and compiled a list of what it believes are the best student checking accounts from U.S. banks:
U.S. Bank Student Checking. This U.S. Bank account has no monthly fees and no out-of-network ATM fees on the first four non-U.S. Bank ATM transactions. It also has features that can help you conveniently manage your account, such as mobile check deposit.
Chase College Checking. Chase is large enough that customers can often find a location in most parts of the country. This account also does not have monthly checking fees. Chase’s app allows users to deposit checks from anywhere.
Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking. This account doesn’t charge monthly fees or have a deposit minimum, and it’s a good option for students planning to study abroad. The account will provide you with unlimited ATM fee refunds in the U.S. and abroad. When you open this account, you will also be opening a Schwab brokerage account, and will receive separate account numbers for each.
Radius Hybrid Checking. The online bank’s account doesn’t have monthly fees and refunds all ATM fees. Its mobile app also allows users to lock and unlock debits instantly, as well as set up alert transactions.
Axos Bank Rewards Checking. Another online bank, Axos’ account doesn’t have monthly fees and reimburses ATM fees. It also offers a high interest rate, which motivates college students to start saving.