Each fall, countless retailers run back-to-school specials that
promise big savings. But the best money-saving opportunity for
students may just be at their local bank.
The best checking accounts for students can yield substantial
savings over typical checking accounts. Based on the latest
Bank Fees Survey
, the average maintenance fee on checking accounts is nearly $145 a
year. Luckily, students can save themselves that $145 by choosing
one of the checking accounts on the list below -- all of which
charge students no monthly maintenance fee.
Making the cut
The MoneyRates Bank Fees Survey looked at a total of 541
checking accounts in 2012. Here's how that number was cut to reveal
nine great checking accounts for students:
- Of those 541 accounts, there were 23 banks offering free
checking to students.
- 14 of those 23 accounts offered free checking to students
with no onerous obligations. For example, one bank was eliminated
because it required students to sign up for overdraft protection,
and as you'll see in the section on banking tips, this generally
isn't a good idea. Several banks were eliminated because they
required higher minimums to open an account. The banks that made
the list require a starting minimum of $25 or less.
- From those 14, nine banks were chosen because they have
multi-state operations. College students often attend school
outside their home state, so banks that have a greater geographic
reach may prove useful to many.
Nine great checking accounts for students
Here are the checking accounts that made the cut (in
Citibank Student Account
First Bank of Colorado Student Package
M&T Bank College Checking
Sovereign Bank Student Checking
Susquehanna Bank Student Checking
TCF Bank Student Checking
TD Bank TD Student
US Bank Student Checking
Valley National Bank Student Reward Checking
While there may be other accounts that meet your needs as a
student, the above list offers an excellent place to start your
search for an account. If you check out other banks, focus on
accounts with little or no minimum balance requirements, no
, and no other strings attached, such as requiring direct deposit,
a minimum activity level, or enrollment in certain products or
Six banking tips for students (and their
Aside from insisting on free checking, here are six other
banking tips students and their parents should keep in mind:
Check out online checking accounts.
The accounts listed above were chosen because they are specific
to students, but the fact is that online banks often have free
checking for all their customers. Such accounts are worth
considering for students and non-students alike.
Consider the ATM network.
Banks often charge a fee if you use another bank's ATM, so
consider the scope of ATM locations when choosing a bank --
especially if you are going to college outside of your hometown.
Pick a bank with an ATM network that fits well with your regular
Don't sign up for overdraft protection.
Protection sounds nice, but at an average fee of nearly $30 per
transaction, it isn't worth the price. Plus, some banks layer on
a steep daily charge for as long as the account is overdrawn. You
need to learn not to overdraft your account anyway, and
saying no to overdraft protection
will help you do that.
Keep your own, up-to-date records.
One way to avoid overdrafts is to keep your own set of account
records that you regularly compare against the bank's records.
It's not enough to simply check your balance online or at an ATM.
Different transactions are recorded at different times, so you
need to know how much money you'll have left after all pending
transactions have been recorded.
Remember that a dorm room is not a secured
All account information needs to be kept well-hidden and
completely confidential. Other security tips include not banking
online in a public location, such as a library or student lounge,
and always remembering to log off when you leave an online
Review your account status with parents when visiting
Going transaction-by-transaction may be unnecessarily invasive,
but reviewing the balance and seeing if the account register is
up-to-date is a good way to ensure responsible handling of the
Along with the knowledge to be gained in the classroom, college
is a good time to learn responsible banking habits. You can start
by saving yourself $145 a year in bank fees by looking for a free
student checking account. After all, $145 can come in handy when
it's time to pay for books -- or at least for pizza.