5 Best Bank Accounts for College Students 2022
Don’t fall into the trap of dysfunctional financial institutions that entice students with bonus packages but end up hitting them with outrageous monthly fees months after. Picking the best bank account for university students is tasking for young adults, but we’ve done the hard work for you.
Becoming an adult isn’t a day’s job, and freshmen who seek to acquire financial management skills in the modern era must firstly get a bank account.
No more asking Dad or mom for permission before getting a few stacks for your project. Your money lies within your reach. The onus is on you to decipher what requires funding and what doesn’t. Welcome to the adult world.
How to choose a student checking account?
Banks sponsor many events and parties to get your attention in your freshman year. They will also offer enticing perks so they can win the “pick me” race.
Like a damsel bombarded by flowers from various suitors, you must understand that flowers won’t rush in forever, but your decision will affect you for a long while.
An average student sticks to one bank throughout their lifetime and makes that decision in college.
If you don’t want to go through the pain and stress of switching banks, consider the following factors when choosing your first bank:
You may be wondering – what is an overdraft. An overdraft is a loan incurred by withdrawing more funds than your student bank account holds. The best student accounts often offer college undergraduates a sure overdraft facility to cater to when they are broke.
One good thing with overdrafts is that the bank may choose to collect little to zero percent interest on them throughout your university years.
Also, the overdraft is not free money as you must pay the bank back. Go for banks with the biggest interest-free overdraft throughout your years of study.
Overdraft rules can be tricky, so you should read between the lines. For instance, an offer with “up to $3000” does not mean you will get the exact amount. Also, the overdraft might be split into different semesters, meaning you can’t get it all at once.
Some banks let you go beyond your overdraft limit, but that bonus comes with additional interest. It’s best to stay within the outlined limits and know the attached strings if you intend to exceed the expected amount.
The proximity of the bank’s branch to your college
Students’ transactions on campus can be done using your bank app. However, if the need for a physical bank visitation arises, it can be very stressful to travel interstate to get things done.
Things that can require you to show up in the bank include submission of documentation and cheque clearance.
Budgeting mobile app
Whether or not your bank is close to your school, you should never opt for a bank with no online presence.
Why? The reason is obvious. The campus life can be very hectic, and if you visit your bank location every time you need to make a transaction, the school experience will become overwhelming.
Also, the mobile bank app has to be user-friendly and compatible with your phone’s operating system. Verify that the mobile app is available on the Google play store and Apple Appstore.
Know the limits of the transactions attainable on the bank app. Some banks will lock your account when you try to send more than a certain amount directly from the app. You must visit the bank branch to verify your identity to unlock your account. It’s a safety measure.
A bank account you cannot access is useless to you. Several factors can halt your access to your account. Such factors include server failure, crashed websites, website maintenance breaks, etc.
You should consult your seniors and read the bank’s online reviews to know their pros and cons from users’ perspectives.
The truth is that a bank is a business, and the bank app might have a few hiccups annually. Hence, they need to have a friendly and functioning customer care unit.
The worst thing that can happen to a bank user is having mobile banking issues during an emergency. Such a problem is exacerbated if the bank has a poorly functioning support service.
To cut costs, some banks outsource their customer care tasks to external bodies that know very little about their core financial operations.
Outsourcing customer care services creates a wall between the users and the bank, wastes users’ time, and allows hackers to prey on people’s accounts.
What bank is best for college students
Since a student isn’t expected to be a worker except if they choose to work and study, the best bank for a student will be one that recognizes the student’s needs and caters to them. Let’s get one thing straight before proceeding. Your bank is meant to make your life easier, not the other way round.
Chase College Checking
Get yourself some new sneakers or college drip essentials with a $100 bonus from Chase.
The American bank, headquartered in New York City, has a special account for college students. Anyone who meets their clear requirements (which will be discussed as we proceed) will have access to free 100 dollars and additional benefits.
If you are interested in gaining a 100 dollars bonus, you must make at least 10 transactions in the first two months of opening the account.
Although Chase bank is headquartered in NYC, it has over 4,700 branches across America. You can always access a Chase branch near your school or home if needed.
The Chase Bank student account gives users unlimited access to over 16,000 ATMs and a user-friendly app to easily access their deposits.
With the Chase Mobile app, you can conveniently deposit cheques from the comfort of your dorm room by simply snapping the cheques. To top it all, Chase allows users to transfer money to and fro their accounts using the Zelle platform.
To create a student bank account, you must first be admitted to a nationally recognized institution of learning and must be between the ages of 17-24.
Students between 18-24 years can open a Chase student bank account from anywhere using their online platform, but 17-year-old students must visit the closest Chase branch to open a student bank account.
Chase will not charge you monthly maintenance fees for up to five years of your stay on campus. Little wonder it tops our list of the best student bank accounts.
However, for students offering courses requiring more than five years, let’s say medicine, you can offload the monthly fee by opting for a monthly direct deposit or keep up with a constant day-to-day balance of 5000 dollars.
- No deposit? No problem! Chase allows you to open a student account with no deposit, aka zero balance.
- Open a Chase saving account without the ear of subtraction of the dreaded monthly maintenance fee.
- Everywhere you go in America, there’s a Chase branch near you. They have over 4,700 branches scattered across the States.
- Has your 5-year-grace elapsed, and do you still have a few scores to settle before leaving campus? You can easily waive monthly charges using the tactics discussed earlier.
- Offer a 100 dollars bonus for new account holders.
- No annual percentage yield (APY).
- As of the time of writing, Chase has no branches in Hawaii or Alaska.
- Once the five-year-grace elapses, students will be charged a $6 monthly maintenance fee.
- Charges $3 for international transactions and non-Chase Bank ATM transactions.
- Collects $34 overdraft and insufficient funds fees.
- Charges ATM fee regardless of failed transactions caused by bad network and doesn’t reimburse the charged fee to users.
Bank of America: Best Bank Account for Working Students
Bank of America is undoubtedly the biggest bank holding company in the States. However, is BofA the best bank for students?
Unlike the Chase checking account, the Bank of America checking account is available for college, high school, and vocational school students.
While other banks are racing to make things easy for students, Bank of America Is hell-bent on getting $100 before opening student bank accounts.
While the need for a minimum opening deposit takes away from the student-friendliness of the BofA account, students can earn an annual percentage yield of 0.25% on their checking and savings accounts, unlike the Chase college checking account, which offers 0% APY.
Several benefits come with having a BofA account, but some of these benefits might mean little to average students.
For instance, Preferred Rewards Customers or account holders with at least a $20,000 balance are excused from paying excess withdrawal fees. Most student bank accounts might not have up to that amount, depriving them of the benefit.
Students under 25 are not required to pay a monthly service fee.
Plus, Bank of America has more than 4200 branches and 16,000 physical ATMs across the globe.
One important Bank of America advantage is that your debit card purchases are rounded up to the nearest dollar value, and the remainder is credited into your account.
You can save automatically using any student debit card registered under the BoA’s ‘keep the change’ program.
- No monthly fees for current students below 25.
- Every BoA advantage safe balance banking account comes with a free debit card.
- Their mobile app is on par with global standards.
- Offers overdraft protection.
- Doesn’t offer paper deposit checks for student checking accounts.
- The APY is quite low.
- A minimum deposit of $100 is mandated for every student with a checking account.
- Does not pay interest.
- Account holders of America Advantage SafeBalance accounts cannot write paper checks.
Chime Bank: Lowest overdraft fees
Unlike our previous recommendations, Chime Bank is a financial technology company sponsored by The Bancorp Bank, also known as Stride Bank.
One good thing with Chime Bank is that they prioritize online and mobile banking, meaning you can rest assured that their bank’s mobile app will be up-to-date and strive to be as user-friendly as possible. With chime Bank, you will get customer support every day of the week.
The major downside of banking with Chime Bank is that they have no physical branches. But the absence of branches does not stop you from cashing paychecks up to 48 hours early with direct deposit.
Considering the benefits of Ally Bank (the next bank on our list) and Bank of America, you will realize that Chime Bank is the middle child of both brands.
You can access a fully-functional checking account without a minimum opening balance or monthly service fees. Plus, Chime Bank pays a high rate on your balance.
It is only accessible to students above the age of 18 years.
Like a Bank of America checking account, the chime checking account helps you save while rounding up your transactions to the nearest dollar value. The remaining amount is remitted to your linked savings account.
Regarding the number of surcharge-free ATMs, Chime Bank beats other banks by a mile. The bank has over 60,000 ATMs.
With the optional Chime SpotMe feature, you can get a $200 overdraft on debit card transactions if your account gets a $200 deposit every month.
Clients who use out-of-network ATM service with the chime debit card will automatically pay $2.50 unless the ATM used is owned by MoneyPass, Allpoint, Visa Plus Alliance, or 7-Eleven.
- Chime Bank Is compatible with Apple Pay and Google Pay.
- Has the best mobile app on our list.
- Offers fee-free banking services.
- Customer service is available 24/7, every day of the week.
- Offers no-fee $200 overdrafts.
- No minimum balance requirements, unlike Bank of America.
- Charges no monthly fees.
- Good for saving money while making transactions.
- Users can choose to save parts of their mobile check deposits instantly.
- No interests.
- Chime Bank makes it compulsory for users to create a Chime spending account before accessing their checking and savings accounts.
- Payments made via Green Dot locations incur a charge fee.
Ally Bank: Best bank for College Students
Young students are barely ready for the heavy-fee banking lifestyle. They need a bank like Ally Bank that prioritizes transaction speed and reduces banking fees to the barest minimum.
Ally Bank helps users save for desired goals, be it to cop a new laptop or sneaker. The bucket feature allows you to create multiple savings accounts for different goals while maintaining the same virtual wallet student account. These channels can be customized after the goal.
Like Chime Bank, Ally Bank is an online bank with no physical branches. An additional benefit of using non-traditional Ebanks is that their fees (if any) are lower than that of conventional banks. The need for physical structures/branches automatically comes with more banking fees.
Students who are above the age of 18 years can easily open an account with Ally Bank. You don’t have to stress to the bank since they have no physical branches, and you can set up your account online.
Despite not having an access branch, you can cash checks and manage your bank account using the Ally Bank app.
The difference between the amount of ATM spots owned by Chime Bank and Ally Bank is huge, as the latter has 80,000 functioning ATMs.
With Ally Bank, you need not worry about bogus fees like monthly maintenance fees, fees for national or international incoming wires, overdraft fees, and automated clearing house (ACH) transfer fees.
Ally Bank remits no less than $10 per statement cycle if a client is charged at out-of-network ATMs.
Ally Bank has one of the highest APY rates. Deposit accounts with less than $15,000 get 0.10% APY, while those with more than $15,000 receive 0.25% APY on average daily balance.
- Offers 24/7 customer service.
- The Round Ups features help you save money as you save.
- Gives one of the highest APY rates with different tiers for various balances.
- No minimum deposit requirement.
- Has a user-friendly app accessible to iPhone and android account holders.
- No monthly maintenance and overdraft fee.
- Out-of-network ATM fee Remittance of up to $10 for every statement cycle.
- Efficient customer support service.
- Like other online banking companies, it has no branches to run if anything goes a wire with your account.
- Mobile apps are not the best on our list.
People ascribe safeness to conventional banks and raise an eyebrow when approached by online banks. More so, many conventional banks have been here for a long, garnering a great reputation over the years.
However, Alliant Bank has insured every present and future deposit account (not more than $250,000) through the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). If the credit union fails, you can rest assured that your money is in safe hands.
As a college student, too many activities and projects will demand your time and money, hence you have no time to waste visiting a physical bank branch or money to lose due to the lack of budgeting tools.
Alliant Bank offers excellent budgeting tools, and they don’t require you to submit documents at their physical branches (as they have none.
You can easily open an Alliant Bank student checking account online. You must be 18 years old to open a student checking account without a guardian’s permission.
Alliant credit union offers what conventional banks won’t offer – high-interest rates, online presence, comprehensive 24/7 customer service, and lower fees.
At the end of every month, Alliant Bank remits 20 dollars from the withdrawal fees charged by out-of-network or third-party ATM fees. Users can use the Alliant VISA debit card across their 80,000 surcharge-free and third-party ATMs.
Alliant Bank also offers a teen checking account for high schoolers between the ages of 13 to 17 years old. The member’s parents jointly manage the teen’s checking account. This account type has a daily limit of 100 bucks for ATM withdrawals and 300 bucks for debit card purchases.
- Offers 80,000 surcharge-free ATMs.
- Account holders can manage and check their accounts through the Alliant mobile app.
- Alliant Mobile app is compatible with iOS and Android OS.
- Receive exactly 0.25% APY on your account balance.
- Great for students without banking experience.
- Offers high interest and low fees.
- Low ATM fee.
- No less than $20 every month in no-network ATM fee rebates.
- Provides a box of cheques and a VISA debit card.
- Requires membership.
- There is not more than one physical branch in Chicago; hence, it’s not the best for people who prefer conventional banks. It is not a bank.
Bank or Credit union: which is the better option for students?
Conventional banking structures prioritize profit above the users’ well-being, but credit unions are nonprofit financial institutions created to financially help members of the account particular region.
Do not mistake an account credit union for an open checkbook that grants free money. With credit unions, you can expect high-interest rates, save-as-you-spend features, no monthly fees, no mandatory minimum balances, high APY, and outstanding support service.
There are two types of students; those who focus only on academics and those who work while studying. Online banking might not be the best option for working-class students, as they will need features that transcend the capacity of a regular student checking account.
If saving is your top priority and you don’t intend to work while studying, stick with credit unions.
Money management is tricky for a student still learning to deal with the fast-paced, stressful world. Credit unions offer interesting starting points that teach you how to keep and spend money without losing money due to hefty banking charges.
We hope our guide has been instrumental in helping you choose the best student checking accounts and guide you towards financial independence.