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What Are the Best Student Checking Accounts?

Whether you’re in college and you’re looking to set up a student checking account, you’re going to want to understand the different options out there.

Oftentimes, a student checking account is one’s first experience with the banking world. Starting any partnership out on the right foot can pave the way to a promising future. We’ll be covering what our favorite student checking accounts are, and why you should consider banking with these banks. 

How Do Student Checking Accounts Work?

First and foremost, let’s discuss how student checking accounts work. Simply put, a student checking account functions like a traditional checking account, but caters to the student. Although some students certainly work full time throughout college, many college students either work part time, or focus 100% of their efforts on their education. 

Banks understand that, and due to that have a more lenient fee and requirement approach with student checking accounts. Variables such as minimum account balances, overdraft fees, and maintenance fees are generally less than what they would be on a regular checking account. 

What Makes a Good Student Checking Account?

When you’re looking for a good student checking account, it’s important to keep the following factors in mind. 

Convenience 

Find a bank that works for you. If you like in person banking, make sure the bank is easy to get to. If you prefer mobile or online banking, make sure the bank has a strong mobile platform that lets you deposit checks and transfer money directly from your phone. 

Low Fees 

Once you get to college, you may be entering the personal financial management world for the first time. You don’t want the cards stacked against you. Find a bank that’s not going to charge you a lot of money to set up an account with them, and be sure they do not charge you a lot of money each month as a maintenance fee. 

Customer Service 

Without question, customer service needs to be an important consideration. Make sure the bank you decide to partner with has customer service hours that fit your schedule. 

Best Student Checking Accounts

Now, onto our list of our favorite student checking accounts! Let’s see what plan works best for you. 

Discover Cashback Debit

Although the Discover Cashback Debit isn’t necessary for students only, it certainly is a great option for students! The cost effective account is easy to set up and provides tremendous benefits. 

Best For

If you’re comfortable with online banking, and tired of paying fees at your brick and mortar bank, the Discover Cashback Debit is an option worth considering. 

Benefits

The main benefits include:

  1. Account holders will receive 1% cash back on all purchases.
  2. There are no fees, including monthly fees, overdraft fees, and ATM fees.
  3. If you need checks or a replacement debit card, Discover will provide them to you free of charge. 

Downsides

There are some downsides that are certainly worth taking into consideration. 

  1. There are no brick and mortar branches. All of your banking will be done online, or on the app.
  2. Due to the fact that there are no physical branches, depositing or withdrawing cash will require an extra step. 

Pricing or Fees

Discover keeps more money in the account owners pocket! They do not charge a monthly fee, ATM fees or even an overdraft fee. 

Star Rating

The only variable from preventing the Discover CashBack account from receiving the full 5 star rating is the lack of physical branches. For that reason, we give Discover a 4 out of 5 star review. 

Capital One 360

If you’re looking for a nice blend of online banking and in person banking, Capital One 360 may be the right option for you. 

Best For

Capital One 360 caters to all audiences. Their forward thinking banking approach has been brought to life in recent years, yet, they still hold onto some of that traditional banking feel. 

Benefits

Why would someone like Capital One 360? Thats easy.

  1. There are no fees to open an account. No fees to keep the account, And there are no fees to use the account.
  2. There are over 70,000 ATMs you can use, for free! 
  3. They have a fantastic mobile banking experience, but still have retail locations you can visit if you’d like that in person experience. 
  4. Capital One 360 also offers a ‘get paid early’ option for those with direct deposit. 

Downsides

Without question, Capital One 360 has great benefits. But there are some drawbacks.

  1. Other banks offer a larger retail footprint. Capital one has less than 800 locations nationwide. 
  2. The interest rate on the checking account is lower than other options. 

Pricing or Fees

All in all, Capital One 360 is very affordable. There are no monthly maintenance fees, no withdrawal fee, and various ways to save money on overdraft fees. 

Star Rating

Capital One 360 is a fantastic banking option. This bank offers excellent benefits, and combines the new world (online banking) with the old world (retail banking) for a nice blend. We give Capital One 360 a 4.5 star rating. 

Chase College Checking

If you’re looking for more online locations, without losing a robust mobile banking experience, consider banking with Chase. 

Best For

Chase’s College Checking Account is designed for students 17 – 24 years old. Upon graduation, account holders can simply roll their account into another checking account option from Chase, which also provides tremendous benefits. 

Benefits

Narrowing this list down to our top benefits is tough to do. There are so many to choose from. Here’s what stands out at the top.

  1. Chase Bank has over 4,000 retail locations! If you want to bank in person, deposit or withdraw cash, you will have little to no problem finding a location near you. 
  2. Chase Bank also offers a fantastic mobile and online banking experience.
  3. There are no monthly fees while the account owner is enrolled in college. Following graduation, there is a $6 monthly fee. 
  4. There are over 16,000 fee free ATMs you’ll have access to! 

Downsides

Sometimes benefits come at a cost, and that’s present with the Chase College Checking account. Some downsides include:

  1. There is an overdraft fee of $34 per overdraft. 
  2. If you were to withdraw money from a non-chase ATM, you’ll pay $2.50 in service fees. 

Pricing or Fees

The biggest fee you’ll have to be aware of is the overdraft fee. However, if you manage your money closely, or keep a healthy account balance at all times, you’ll never get hit with an overdraft fee. 

Star Rating

On convenience alone, Chase Bank is an excellent choice. Combine that with their extensive ATM network, impressive mobile banking options, and no maintenance fees while in college – it’s no secret why this is a great option for students. All in all, Chase College Checking receives a 4.5 star rating. 

PNC Bank Virtual Wallet Student

PNC bank operates in over 20 states and has close to 3,000 locations. They offer a virtual wallet option for students, which is growing in popularity. 

Best For

The PNC Virtual Wallet is a great option made available to college students. Following graduation, you’ll need to transition your account to a traditional option. 

Benefits

PNC kept the student in mind when they created this account. Benefits include:

  1. There is no monthly service charge.
  2. Account owners are allowed one automatic refund on their first overdraft fee. 
  3. Account owners can receive, or issue, one wire transfer per statement period at no additional charge. This can be for both domestic and international wire transfers! 

Downsides

The two biggest downside to banking with PNC is the low interest rates they provide on the Virtual Wallet Account. With that said, interest becomes increasingly more important when someone has a higher account balance. Many students are too concerned about the interest rate, and put more emphasis on the fee structure. 

Pricing or Fees

All in all, PNC bank has a low fee structure. They provide flexibility on your first overdraft fee and one wire transfer per month. Beyond that, account holders will be expected to pay for those services. 

Star Rating

Taking all of that into consideration, PNC bank is a good option for students and receives a 3.5 star rating. 

Bank of America Student Checking 

Bank of America is a well known nationwide bank. Everything from mortgages, personal loans, saving accounts, business banking and even student checking accounts live under the Bank of America roof. 

Best For

Bank of America offers a student checking account options for students under 24 years old. This account is a common choice for students, and for good reason. 

Benefits

The benefits of a Bank of America account seem to be never ending. The main benefits include:

  1. A great nationwide retail footprint. If you ever needed to visit a branch, you’ll likely have one within a short distance from your home. 
  2. Bank of America offers a cash flow monitoring tool that will help you manage your money and get an idea of where you’re spending your money. They also offer advice, and best practices, for your personal cash flow situation. 
  3. Bank of America has extended hours of customer service, including weekend coverage. 
  4. There are no overdraft fees for students. 

Downsides

The two main downsides are:

  1. The interest on a checking account is low. Plenty of other online banks, and even traditional retail banks, have a greater interest rate. 
  2. Once you move past the student checking account option, Bank of America does charge a fee for their accounts. Each account has a different fee structure, and many times the fee can be waived if you keep a certain amount in the account. However, if you dip below, you’ll get hit with a fee. 

Pricing or Fees

Bank of America is generally pretty lenient with fees for students. If you’re under 24 years old, the monthly maintenance fee is waived. Once you turn 24, the maintenance fee is kicked on if your account balance does not meet the minimum requirement. 

Star Rating

Bank of America is a tremendously convenient bank. They understand the needs of students and offer an excellent student checking account option. All in all, Bank of America receives a 4.5 star rating. 

Which Option Should Students Choose?

If you’re just getting into the banking world for the first time, you may feel like there is information overload! There are many variables one must consider before deciding who they should bank with. If you’re just starting out, it’s highly recommended that you work with a personal financial advisor. 

Why would someone just starting out need to work with a financial advisor? That answer is simple! Even though you may not have a lot of money to invest, financial advisors will help develop proper financial practices and habits that will serve you well during your foundational years. This foundation will serve you well for the rest of your life.