In addition to back-to-school shopping, parents of college-bound kids may also have to look for a checking account so that students can pay for the many things they will need. Some parents will most likely consider big banks — along with community banks, online banks and credit union — in their searches.
Six of the 10 largest U.S. banks offer a free checking account as long as college students can prove their enrollment status. At three other banks, there is the possibility of monthly fees. Only one bank offers free checking, regardless of student status.
Here are the student-checking options at the 10 biggest banks:
Chase offers a College Checking account that is simply the equivalent of its basic checking account, except with a lower monthly fee. This $6 monthly service is waived until graduation (for up to five years after account opening) or with a monthly direct deposit of any amount.
After graduation, the College Checking account becomes a Chase Total Checking account.
Bank of America®
Bank of America® does not offer a student checking account. Instead, the bank recommends the eBanking account to college students. The eBanking account has a monthly fee of $8.95, which is waived when the customers choose paperless statements and refrains from using a bank teller for transactions.
Wells Fargo’s College Checking account has a $3 monthly service fee that is waived by linking the account to a Wells Fargo Campus ATM or debit card, maintaining a $500 daily balance or posting direct deposit of $25 or more.
The account keeps its terms for five years, after which the account will convert to a basic checking account. (Student checking customers must prove student status again to extend this term.)
The Citibank Student Account is absolutely free for students enrolled in college and graduate school. The account offers free access to non-Citibank ATMs — for when students need emergency cash.
After graduation, the Citibank Student Account becomes a basic checking account, which does charge fees for monthly maintenance and non-Citibank ATM use.
The Student Checking account from U.S. Bank is basically a copy of the bank’s basic checking account with a few extra perks that catered to college students. In addition to no monthly fee, student-checking customers receive a free first order of checks and four free non-U.S. ATM transactions per month.
For accounts that are stay open for more than five years, accountholders have to be under age 25 — otherwise, the account converts to a basic checking account.
Capital One does not offers a student checking account. The bank’s Rewards Checking account charges $8.95 a month, unless there is a $300 minimum daily balance or a monthly direct deposit of at least $250.
ING Direct, the newly-acquired online banking division of Capital One, offers a free interest checking account. The account is not specifically designated for students. It offers free access to Allpoint ATMs.
PNC does not offer a student checking account because it doesn’t need to — PNC is the last of the top 10 banks that still provides a free checking account for all customers. Students can open this account and not worry about the changes that would occur after graduation.
TD Bank charges no monthly fee and does not impose a balance requirement on its TD Student checking account. The bank does waive one overdraft fee per academic year but this perk is discontinued as of Aug. 15, 2012. However, transfer fees for overdraft protection are waived (can be linked to a Convenience Savings account).
After five years, the student benefits of these account will expire.
SunTrust’s Student Checking account comes with a $4 monthly fee, unless there is a $300 daily balance, payroll direct deposit or a $300 daily balance in a linked SunTrust checking account owned by a parent or guardian.
The account converts to a basic checking account when the student graduates or after five years of account opening (whichever comes first).
BB&T has a Student Banking account for students through age 23. The account has no monthly fees and there are a few perks. Student-checking customers receive four free non-BB&T ATM transactions per month and their debit card purchases will earn cash back. BB&T will waive a single fee for the following items: returned item, overdraft, stop payment, money order or official check.
BB&T converts the account to basic checking on the student’s 24th birthday.
Take a look at other options
In the past year, consumer perceptions of big banks have deteriorated — even more so when they hike fees and cut services.
This month, for example, TD Bank will stop refunding a per-year overdraft fee and SunTrust will stop offering a reduced-overdraft fee and reimbursements on two non-SunTrust ATM transactions per month.
To ensure that parents find the appropriate checking account for their kids, parents should also consider community banks, online banks and credit unions when they compare student-checking accounts.