best student credit cards

One essential financial account is a checking account, which will become the financial hub for almost every college student.

Not surprisingly, parents are likely to turn to the nation’s largest banks in the search for student checking accounts for their college-bound children. With vast branch and ATM networks, big banks can provide convenience to this young demographic.

Compare the student checking accounts offered at the top 10 banks in America to find the right one.

Student Checking Accounts Fees Comparison

Bank AccountMonthly FeeDate of Expiration
1. Bank of America
Core Checking
$12

Monthly fee waived if enrolled in college and under 24, or a monthly direct deposit of $250, or $1,500 avg. daily balance
24th birthday
2. Wells Fargo
Everyday Checking
$5 (when primary accountholders is 17 to 24 years old)

Monthly fee waived with 10 debit card purchases/payments, $500 in total direct deposits, $1,500 minimum daily balance, or linked Wells Fargo Campus ATM or Campus Debit Card
None
3. Chase
Student Checking
$6

Monthly fee waived with if enrolled in college, or have a monthly direct deposit, or a $5,000 avg. daily balance
5 years after account opening
4. Citibank
Student Account
$0Graduation or when no longer enrolled in school
5. U.S. Bank
Student Checking
$0 ($2 for paper statements)Graduation
6. PNC Bank
Virtual Wallet Student
$7

Monthly fee waived with if enrolled in college, or $500 total direct deposits, or $500 avg. daily balance, or avoid using a PNC branch
6 years after account opening
7. Capital One
360 Checking
$0None
8. TD Bank
Student Checking
$024th birthday or 5 years after account opening (whichever is first)
9. BB&T
Student Banking
$0

Monthly fee waived with if enrolled in college
60 days after graduation or 24th birthday (whichever is last)
10. SunTrust
Essential Checking
$7

Monthly fee waived with if enrolled in college, 10 banking transactions, $500 total direct deposits, or $500 min. daily balance
5 years after account opening

Some banks may just offer a regular checking account with an added fee-waiver requirement that applies to students.

Tip: Capital One has checking accounts designed for students only at select banks. Benefits may include free checks, free ATM use, better rates on loans and credit cards, or discounts on travel or prescriptions. If your Capital One bank is not offering a student checking option, the Capital One 360 Checking Account recommended option — which has no monthly fee.

Student Checking Account 

Student checking accounts are designed exclusively for college students, and it’s easy for first-time account holders to adapt to banking without the pressure of too many requirements or responsibilities.

It is offered at most banks and provides appropriate services usually at no cost during the time they’re enrolled in a college or university.

Big banks offer a huge advantage for students, as they are able to provide the convenience of many branches and ATM networks. The most common benefits include no minimum balance requirement, free checks, a free debit card, online banking, mobile banking, full teller access for deposits and withdrawals, free in-network ATM transactions and, in some cases, free out-of-network ATM fees. These types of benefits should be considered when choosing the right account for your child.

Student Checking Account Perks

Choose from major banks where there are multiple branches and ATMs on or close to campus, so your student can have access to cash anytime. If there are no branches close to campus, chances are, your child will use an ATM machine that doesn’t belong to the bank, hence, racking up ATM fees.

For this reason, it is to have an account at a bank that waives these fees. Citibank, for example, waives all out-of-network fees for their student accounts. U.S. Bank offers up to four free non-U.S. Bank ATM transactions for every statement period. Note that the ATM owner may also charge a third-party ATM surcharge fee. Finally, Capital One’s 360 Checking account offers free access at any Allpoint ATM.

Tip: Even if your bank won’t waive them, you can still avoid paying for ATM fees with these tricks.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Student Checking Account

College students will need cash throughout the year, which is why it’s crucial that to stay financially connected with your child. You wouldn’t want your child to starve or fail their exams because they couldn’t buy a textbook, right?

There are several factors to consider when choosing the best checking account for your college-bound child. The major deciding factor in many cases is accessibility.

Branches and ATM networks are important

Ideally, there should be a branch or ATM on or close to campus, where students can access cash at a moment’s notice.

Furthermore, it should be easy for parents to deposit money into a student’s checking account. A branch or ATM near home would enable parents to add funds to their children’s accounts. Or, parents can transfer funds electronically to their kids’ accounts. Some banks, like Chase, may require parents to become an authorized user on a student’s checking account to deposit funds.

After students know which college they’ll be attending, they should look up the bank locations near campus and see what options they have. Then, select the bank that fits that criteria.

Advantages of Online Banks

Online banks, like Ally Bank, can be a very good option as they provide cheaper fees and higher rates on savings accounts. Additionally, they offer free checking accounts with unlimited ATM fee reimbursements.

Here are the top online banks that have highest savings accounts rates and free interest-checking accounts:

The disadvantage of online banks is that the only method of cash transfer is through deposits made electronically, which takes longer to clear than a cash deposit. However, online banks are starting to recognize this and are making efforts to allow cash deposits at certain ATMs.

Some banks, like Chase, may require parents to become an authorized user on a student’s checking account to deposit funds.

What Happens After Graduation

Time flies — just look at how quickly your child became a college student. Those four years in college will fly by and before you know it, they will be ready for the real world.

Most accounts will allow graduates to maintain a free checking for longer than the traditional four years that it takes to get a college degree. This extra year or two allows graduates to secure a stable source of income that would help them meet fee waiver requirements of regular checking accounts — which typically include direct deposit or minimum balances. This won’t last and your graduates will have to transition to an “adult” checking account sooner or later.

Although the policies may differ, one thing remains the same across the board — you have to graduate from the student checking account once you’re no longer considered a student.

If you don’t speak to your bank ahead of time, they will pick an account for you. In most cases, it will be a basic checking account, but sometimes, they may move your funds into a more expensive checking account. To prevent this from happening, contact your bank as soon as you graduate or by exploring these options.

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  • Angelo_Frank

    Please redo the chart because some of the fee waivers are difficult to tell for which bank they apply to. Thanks.

  • Theresa Kim

    Do you have any advice or tips for college students looking to open a student checking account? Share your answers here! Thanks!

  • This can be done 100% free. I gave my daughter a Paypal debit card. An automatic funds transfer ensures she always has money. When she needs extra funds, I transfer into her account instantly. All free of charge.

    • Simon Zhen

      That’s actually a rather simple way to equip a college student with a debit card.

      However, has it been an issue when she finds that she needs to write a check? Also, cash withdrawals may be a regular occurrence. Any concerns over the ATM fees with the PayPal debit card?

      • It is simple indeed. An additional benefit we discovered last week is when she ‘lost’ her card and I was able to simply ‘stop’ the card’s use without having to cancel and reissue a new one. (10 minutes later she found the card…)

        I haven’t used checks in years and cash withdrawal hasn’t been a need. The way mobile systems are going, I expect the college world to ‘slide’ funds electronically more and more.

        She is not in college yet, so she may need a card that has free atm withdrawals. I teach the value of a card that provides reward points.

  • Marie Kroumah

    So the monthly fee waivers apply to you while in college, is that correct?

  • Tyler Holden

    Regions Bank has a great student checking. It’s free until they turn 26. Includes free savings, debit card, online and mobile banking. If you are in the south espically, you will find a Regions branch or ATM on SEC college campuses and non-SEC schools will have a branch near by. ATMs are SmartDeposit so they take cash and check deposits as well as cash checks.

    After they turn 26, direct deposit of $500 or a average balance of $1500 is required for it to be free. There is also a checking account where using your debit card at least 10 times a month makes your account free.

    • Tyler, thanks for the tip! I’m sure many prospective students will looking into Regions as an option. (The regional banks tend to be more fee-friendly anyway.)