When looking for the right student checking account, everyone has different priorities. While some look for a bank with thousands of ATMs, others demand quality customer service.

Since your new checking account will hopefully last for all of college and possibly for the rest of your life, you must be informed and choose wisely.

Story Highlights:

  1. Consider convenience as the number one priority
  2. Learn what you should expect from your student checking account
  3. Work with your parents to determine the best option
  4. Avoid all unnecessary fees

First and foremost make sure the bank you choose to hold your funds will be convenient for both you and your parents. Branches must be available on both ends of the transaction to avoid costly fees and aggravation.

Therefore, to begin your search the most logical place would be at your parents’ bank. Since almost all banks allow you to link your respective accounts, you will be adding the convenience of online banking and eliminating fees to transfer funds from them to you.

If your parents use a local credit union or a smaller local bank you should consider checking out one of the big banks, which all offer student checking accounts especially if you’re going out of town for college. ATMs and branches are available around the country, so you will always have access to your bank’s services.

Student Checking Account Features

Since all these banks offer similar packages, you should make sure the student checking account you choose has at least the following features:

  • No monthly maintenance fee
  • Negligible or no minimum balance requirement
  • Free debit card
  • Free native ATM usage
  • Free online banking
  • Free check writing
  • No money transfer fees

Some banks throw in all sorts of perks like a certain amount of free foreign ATM withdrawals or unlimited check writing (free check writing as referenced above will likely be limited). These are definitely beneficial, but consider that nothing comes for free, so you should find out why one bank’s offers are “better” than another’s.

For example, if you do select one of the banking titans, what you make up for in ubiquity you will likely be sacrificing in customer service. So if you are accustomed to a local bank’s attentiveness, consider the changes as you are joining a stream of millions of other customers.

Additionally, do not plan on receiving any interest in your student checking account. Therefore if you want your money to be “working for you,” you should put some into a linked savings account and only move what you need into the checking account.

Alternatively, if your parents are able to, they can place some into their own higher-yielding savings account and make weekly or monthly deposits into your student checking account.

Either way, do not get into the habit of leaving extra money in an underperforming checking account. This is akin to stuffing it in a mattress where it earns no interest and just waits until you spend it.

Finally, most banks will let you maintain your free student checking account for up to five years. After that, it will automatically be converted to their standard checking account, which certainly charges maintenance fees and/or requires a minimum balance to waive them.

Read the fine print and take into account both the short- and long-term implications of signing up with this bank. You only want to do this once, so be thorough and take time when considering all your options.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Bigger banks offer omnipresent ATMs, eliminating foreign ATM fees
  2. Online banking is essential to managing your finances in college
  3. Only leave about two week’s worth of funds in your checking account
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