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Is student checking really cheaper?

By Claes Bell ·
Thursday, August 9, 2012
Posted: 4 pm ET

Many banks offer a "student checking" option to lure in high school and college students, hoping that they'll eventually become loyal customers in adulthood. But are student checking accounts really a perk -- or just a clever marketing gimmick?

Researchers with the Pew Safe Checking in the Electronic Age Project did the legwork to find out. They surveyed of the 24 largest credit unions and banks, and found that 14 offered some type of student checking. Out of those 14 institutions, eight offered a student checking account that was cheaper in terms of monthly fees than their basic checking account. Of those, five student accounts would save you more than $5 a month, according to the study.

In addition to reduced monthly fees, some banks offered other nice perks to students, according to the study. Probably the most useful was the overdraft fee discounts or out-and-out waivers offered by four of the banks. As someone who overdrew his checking account quite a few times in college, that feature would have save me a ton of money. Managing a checking account isn't rocket science, obviously, but it's not always a no-brainer either, especially when you're out on your own for the first time.

Another perk, offered by three banks, was a waiver of the "out-of-network" ATM fee checking account holders often pay their own bank for using another bank's ATM. Those waivers gave students between two and four out-of-network ATM transactions per cycle.

Such waivers would seem especially useful for college students, many of whom not only spend a lot of time out on the town, but also caught between living at home during the summer and living in a college town during the school year. Since they may not be able to find a bank with branches in both places, an out-of-network waiver might come in handy.

Still, just because you see an account labeled "student," don't assume it's any better. One bank Pew researchers found actually charged $6 more per month for a student account than for a regular account . So make sure to read up on fees, terms and other characteristics of a checking account before you sign up.

What do you think? Have you ever had a student checking account? What's been your experience?

Follow me on Twitter: @ClaesBell

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August 10, 2012 at 10:43 pm

I closed my Wells Fargo Student Account recently that I had for less then a year because
I was told if I had opened two months early I would have been grandfathered into that fee structure instead
I was being charged a $3 monthly fee
If your a student with big steady income and need access to deposit/withdraw your money fast I guess you could probably avoid most of the fees

I decided to just sick with my standard Ally Bank Online Account since there was: no minimum deposit to open
no monthly maintenance fee, free debit card, free standard checks that cost nothing to order, have, or use; better interest rate ,are able use a scanner to cash checks online, and have unlimited ATM reimbursement at any machine if the ATM charges you a fee