Almost every traditional bank offers a student checking account.
A student checking account is typically a smart option for college students. However, you should also consider online banks because their accounts tend to also have low or no minimum balance requirements, even though they might not have “student” in the product name. You can find Bankrate’s selection of the best checking accounts here.
Since online banks usually don’t have their own ATMs, some may refund ATM fees you incur. There may be a limit on this, so check with the bank.
Most student accounts offer a maintenance-free banking option for your college years. Besides looking for an account without a minimum balance requirement, these are other features to look for in a student checking account:
- ATM fee waivers.
- How long you can have the account.
- Overdraft forgiveness.
- Free savings overdraft protection transfers.
- Free checks.
- Cash bonus.
Here are some of the top student checking accounts.
Best student checking accounts for ATM fee waivers
You might not need cash often at school. But when you do, you’re probably going to use an ATM. Using an ATM that’s not in your bank’s network is costly. It’s also smart to look at an online bank that reimburses ATM fees, since it doesn’t have its own ATMs. This account probably won’t be called a student checking account. But it might have features that you’re looking for in a bank, if walking into a physical location isn’t important to you.
PNC Virtual Wallet Student for Student Banking reimburses the first two domestic or international non-PNC Bank ATM transactions per statement period. This applies to ATM withdrawals on either the Spend, Reserve or Growth accounts. The account also reimburses $5 of non-PNC ATM fees per statement period. PNC also features a Find Your School tool on its site, which features nearly 50 schools where PNC has an ATM or a branch.
What to watch: If you change the account to a different product or account type you’ll lose these benefits and won’t be able to convert back to the Virtual Wallet Student account.
Navigant Credit Union
With Navigant Credit Union’s E-Access Student Checking account you can get up to $25 of ATM fees per month rebated. The account also refunds one non-sufficient funds fee once a year. All you need is $10 to open the account. It doesn’t have a minimum balance requirement or a maintenance fee. The account is available to students in all 50 states.
What to watch: If you’re a 16-17 year old student, you’ll need a parent or guardian on the account as a co-signer. When you turn 25, the E-Access Student Checking account converts to a free Journe Rewards Checking account or a similar account that’s offered at that time. Navigant Credit Union only has locations in Rhode Island.
Best student checking accounts for account duration
Student checking account age requirements vary at every bank. Generally, they’re for students between 18-23. Though there are some exceptions. Banks generally require a parent or guardian as a joint signer, if the student is under 18 years old.
Students between the ages of 14-25 can get a Student Value Checking account at Santander Bank. You have access to in-network ATMs at more than 1,000 CVS locations. This could be a good banking option if there’s a CVS near campus.
What to watch: A legal guardian co-owner is required for students between 14-18 years old.
At Peoples Bank, the Student Checking account is available for students 13-25. You’ll have access to 32,000 MoneyPass ATMs. This account also comes with Identity Theft Aid, which features personal identity protection, payment card protection and identity recovery and restoration. Peoples Banking checking customers are eligible for up to $1,000 in identity recover costs if they are an identity theft victim.
What to watch: There’s a $5 monthly service charge if you don’t enroll in e-statements within 30 days of opening your account. Students who are 13-17 years old need a parent or guardian as a joint owner on this account and you need to open the account in a branch. Peoples Bank is available for Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.
Best student checking accounts for overdraft forgiveness
We all make mistakes. That’s why it’s a good idea to decline overdraft services, as long as you have another emergency plan in place, or use overdraft services responsibly. A credit card or a savings account for overdraft protection, are possible options. If using a credit card, it’s usually best to only use this for emergencies until you learn how to manage your finances.
At PNC Bank, the Virtual Wallet Student account gives you one courtesy refund for any overdraft or returned items fees associated with your first overdraft occurrence on your Spend Account. This is a $36 value.
What to watch: Overdrafts or returned items will be $36 per item. So you need to make sure that you keep the courtesy refund for a one-time mistake. Also, the minimum to open the Spend account is $25. However, there isn’t a minimum if the account is opened online.
1st Source Bank
The e-Student Checking account at 1st Source Bank has “Oops” forgiveness. An overdraft or NSF fee is refunded once a calendar year. The account also features up to three ATM fee rebates, up to $15 total, per monthly statement cycle.
What to watch: There is a $5 charge for paper statements. You can avoid this by signing up for e-statements.
Best student checking account for savings overdraft protection
Savings overdraft protection is when a savings account backs up a checking account. Money is transferred from savings to checking to cover the negative checking balance.
Savings overdraft protection transfers can be less expensive than standard overdraft fees, and may also be per day instead of per item.
If you have a KeyBank savings account set up for overdraft protection, you won’t incur a fee for this backup on your Key Student Checking Account. When other bank ATMs
charge fees, you’ll be reimbursed for up to $6 per month on the first two transactions of the month when you use your debit card at an ATM. The account is available for students 16-24 years old. The account is available to high school juniors and seniors as well as college students.
What to watch: This account doesn’t reimburse non-KeyBank ATM fees when you use an ATM card instead of a debit card at an ATM. Also, there’s a $25 fee if you close the account within 180 days of opening it. This account requires $50 to open and will charge a $5 monthly maintenance fee each month if you don’t deposit at least $200 each month or make at least five transactions.
Best student checking accounts for free checks
College students typically don’t write many checks. But there may be certain occasions where having checks will come in handy. A landlord, for rent or a security deposit, or a doctor may only accept checks in certain circumstances. Free checks are a nice perk, but they probably have a value of less than $20; checks can usually be purchased cheaper from non-bank vendors. So don’t base your whole banking decision around free checks.
If you do order checks through a third-party company, make sure they’re trustworthy since you’re giving them your bank account information.
You get a free first order of checks with the U.S. Bank Student Checking account. These checks have the U.S. Bank Student Checking logo on them. If you want to customize your checks, you can get a 50 percent discount on your choice of design. U.S. Bank won’t charge a fee on your first non-U.S. Bank ATM transactions per statement cycle.
What to watch: While U.S. Bank waives its ATM fee on your first four non-U.S. Bank ATM transactions, the ATM will probably charge you a fee.
At Regions Bank, you can have the Lifegreen Checking for Students Account if you’re 25 years old or younger. You also can get a 50 percent discount on checks. This discount can be used on certain checks. You can also earn rewards through the Regions Relationship Rewards with this account and Regions Cashback Rewards with the Visa CheckCard.
What to watch: There’s a $25 fee if you close this account within 180 days of opening it.
Best student checking accounts for cash bonuses
Some banks will give you a bonus for opening a new account, while others may give you a bonus for other reasons.
A cash bonus shouldn’t be the only reason for choosing a bank. But sometimes a reward is worth opening an account if the account’s a good fit for your banking needs.
First State Bank and Trust Co. Inc.
First State Bank and Trust Co. Inc. pays you to get a perfect report card if you have the Student Checking account. A straight ‘A’ report card earns $20 each semester. The account also lets you use 55,000 surcharge-free ATMs. The account also gives you one free “hall pass” if you overdraft your account. When you turn 23, the account is converted to an Eco Checking account. It also has no minimum balance requirement and doesn’t have a maintenance fee.
What to watch: You need to report your fall semester grades by Feb. 1 and spring semester grades by July 1. Summer grades aren’t eligible for this program. These free gifts may be reported on a 1099-INT. The account is for anyone 15-22 years old.
Chase will give you $100 when you open a Chase College Checking account and complete 10 qualifying transactions within 60 days of opening your account and enroll in paperless statements. The account doesn’t have a maintenance fee for up to five years, from the date the account is opened until the student’s expected graduation date. Students 17-24 years old are eligible to open this account.
What to watch: The $100 is considered interest, so it will be reported to the IRS. If the account is closed within six months after the account opening date, Chase will deduct the bonus amount. Also, you can only qualify for the monthly service fee waiver for up to five years. After your expected graduation date, you’ll either need to make a direct deposit into the account or keep an average ending day balance of $5,000 or more to avoid the monthly maintenance fee.