Paying for College

Student Checking Accounts

When I was in college back in the day, I used to look forward to that special card or letter from home that had a five or ten dollar bill folded neatly inside. Those were the days when five or ten dollars were really worth something, not like today when a five will get you one gallon of gas (if you're lucky). Anyway, times have really changed, haven't they?

Today, college students have their own credit cards, debit cards, and checking accounts. They even have college loans in their name, but that's a different story. Today, we're going to talk about the best strategies for selecting a checking account. Debit cards are linked to checking accounts and, of course there's current news about legislation to control those nasty fees that banks love to attach to everything, especially debit cards. But for now, let's take a look at checking accounts.

If you are about to become a first-year college student this fall, or you already are a college student, you may want to take a critical look at your current checking account. Of course, if you don't already have a checking account, you'll definitely want to set one up, so this is the perfect time to get the right account for your needs, right from the start, so that you won't have to worry about changing course after you've already started college. Here are some helpful ideas from

Best Student Checking Accounts

New freshman entering college this Fall should take the time right now to get their banking account set up if they don't have one already. Consumerist Commentary rounds up the best student checking accounts and compares their benefits and fees. The good news is that the best of the crop have no fees, or fees waived if you can meet some pretty easy requirements.

For instance, check out US Bank Student Checking, which has a $0 monthly fee, a $1 minimum deposit, and gives you debit card, bill payment, mobile banking, alerts, free non-bank ATMs, and free check orders. TD Student and Fifth Third Student Checking are similar but with fewer features.

The trend seems to be that the bigger the bank is, the more fees and restrictions there are. You may be able to get even better deals by hooking up with your local smaller bank or credit union. On-campus student credit unions can offer very student-friendly terms as well...

The very helpful site,, has put together a comprehensive comparison analysis of checking accounts. Here are a few highlights from that analysis:

. . . The best student checking accounts often have desirable features, like no monthly fees, free checks, and low or no minimum balances. Completely free student checking accounts are a little difficult to come by, but many can be made free with a little effort. I often wish I could still qualify for free student accounts — and many adults can qualify if they are enrolled in courses at a college or university. After graduation or otherwise leaving the world of academics behind, you often find that you'll need to pay fees or maintain a balance to maintain the same level of service from your bank.

Here are some of the features of common student checking accounts. There may be differences depending on where you live. Why focus on the big banks first? Consumerism Commentary readers check in from all over the country — well, all over the world, really — and at least one of these banks will be in everyone's backyard. Big banks aren't the only games in town, though, so continue reading for more options, some of which might be more attractive . . .

BankMonthly FeeMin. Initial Deposit / Min. Avg. Daily BalanceFeatures
Bank of America Student Banking$8.95, waived with eBanking$25debit card, bill payment, mobile banking, alerts
Chase Student Checking$6.00, waived with automatic deposit$25debit card, bill payment, mobile banking, alerts
Citibank Student Account$0.00$100debit card, bill payment, mobile banking, alerts, free checks
Fifth Third Student Checking$0.00$1mobile banking, alerts, free non-bank ATMs
TD Student$0.00$1debit card, bill payment, mobile banking, alerts, free checks
US Bank Student Checking$0.00$1debit card, bill payment, mobile banking, alerts, free non-bank ATMs, free checks
USAA Free Checking$0.00$25 / $0rewards debit card, mobile banking, free non-bank ATMs, free checks, remote deposit
Wells Fargo College Checking$5.00, waived with linked savings account$25debit card, bill payment, mobile banking, alerts

There's much more included in this analysis, so check (so to speak) it out.


Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.