Best College Checking Account Overall: Chase College Checking
Of the three major U.S. banks, Chase delivers the best mix of accessibility and low fees for college students. The Chase College Checking account costs $6 each month, but that fee is waived for up to five years of college enrollment. You can also avoid the monthly charge after graduation by setting up a direct deposit to the account or keeping a monthly balance of at least $5,000. With thousands of branches and ATMs, Chase serves most parts of the country, making the bank's products a convenient choice almost anywhere students travel.
Besides its affordability and convenience for students, Chase is one of the few banks that offers a sign-up bonus to new customers. If you're new to Chase, you can receive a $50 bonus by meeting the following requirements:
- Open a new Chase College Checking account
- Deposit $25 or more at account opening
- Log in to chase.com and enroll in Chase Checking Paperless Statements within 60 days of account opening
- Complete at least 10 qualifying transactions within 60 days of account opening
For this bonus, qualifying transactions include debit card purchases, direct deposits, and QuickPay transfers. These multiple options make it relatively easy for any student to fulfill the terms of the bonus, making it a decent additional incentive to choose Chase over other banks. The $50 bonus offer expires August 13, 2018.
Best Teen Checking: Wells Fargo Teen Checking
Wells Fargo doesn't offer a separate college account, but its Teen Checking account should interest parents who want to teach their children about budgeting and saving. It also has one of the most forgiving fee structures of any bank account out there, making it less costly when your child does something like overdraft their account. Wells Fargo's Teen Checking Account cannot be opened online, but parents who want to introduce children to the concept of brick-and-mortar banking may actually prefer taking their children to meet with a banker as a first step.
Wells Fargo Teen Checking comes with a debit card and basic online tools for tracking spending, which can be useful in teaching responsible financial habits. If parents want to take a more direct role, they can also choose to set up online transfers, receive activity alerts and impose customized limits on the account's daily spending. The monthly fee of $3 can be waived with paperless statements delivered through Wells Fargo's online interface. The low overdraft fee of $15 is a convenient cushion for teens, who are more likely to lose track of their balances than adults paying the typical $35 on each overdraft.
Best Online Student Checking: Capital One 360 MONEY Account
If you feel that brick-and-mortar service isn't necessary to teach your child how to manage money, Capital One's MONEY account is a very good online-only alternative to traditional checking accounts. This account requires two joint account-holders: one adult age 18 or older and one minor. Only the minor receives a debit card for spending, but the adult can check the account balance, make deposits and receive text and email alerts about activity. This can help parents or guardians monitor their child's banking activity.
Capital One's online accounts charge no monthly account fees and require no minimum opening deposit. That makes it better than most other options, many of which require you to make a large money commitment. The MONEY account has a 0.25% APY that is compounded daily -- a fairly unique feature among student checking accounts. MONEY is a good choice for parents seeking to teach financial habits to their children while also saving for future costs like college tuition.
Best for International Students: Santander Student Value Checking
If you live in Santander Bank's service area, the Student Value Checking account is ideal for people who receive regular financial support from overseas. This is one of the few accounts without additional fees on incoming wire transfers. Santander's student account gets free incoming international wire transfers, so you won't pay additional fees to receive money from family or friends who live overseas. Most banks charge around $15 for every international transaction you receive.
You also pay no monthly maintenance fee, and the $3 paper statement fee is easy to waive if you opt into receiving paperless online statements each month. If you don't study or live near Santander's physical branches and ATMs, withdrawing cash may cost you non-network ATM fees of $2.50 per transaction. While it's possible to do most of your spending through your debit card, sooner or later you will need some cash. If you want to avoid extra fees, get in the habit of asking for cash back at retail and grocery stores, or consider banks that operate branches and ATM machines in your school's area.
Best for Frequent ATM Users: Key Student Checking
Key Bank's student account is a good choice for students who plan to use ATMs frequently and on a regular basis. There are no fees on non-network or international ATM usage, and KeyBank will reimburse up to $6 each month in fees charged by other ATM operators. This is one of the only student accounts that offers ATM reimbursements, which is typically a feature of higher balance premium checking accounts. Even if you don't live near KeyBank's physical service locations, this account may be worthwhile as long as you're comfortable with online and mobile banking.
To waive the monthly fee, you must conduct at least 5 transactions into or out of the account each month. Any deposit, withdrawal or transfer of any size counts towards this waiver, and with zero ATM fees, getting to 5 transactions shouldn't be difficult or expensive. If you are less active about accessing your money, you can still waive the monthly fee by depositing at least $200 each month, whether from direct deposits at work or transfers from family.
Summary of the Best Student Checking Accounts
Here's a quick side-by-side comparison of all the accounts we cover in this article. Remember that unless you go with online-only banking, availability may be limited by location.
|Best For...||Account Name||Minimum to Open||Monthly Fees|
|Brick-and-Mortar Banking for College Students||Chase College Checking||$25||$0|
|Brick-and-Mortar Banking for Teens||Wells Fargo Teen Checking||$25||$3|
|Online-Only Banking for Teens||Capital One 360 MONEY||$0||$0|
|Frequent ATM Transactions||Key Student Checking||$50||$5|
|International Students||Santander Student Value Checking||$10||$3|
How to Find the Right Student Checking Account
When you shop for a student checking account, begin with the bank your parents use. If they're going to support you, the first thing to do is examine the student checking options at your parents' bank. Signing up at the same bank makes it much easier and cheaper to transfer money between their accounts and yours. However, you shouldn't limit your search to one bank: if your parents' bank doesn't operate near your school, you could end up paying more in ATM fees than you'd save on transfer charges.
If staying with your parents' bank isn't useful or necessary, consider what bank services you'll need most often. Campus life tends to involve more cash than usual, so ATM access and affordability could be a good way to filter your options. Also look at the possibility of searching for checking accounts online, which let you use large third-party ATM networks or simply reimburse all your ATM fees at the end of each month. Online checking accounts also tend to provide robust web and mobile money management options that can help you stay on top of your budget without having to study paper statements or visit a branch.