Best Student Savings Account Rate: DCU Primary Savings
Digital Credit Union's Primary Savings account doesn't provide any student-specific features, but its 5.12% APY is far and away the highest interest rate we've seen on any type of deposit account. We recommend this account for students who are just starting to save: the 5.12% rate only applies to the first $750 of your deposit. If you already have a savings balance of around $4,000 or more, your earnings will start to fall behind the return from an online savings account at 1.00% APY or better. Still, anyone who hasn't reached that amount should certainly consider DCU.
Beyond that, DCU's lack of monthly fees and minimum balances makes it even more convenient as a student savings option. Many major banks ask you to pay maintenance on their savings accounts unless you open a linked checking account or establish some form of repeating deposit. At this credit union, you could theoretically deposit the full $750 the day you open the savings account and then leave it alone to earn 5.12%, with no further management required. While this won't help you in terms of providing any practical financial experience, you could easily pair a high-earning account like DCU Primary Savings with another bank or credit union more suited to your everyday needs.
Best Student Savings Account with Budgeting Features: PNC Virtual Wallet for Students
Among the accounts we examined, PNC's Virtual Wallet for Students delivers the most useful features and tools for students trying to take charge of their own money for the first time. Virtual Wallet actually comes with two savings accounts, along with a checking account for daily spending. The unique combination of these three accounts may seem overwhelming compared to student options elsewhere, but PNC makes the accounts themselves secondary to Virtual Wallet's online features. Tools like the budget calendar and spending categories make it simple to keep up with your finances. Virtual Wallet also helps you automate your savings, letting you designate an amount to set aside every time you get a paycheck or pay a bill.
PNC specifically partners with 50 universities to provide on-campus branch and ATM access, giving the Virtual Wallet account one more advantage. Partner schools can be found wherever PNC does business and includes large colleges like UPenn, University of Michigan and Georgetown. Yet despite all these strengths, PNC isn't the best place to earn interest on your savings. The interest rate on Virtual Wallet's "Growth" savings account ranges between a low 0.05% to 0.10%, far below the average rates available online.
Best Savings Account for High School Students: Capital One 360 Kids Savings
We chose Capital One 360 Kids Savings as a good place for high school students to start their savings. The 360 Kids Savings account earns 1.00% APY on any balance, with no monthly fee or opening minimums. Besides earning more in interest, Capital One's savings account allows the student to sign in online to manage the account. This allows you to see your balance and set up automatic transfers from other accounts to your savings. Although such features are fairly standard, Capital One Bank is unique in offering students a chance to participate in the process. When it comes to your financial health, building the right habits is almost as important as building your savings.
This account's one drawback for students is the age limit, which limits eligibility to people under age 18. In addition, you'll need a parent or other adult to act as joint owner of the account. The adult account-holder also has the final say in approving deposits and withdrawals, making the Capital One 360 Kids Savings Account more appropriate for high school than for college-age students. However, the high APY on this account can make it a great starting option to stick with until you're old enough to switch to an account that you control on your own.
Best for Out-of-State College Students: Bank of America Regular Savings
While its rates and fees are no better than average, Bank of America represents an accessible choice for students who attend school far from home. As one of the nation's three largest banks, Bank of America guarantees access to your account almost everywhere in the country. It also features a unique way to contribute to your savings every time you use one of the bank's debit cards. Each debit card purchase gets rounded up to the nearest whole dollar, with the extra amount getting transferred from your checking to your savings account at the bank.
You'll find that the biggest disadvantage at Bank of America —as with any major national bank —is that savings rates stay at the lowest possible levels. In addition, you'll need to set up a checking account with Bank of America in order to use the automatic savings feature. Fortunately, students don't have to pay any monthly account fees while enrolled, but you may find that you'll be much better off looking elsewhere when you graduate and the bank ends your fee-exempt account status. We advise choosing Bank of America if you prefer convenience and accessibility over maximizing your interest or reducing fees.
Summary of Best Student Savings Accounts
The following table summarizes the banks and accounts we've reviewed, with a quick comparison of their relevant features.
|Best For...||Account Name||APY||Details|
|Earning Interest||DCU Primary Savings||5.12%||Earns 5.12% on first $750 deposited and 0.05% on additional amounts|
|Saving and Budgeting||PNC Virtual Wallet for Students||0.05%||Package of 1 checking, 2 savings accounts with mobile budget/savings tools|
|High School Students||Capital One 360 Kids Savings||1.00%||Joint account for parent and students under 18|
|Nationwide Access||Bank of America Regular Savings||0.01%||Free accounts for students with nationwide branches and ATMs|
Finding Other Student Savings Accounts
Most people should have access to at least one of the accounts above, but you may find that none of these banks offer decent service near your school or home. If that's the case, we suggest that you consider a dual approach. Start by looking for a low-maintenance online savings account that you can use as a vehicle to grow your savings for the long-term. Prioritize high interest rates and low fees for upkeep and transfer activity. Then, shop for a bank or credit union that serves your school's area with plenty of access to ATMs and branches. Such places make great candidates for your checking account, but also tend to include savings accounts at no extra charge.
These brick-and-mortar savings accounts won't earn nearly as much interest as the account you opened online, but they might be useful if a separate balance will help you save for an individual goal. This is the main reason that PNC, for instance, includes two different savings accounts in its Virtual Wallet package: one Reserve Account to deal with emergency expenses and a Growth Account to get you towards your long-term objectives. However, if you have your own way of dividing up your savings, it's also possible to keep everything in a single high-interest account.