Top 8 Best Bank Accounts for College Students 2022 Review

Kristina Knight-1
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Reviewed by Randolph Vialva, MBA
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Discover Cashback Debit Account

Best Overall

5.0 stars - votes

PNC Virtual Wallet Student Account

PNC Virtual Wallet Account

Most Affordable

4.0 stars - votes

chase bank

Chase College Checking Account

Most Versatile

4.0 stars - votes
Best Bank Accounts for College Students 2022 Review (2)

Student checking accounts should do three things: simplify money management, offer versatility in direct deposit, in-person deposits and withdrawals, and overdraft protection, and should be affordable for college student and their family members. A student checking account should help the young adult begin to create financial independence by developing money management skills. Other nice options include accounts that bear interest which can begin to teach investment skills and accounts that don’t charge fees for low minimum balance or an overdraft fee. Student checking accounts should also provide options for online and traditional banking and ATM locations. 

Read More: Best online banks

What Is an Account for College Students?

Student checking accounts can be used just like a regular checking account – the account owner direct deposits, withdraws money, pays for items using a debit or ATM card, and with interest-bearing accounts will earn a little money, too. The difference between a traditional checking and a student checking account is that the parents or guardians of the young person with the account also have access. This is important as young adults need to pay for school supplies like books, dorm fees, etc., but are not always ready to fully manage their money alone. This type of bank student checking account allows informed adult access to help create spending and saving habits.

Top 8 Best Bank Accounts for College Students 2022 Review

discover

Discover Cashback Debit Account

  • Earn cash-back rewards
  • Few fees
  • ATM access
PNC Virtual Wallet Student Account

PNC Virtual Wallet Student Account

  • Physical bank access
  • ATMs nationwide
  • No monthly fees
chase bank

Chase College Checking? Account

  • Monthly service fee waived for student
  • No ATM fees
  • Versatile mobile app
ally bank
  • High customer satisfaction
  • Monthly out-of-network ATM fee reimbursement
  • Low monthly fees
alliant

Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking

  • High digital experience
  • Interest-bearing checking account
  • Monthly out-of-network ATM fee rebates
wells fargo

Wells Fargo Clear Access Banking

  • No overdraft fee
  • Nationwide bank locations
  • A low minimum deposit required
capital one

Capital One MONEY Teen Checking

  • Joint account holder
  • Simple transition from parent to student after graduation
  • No minimum deposit
Bank of America Business Advantage Fundamentals Banking

Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Banking

  • Monthly fees are waived while a student
  • Versatile and fluid mobile app
  • Keep the Change feature

Top 8 Best Bank Accounts for College Students 2022 Review

Best Bank Accounts for College Students 2022 Review (1)

Discover Cashback Debit Account

discover

Open Account

Read Discover Reviews

The Discover Cashback Debit Account is a good solution for many families. The account has a minimal monthly service fee and allows users to earn cashback rewards just for using their account. The account also waives the overdraft fee, non-sufficient funds, and out-of-network ATM fees, making it more attractive for families in which the student will be attending school outside of their home state or region. The account also allows the student to earn cash back on debit card purchases, similar to how Discover’s credit card program works. 

  • Earn cash-back rewards
  • Few fees
  • ATM access
  • Caps on monthly cash-back bonuses
  • Fees are low but are not zero
  • No interest earnings

Discover’s Cashback Debit Account doesn’t have a minimum balance requirement, it doesn’t cap the number of transactions or require a certain number of transactions to be completed each month, and has ATMs nationwide. They will also waive ATM fees for students outside of the network. That gives the account holder plenty of room to learn money management habits and is one of the reasons this tops our list of the Top 5 Best Student Bank Accounts. 

PNC Virtual Wallet Account

PNC Virtual Wallet Student Account

Open Account

Read PNC Bank Reviews

For those who already have a PNC account and are familiar with the system, the PNC account has a lot to offer. The account doesn’t require a minimum initial deposit amount, doesn’t charge monthly fees, including overdraft fees, and has low out-of-network ATM fees. There are several safeguard options that are nice to have including check images with deposits and fraud monitoring and mobile banking services. 

However, while the account will reimburse up to $5 in ATM fees, that likely will not cover all of those types of charges.

  • Physical bank access
  • ATMs nationwide
  • Zero monthly service fees
  • Overdraft protection
  • Limited service availability
  • Is not an interest-bearing account
  • High wire transfer fees

The PNC account comes with a host of fees, many of which are much higher than other accounts. The firm will charge for lost debit cards, early closure of accounts, and wire transfers (domestic and international), and also only operates in 14 states which means no ATMs nationwide. This means that even if a parent has an account from the home state, a student attending college in a state without the PNC program will have very limited access to their account. This may be frustrating for families and cause an increase in fees, especially those for out-of-network ATMs. 

Chase College Checking? Account

Chase’s account may be a good solution for many families because it allows for the seamless transfer from a student account to a primary checking account once the student is on their own. The account does not have a monthly service fee while the student is earning their degree, and after graduation, the monthly fee can still be waived as long as the account holder meets certain conditions like meeting a minimum balance requirement and making at least one electronic deposit per statement cycle. It can be linked to a Chase savings account. These points make the Chase account a good fit for many families. 

  • Monthly service fee waived for student
  • No ATM network fees
  • Versatile mobile app
  • Charges fees for certain services/actions
  • Limited ATM network

Like TD Bank, Chase is a nationally recognized financial brand and is part of JPMorgan Chase & Co which has online banks and physical locations. They have solid customer service, low fees for account holders, and an option to seamlessly transfer the student checking account to a personal checking account once the child has graduated and/or left school. Upon graduation, it can be transferred to other eligible Chase checking accounts.

Ally Bank Interest Checking

ally bank

Open Account

Read Ally Bank Review

Ally offers a lot of versatility for families and students. The bank has 24/7 customer support options through each channel – phone, email, live chat – and allows for easy transitions between checking only, savings accounts, and even retirement accounts. Ally’s student bank account has a 2.50% annual percentage yield, which means the account holder will earn money on their account each year; this is one of the first money management skills teens and young adults need to learn. The system will also allow the account holder to create up to seven “buckets” for specific savings goals, which is another money management key.

  • High customer satisfaction
  • Monthly out-of-network ATM fee reimbursement
  • Low monthly fees
  • No minimum deposit
  • App experience can be glitchy
  • Direct deposits only
  • No physical branches

The downside to an Ally account is that they only have online banking, there are no physical locations. This means you can’t deposit cash and will use the mobile app, which can be glitchy on certain platforms, most of the time. However, if you have good tech skills and don’t need that personal touch, this could be a good fit.

Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking

alliant

Open Account

Read Alliant Credit Union Reviews

The key difference between credit unions and banks is that banks are typically for-profit institutions – they make money from the people holding accounts with them – while credit union is typically non-profit, meaning they will not make money based on account holders. Alliant is the only credit union to make our list of the Top 5 Best Student Bank Accounts because they do not charge exorbitant fees to users, their accounts do earn annual percentage yield, and they rebate up to $20 each month for out-of-ATM network fees. 

  • High online banking experience
  • Interest-bearing checking account
  • Monthly out-of-network ATM fee rebates
  • Low or no overdraft fees
  • No physical locations
  • Requires membership

Alliant’s mobile app may be one of the best out there for digital banking, however, their annual percentage yield at 0.25% is not as high as other financial institutions. However, the infrastructure of their online hub allows for the depositing of checks, budgeting tools, and daily financial management, which is a good way for college students to begin building their financial and money management knowledge base. 

Wells Fargo Clear Access Banking

wells fargo

Open Account

Read Wells Fargo Reviews

Wells Fargo’s Clear Access Banking account for students makes our list because it has a number of physical locations, a large ATM network, and also includes a variety of digital options for account holders. And, while Wells Fargo accounts do have some fees attached, those are lower than many other banks; the monthly fee is waived for student accounts through the age of 24. The company also won’t charge overdraft fees or non-sufficient funds, giving younger people time to cover larger payments for things like tuition, rent, and books.

  • Monthly fee waived
  • Online banking through ATMs nationwide 
  • A low minimum deposit required
  • Overdraft protection
  • Small ATM network
  • Monthly maintenance fees for users over the age of 25

For those wanting a bank with both digital and in-person options, Wells Fargo could be a good choice because they have physical locations as well as comprehensive online banks. The organization has nearly 5,000 branches in the United States and more than 12,000 networked ATMs, meaning people have options for accessing their funds. 

Capital One MONEY Teen Checking

Capital One’s MONEY Teen Checking has many safeguards that parents will like for student bank accounts. First, there are optional parental controls which means the parents can set spending limits that will ensure the teen using the account won’t overdraw or have insufficient funds for debit card transactions. The account does bear interest, although it is a lower rate at 0.10% annual percentage yield than other such services. The other drawback to this account is that it is only available for kids between the ages of 8 and 18; once a child reaches the age of 18 they are expected to transfer to another account.

  • Parental controls available
  • Simple transition from parent to student after graduation
  • No minimum deposit
  • Debit Card
  • Few physical branch locations
  • Age Limitations
  • Lower annual percentage yield rates

For individuals looking for a local bank account, the Capital One MONEY Teen Checking account may not be a good fit as there are few physical branch locations. This means you’ll need to be comfortable with online banking. However, the Capital One account does offer interest-bearing checking accounts, no monthly fees, and no minimum for a first or minimum deposit or continuing balance. 

Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Banking

The Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Banking Account is another option for families that are just beginning to teach money management and financial security to their kids. The accounts are limited in that they don’t pay interest and have a smaller number of in-network ATMs, so users will likely pay out-of-network fees for many ATMs. However, the monthly maintenance fee is waived for students, and it does offer BoA’s Keep the Change feature. Once enrolled in this program, the customer uses their debit card for any regular or recurring debit card purchases; Bank of America rounds each purchase up to the next full dollar amount and places the change from that round-up into a savings account. 

  • Monthly maintenance fees are waived while a student
  • Versatile and fluid mobile app
  • Keep the Change feature
  • Does not earn annual percentage yield
  • Small ATM network
  • No paper check option

Bank of America is a well-known and trusted financial brand, with locations across the United States as well as online banks. This makes their Advantage SafeBalance Banking Account a good choice for students who may go to school away from their families but still need access to their bank account. Even though the account doesn’t earn an annual percentage yield, their Keep the Change feature will help to teach money management skills. After graduation, the college account can be transferred to another Advantage banking account.

Benefits of a Student Bank Account

In most cases, kids are not responsible for their money, and teens going off to college is no different. A bank account for students, which parents or guardians can still access, is a good solution for debit card purchases. These accounts allow for debit card transactions, making them convenient. Most can attach to a savings account which can teach money management skills kids need as they begin to move into adulthood. Also, many are fee-free, which means no unexpected costs from things like monthly maintenance fees. Outside of learning the financial ropes, these accounts offer other benefits to the family – most either don’t charge or have a grace period for overdraft fees, most will waive the monthly maintenance fee, and many will either waive or reimburse out-of-ATM network fees. This is an important service, especially, for those teens who attend college out of state from their home bank. 

How to Open a Student Bank Account?

Credit unions and banks will have specific steps to follow to open a student bank account. In general, you will need to go to a physical branch location with the minimum opening deposit, two forms of identification such as a passport and driver’s license, the university or college address with a letterhead, enrollment verification, proof of your home address and proof of your university address, even if that address is off-campus. Once you have these items, speak with a customer service representative to open the account, making sure you have login information for the mobile app and understand any direct deposit or branch deposit rules. 

How to Choose a Student Checking Account?

Choosing the right student checking account will depend on your needs: 

  • Does the student understand the basics of money management? Does the student want their money to earn a bit of interest? 
  • Will the parents or guardians also need access to make direct deposits or will the student use an employer’s direct deposit feature? 
  • Is a student ready to have their own bank account? 

Once these questions are answered, choose the account that offers the most benefits to the student: 

  • Which account has the best annual percentage yield for interest? 
  • Which accounts can connect a savings account with a checking account?
  • Does one require an average daily balance? 
  • What additional features, like roundups, are included? 
  • Look for fee-free accounts

A student checking account needs to be easy to use, versatile for credit and debit card purchases, and should include a simple transition from student to a personal checking account once the teen or young adult is ready for more responsibility. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you are looking for an online bank, or a local bank, or need a combination of the great personal service of credit unions on a national scale, there are options available for students to open checking or savings accounts. Most student accounts will include a bank Visa debit card, many are fee free or have low or waived monthly maintenance fees while a student, and offer both online and mobile banking as well as bank ATM transactions, direct deposit, and cash withdrawal features. Connecting savings accounts to checking can be a good way for a new college student to begin learning money management skills, but still have the security of knowing a parent or guardian can add money if needed to cover larger bills like semester tuition, dorm, and other fees. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What do I need to open a student checking account?

In general, you will need to go to a physical branch location with the minimum opening deposit, two forms of identification such as a passport and driver’s license, the university or college address with a letterhead, enrollment verification, proof of your home address and proof of your university address, even if that address is off-campus.

What is the difference between a bank and a credit union?

Student accounts can be opened at either a bank or credit union. At credit unions most account holders experience a higher level of customer service; the drawback is that many of these institutions are local, which means students attending school out of town or state will not have access to a physical bank location. Being dependent on digital or physical banking options may not be the best idea. A bank, on the other hand, is more likely to have a local location, even if a student attends school far away from home. This can give a better sense of security for both the student account holder and the parent, and most are regulated by the National Credit Union Administration to ensure correct policy and procedure.

What are some benefits of a student banking account?

This type of checking account allows for debit purchases, making them convenient and most can attach to a savings account which, put together, teaches money management skills kids need as they begin to move into adulthood. Services like roundups or keep-the-change features can quickly grow savings accounts, too. Outside of learning the financial ropes, these accounts offer other benefits to the family – most either don’t charge fees or have a grace period for an overdraft fee, most will waive the monthly maintenance fee, and many will either waive or reimburse out of ATM network fees.

How long can I keep a student bank account?

College student accounts can typically be opened while a student is still in high school and are eligible to remain open while the student is enrolled in a university, for up to five years. Some accounts have the extended option to remain open through age 25. Account opening is similar to opening a regular bank account: present identification, bring the minimum deposit and sign the enrollment papers.

Are online or physical banks better?

This will depend on the user’s comfort level with money management, banking accounts, and having an account online or having the option to go to a physical branch location to make a minimum deposit or withdrawal. For those very comfortable with money management, choosing an online-only bank that has benefits like higher interest rates, waived overdraft fees, and savings account features can be a good solution, especially for those who will attend school far away from home. However, many students will be most comfortable having the ability to go into a physical branch to handle money matters. In those cases, the family will want to choose a bank that offers online and mobile banking features like an app and direct deposit, but that still has a physical location near the student’s place of residence. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristina Knight is a freelance writer with more than 15 years of experience writing on varied topics. Kristina’s focus for the past 10 years has been the small business, online marketing, and banking sectors, however, she keeps things interesting by writing about her experiences as an adoptive mom, parenting, and education issues. Kristina’s work has appeared with BizReport.com, NBC News, Soaps.com, DisasterNewsNetwork, and many more publications.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

He is an organized and creative thinking sales management professional with experience in outside and inside sales in various markets. Working as freelancer in the Greater Boston Market, he moved to St. Louis and became an Account Executive, then a Sales Manager managing and coaching 12 sales reps covering a nationwide territory. He has developed his team with a combination of consultative selling and value before price coaching mindset which has won him a President’s Cup and many other financially rewarding awards at RICOH. His most recent role as a Continuous Improvement Manager provided insight into the importance of delivering a quality product in alignment with the value and reputation of his organization. It further enhances the aspect of selling on value as opposed to price.

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