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Best Student Checking Accounts 2020


Written by Lauren Perez | Published on 10/13/2020

 

A student checking account can be a great tool to help students learn money management skills. With so many choices out there, DepositAccount experts sifted through dozens of student checking accounts and regular accounts to make it easier to find the best one for you. 

When choosing these accounts, we took into account monthly fees, any hidden fees, potential rewards and overall accessibility. Plus, each bank below is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), so you know your money will be protected no matter your pick. 

Account Monthly Fee Minimum Deposit
PNC Bank Virtual Wallet Student $0 $0 ($25 if opened in branch)
Chase College Checking & Chase High School Checking $0 (may require qualification) $0
Capital One 360 Checking $0 $0
Chime $0 $0
Ally Bank Interest Checking Account  $0 $0
Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Banking $0 for eligible students $25
U.S. Bank Student Checking $0 $25
Radius Bank Rewards Checking $0 $100
Simple Checking Account $0 $0
Capital One MONEY $0 $0
In this article we will cover:

How to find the best student checking account

There are several things to keep in mind when choosing the right student checking account for you:

  • Fees: Student-focused checking accounts often waive the monthly fee for students. But also be sure to look at how much the fee may be when you’re no longer an eligible student, as well as your options for waiving it.

“Many people probably don’t go through the trouble of changing checking accounts at that point,” said Ken Tumin, founder of DepositAccounts. “Thus, they may end up in a checking account where they’ll have to worry about monthly fees.”

Pro tip: Tumin suggests a better strategy is to choose a checking account that will remain free with no monthly fees.
  • ATM access: We all need a little cash sometimes so be sure to check the extent of a bank’s ATM network and whether it has ATMs near you. If you’re looking at an online bank, also check whether it accepts cash deposits at an ATM if that’s something you want in an account. 
  • Overdraft protection: It’s easy to make mistakes, especially as a student juggling several things at once and learning how to manage your money. Find an account that offers free overdraft protection or that won’t allow you to overdraft the account. That way, you won’t get penalized or lose out on more money if you overdraw your account. 
  • Mobile app: Today’s students largely prioritize mobile friendliness, so make sure your bank can offer the kind of mobile experience you want. Even better, see if the account includes mobile budgeting and savings features. 

Two other features to consider are whether the account includes paper checks and if it offers any rewards. These perks are a bit secondary to the above list, but they can make the banking experience that much better and give one account an edge over another. 

Best student checking accounts

Here’s our list of the best checking accounts for students, ranked based on their student benefits, fee structure, extra features and accessibility. 

1. PNC Bank Virtual Wallet Student

Monthly fee: $0

Minimum deposit: $0 ($25 if opened in branch)

Earns interest: Yes

Available to international students: Yes

The Virtual Wallet Student from PNC Bank is a great way for students to manage their money and build financial skills through its three accounts rolled into one package:  

  • Spend: The main checking account
  • Reserve: A checking account that earns 0.01% APY
  • Growth: A savings account that earns 0.01% APY, with the chance to earn slightly higher Relationship Rates by meeting transaction requirements

Students don’t need to worry about a monthly fee for six years after account opening, as long as they provide proof of enrollment in a qualifying institution. Once those six years are up, the account will convert to a Virtual Wallet account, which does charge a monthly fee, though it is waivable.

Virtual Wallet Student is accessible through the linked PNC Bank Visa® debit card, online and in the bank’s mobile app. It’s best to limit your ATM usage to PNC Bank machines, as you’ll face a $3 fee for using an out-of-network domestic ATM and a $5 fee for international ATM usage. However, the bank will reimburse you for the first two fees for non-PNC ATM usage (domestic and international), as well as up to $5 for third-party ATM fees per statement period. 

Overdrafts at PNC Bank are tricky, so students should keep an eye on their account balance before spending. The bank will generally decline transactions that would overdraw your account, although that may result in a $36 returned item fee. You can authorize the bank to cover your overdrafts, which results in a $36 overdraft fee per overdraft item. If you slip up once, PNC offers one fee refund on your first returned item or overdraft item, but it’s best to not make it a habit. One way to avoid these fees is by setting up the Reserve and Growth accounts to cover any overdrafts on the Spend account. 

Virtual Wallet Student is available to international students, who must visit a branch to apply and provide a valid passport or permanent resident card, and a valid visa or driver's license.

2. Chase College Checking & Chase High School Checking

Monthly fee: $0 (may require waiver qualification)

Minimum deposit: $0

Earns interest: No

Available to international students: Yes

Chase Bank offers two separate accounts for college and high school students, each with its own perks and features for students.

Chase College Checking is free for up to five years for college students between the ages of 17 and 24 years old with proof of student status. Once you’re no longer an eligible student, you can also waive the monthly fee by meeting certain transaction requirements; otherwise, the fee is $6 a month. If you link a Chase Savings account to your Chase College Checking account for overdraft protection, you can also waive the monthly fee on that savings account. 

Chase High School Checking is a joint account for students who are 13 to 17 years old with their adult parent or guardian. The High School Checking account must be opened in branch and linked to the adult’s eligible Chase checking account. There is no monthly fee on this account, nor is there Chase’s Standard Overdraft Practice, which allows Chase to pay for overdraft purchases. When the student turns 19, the account will convert to a Chase Total Checking account, with the adult remaining a co-owner. The student can also choose to change the account to a Chase College Checking account by visiting a banker in branch.

Included with both accounts is a debit card for purchases and access to Chase’s ATMs and branches in 38 states and the District of Columbia. The accounts can also be accessed online and via the Chase mobile app. Watch out for the $2.50 out-of-network ATM fee.

Both accounts are available to international students, who must open an account at a Chase branch with a passport with photo and the Student INS I-20 or ICE I-20 form or a passport with a photo and the DS-2019 form.

3. Capital One 360 Checking

Monthly fee: $0

Minimum deposit: $0

Earns interest: Yes

Available to international students: Yes, with Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number

Unfortunately with student checking accounts, a monthly fee applies once you’re no longer an eligible student. That’s why we recommend that students consider a regular free checking account like Capital One 360 Checking. There’s no monthly fee (no matter your student status), nor are there any minimum deposit or balance requirements. Even better, this checking account earns 0.10% APY in interest on all balances.

Capital One 360 Checking offers three types of overdraft protection that account holders can choose from: 

  • Auto-Decline: This option allows Capital One to decline transactions that would overdraw your account. 
  • Free Savings Transfer: Capital One will automatically transfer funds from your savings or money market account to cover a transaction that would overdraw your account. 
  • Next-Day Grace: This allows you a full business day to deposit the amount you’ve overdrawn back into your account before the bank charges its $35 overdraft fee. 

Capital One 360 accounts are the bank’s online offerings, although you can still access them at the bank’s branches (located in six states and the District of Columbia) and ATMs. Capital One also partners with the Allpoint ATM network to give account holders free access to even more ATMS. Plus, the bank doesn’t charge a fee when you use an out-of-network ATM, although you’ll likely face a third-party fee. 

The Capital One 360 Checking account is also accessible online and through the Capital One mobile app. Capital One 360 Checking accounts are available to lawful permanent residents who are at least 18 years old with a U.S. address and a valid Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN); if you have an ITIN, you must visit a branch or Capital One Café to open an account. 

4. Chime Spending Account

Monthly fee: $0

Minimum deposit: $0

Earns interest: No

Available to international students: Yes, if a permanent resident with a valid Social Security number

Chime doesn’t pull applicants’ ChexSystems reports, which track consumer’s bad banking events like overdrafts, making the Chime Spending Account a great option for students and others who may need a second chance at banking. There is no minimum deposit or balance requirement, nor is there a monthly fee.

Another perk of the Chime Spending Account is that it can get you your paycheck up to two days early when you use direct deposit. While most banks hold your direct deposit for an additional two days after they receive it, Chime will deposit your paycheck as soon as it receives it, which can really help out students in a pinch. 

Chime also doesn’t charge overdraft fees; if you try to make a transfer or purchase that would overdraw your account, Chime will decline the transaction. It also offers SpotMe, which is free overdraft protection for account holders who receive monthly qualifying direct deposits totaling at least $500. With SpotMe, Chime can cover up to $100 in overdrafts from purchases; SpotMe doesn’t cover ATM withdrawals or ACH transfers. The covered amount will be deducted from your account once you make your next deposit.

The Chime Spending Account comes with a Visa debit card that you can use for purchases and free withdrawals at MoneyPass and Visa Plus Alliance ATMs in the U.S. Watch out for the $2.50 fee for out-of-network ATM transactions. Also note that to deposit cash into the Spending Account, you’ll need to visit a retail location with Green Dot and ask the cashier to make the deposit. You’re limited to $1,000 per 24 hours or $10,000 per month. 

Chime is accessible online and on mobile. Although not a bank itself, Chime provides FDIC insurance through partnership with two FDIC-insured banks, Stride Bank, N.A. and The Bancorp Bank.

5. Ally Bank Interest Checking Account 

Monthly fee: $0

Minimum deposit: $0 

Earns interest: Yes

Available to international students: Yes, with a Social Security number or taxpayer identification number

Another non-student online checking account, the Ally Bank Interest Checking Account charges no monthly fee, allows for any opening deposit amount and earns interest. Its top interest rate is reserved for balances of at least $15,000, but lower balances still earn modest interest. 

As an online-only bank, Ally Bank has some great online and mobile features that students looking to manage their money on-the-go may appreciate. Its mobile app comes with Ally eCheck Deposit, which allows you to deposit checks with your smartphone camera, and you can even make transfers through Amazon Alexa with Ally Skill.

Ally Bank offers the chance to sign up for a free overdraft transfer service, where your funds in an Ally Bank online savings or money market account are used to cover any overdrafts. If you don’t sign up for overdraft transfers, any potential overdraft transactions made with your debit card will simply be declined and you won’t face a fee. However, you’ll face a declined transaction and a $25 overdraft fee for other non-debit card transactions that would overdraft your account. Still, Ally Bank will charge only one overdraft fee on your account per day, even if you make several overdraft transactions.

One downside to an Ally Bank Interest Checking Account is that it doesn’t accept cash deposits. Deposits must be made through remote check deposit, online transfers, direct deposit or by mailing a check to the bank. You can still make free cash withdrawals at any Allpoint ATM in the country. Ally Bank will also reimburse up to $10 in ATM surcharge fees per statement cycle. 

Non-U.S. citizens can open an Ally Bank account if they are a legal permanent resident of the U.S., be at least 18 years old and have a U.S. street address and a valid Social Security number or taxpayer identification number.

6. Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Banking

Monthly fee: $0 for students upon request

Minimum deposit: $25

Earns interest: No

Available to international students: Yes

A simple and safety-focused account, the Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Banking account is free (upon request) to students who are under the age of 24 and enrolled in a high school, college, university or vocational program. Once the student turns 24, graduates or is no longer an owner of the account, a $4.95 monthly fee will apply, though it is waivable. Students will need at least $25 to open this account, which is the first on our list to require a minimum deposit amount. 

Students who may need some help managing their spending may benefit from this account. The account is set to decline all overdrafts, which means that any time you try to spend more than you have in the account, Bank of America will simply decline the transaction. The bank won’t charge overdraft or non-sufficient funds (NSF) fees either, keeping your account balance further undisturbed. 

The account also comes with spending and budgeting tools to further keep you on track. Even if you lose your debit card, you can freeze it from your account and request a virtual debit card to use in the meantime. You’ll be responsible for finding in-network ATMs though, to avoid the $2.50 fee that Bank of America will charge you for using an out-of-network domestic ATM (the fee is $5 for international ATMs). Also note that the account does not come with paper checks.

International students who are legal residents will need a Social Security number to apply online. Otherwise, you will have to call the bank or visit a branch to apply. 

7. U.S. Bank Student Checking

Monthly fee: $0

Minimum deposit: $25

Earns interest: No

Available to international students: Yes, with a valid Social Security number or taxpayer identification number and ID

The U.S. Bank Student Checking account is available to students enrolled in high school, technical college, trade school or a university. If your school partners with the bank, you can enjoy campus-themed debit cards, on-campus branches and advisory services. This is another account with a minimum deposit requirement of $25. There is no monthly fee on the account, although if you receive paper statements, you’ll pay a $2 fee per statement. 

U.S. Bank offers some flexibility in ATM usage, as it won’t charge you for the first four non-U.S. Bank ATM transactions each statement cycle. After those four, U.S. Bank will charge a $2.50 fee for using an out-of-network ATM. You’ll likely also face a surcharge when using ATMs out of the U.S. Bank and MoneyPass networks. 

U.S. Bank offers a few different overdraft options. You can:

  • Allow the bank to pay overdraft ATM and debit card transactions and charge the $36 overdraft fee (applies on items over $5)
  • Have the bank decline potential ATM and debit card overdraft transactions and avoid the overdraft fee
  • Link an eligible savings account, line of credit or credit card to transfer funds to cover overdrafts

The best bet for students is to have the bank decline potential overdrafts and link an eligible savings account for overdraft transfer coverage. Declined transactions will prevent you from spending more money than you have, and linking your savings account can help cover potential overdrafts on checks, automatic payments and recurring debit card transactions. It may also be wise to steer clear of the credit transfer options, which could land you in some debt and cost $12.50 per day when a transfer of $50 or more occurs.

The U.S. Bank Student Checking account is accessible online and on the bank’s mobile app. Unfortunately, only those who live in the bank’s serviced areas, which extends to 27 states, can open an account. International students may be able to open an account if they are at least 18 years old, are legal residents and have a Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number and valid driver’s license or state ID. 

8. Radius Bank Rewards Checking

Monthly fee: $0

Minimum deposit: $100

Earns interest: Yes

Available to international students: Yes, with Social Security number

The Radius Bank Rewards Checking account is a great option not just for students, but for regular consumers as well, as long as you have at least $100 to open the account. The account earns unlimited 1% cash back when you use the Radius debit card for online and signature-based transactions. Until Dec. 30, 2020, you can earn an additional 0.50% cash back on transactions made in select merchant categories including pharmacies, restaurants and book stores.

On top of cash back rewards, the account also earns modest interest. When your balance is between $2,500 and $99,999, you’ll earn 0.10% APY; balances of $100,000 and over earn 0.15% APY. Plus, there’s no monthly fee to cut into your savings.

ATM access with Radius Bank is easy. The bank doesn’t charge a fee when you use any ATM in the world, and it will also rebate ATM surcharges from third parties. To close out its great perks, Radius Bank will deposit your direct deposit paycheck into your account as soon as it receives the funds from your employer, meaning you can have access to your paycheck up to two days earlier than usual.

For overdraft protection, you can link your Rewards Checking account to another Radius Bank account to help you cover transactions. 

International students may be able to open a Radius Bank account. To open an account, you must be a citizen or legal permanent resident of the U.S. and at least 18 years old, and have a Social Security number and a U.S. street address. 

9. Simple Checking Account

Monthly fee: $0

Minimum deposit: $0

Earns interest: Yes

Available to international students: Yes, with Social Security number and U.S. address

The Simple cash management account may appeal to students for its mobile-first approach and handy money management tools and features. For starters, you can use the Expenses tool to enter your recurring charges like monthly bills, and Simple will automatically set aside the money you need to cover those costs. Then, Simple will show you your Safe-to-Spend® balance, which is the amount you will have left over after paying your bills. 

The balance you keep in your Simple Checking Account can earn a bit of interest, though at a pretty low rate. You’ll do better to keep the funds in a Simple Protected Goals account, which earns at a more competitive rate and comes with the Simple cash management account. 

Students will also like that there are no fees for monthly service, insufficient funds, returned items, dormant accounts, incoming wire transfers and more. ATM access is also free and widespread. You won’t face any fees when you stick to Allpoint ATMs, and Simple also won’t charge you for using an out-of-network ATM. The ATM owner might charge you a fee, however, which Simple does not reimburse.

There are also no overdraft fees associated with this account. Simple will just decline ATM and everyday debit card transactions that would cause an overdraft.

This account may be available to international students who have a Social Security number and live within the country.

10. Capital One MONEY

Monthly fee: $0

Minimum deposit: $0

Earns interest: Yes

Available to international students: Yes, if a lawful permanent resident

Capital One MONEY is another teen account made for joint ownership with a parent or guardian. It’s open to any child aged 8 or over with their adult parent or guardian, who must link their own checking account (whether with Capital One or not) to the MONEY account. There is no minimum deposit required to open the account and no monthly fee. All balances earn 0.10% APY.

With the Capital One MONEY account, the teen will receive a MasterCard debit card that they can use for purchases and withdrawals from the account. You can make free withdrawals at any Capital One or Allpoint ATM. Adult account owners won’t have their own debit card, but they can easily track the teen’s activity, make transfers in and out of the account, set up text alerts and notifications and more via the Capital One app. 

The mobile app is also where you can use the MONEY account’s handy budgeting and spending features. For one, the app shows Spendable and Set Aside categories to help your teen juggle their spendable money and their savings. Adults also can reward their kids for meeting certain financial goals that you can set in the app. 

Capital One will typically refuse to process a transaction that would overdraw your MONEY account. If Capital One allows the account to be overdrawn, you must make a deposit to cover the excess immediately. If you don’t, Capital One will transfer funds from another of your Capital One accounts to cover it. 

International students may open the account if they are a lawful permanent resident with a U.S. physical address or military address. If you have an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN), you will need to visit a Capital One Café or branch to open an account. 

FAQs

What is a student bank account?

A student bank account is one that’s made specifically for student use. Typically, that means that the monthly fee is waived for students, who often have to prove enrollment in a qualifying institution. 

Student bank accounts may also have specific features that benefit students, such as free overdraft protection or budgeting tools. These features are meant to help students learn about account management and hopefully build banking skills.

Some student bank accounts are joint accounts with ownership shared by the minor student and their parent or guardian. This allows the adult to maintain some degree of control over the minor’s finances, as well as the chance to teach them money management skills.

Do you need to choose a student checking account?

Students don’t have to open a student checking account if they don’t want to. Plus, there are several accounts out there that offer better deals — earned interest, no fees, more protections — than most student bank accounts. In some cases, however, banks may make it easier for students to open a student-specific account compared with a regular account, since students may not have a record of banking history. 

How do you open a student bank account?

If you want to open a student bank account, these are the steps you will generally follow:

  1. Apply online or at a branch: You can usually apply for a student bank account on the bank’s website. Sometimes, depending on the account and the bank, you may have to visit a branch in person to open an account. This is often the case with joint accounts and for international students. 
  2. Provide your personal and contact information: This usually includes your full name, Social Security number, address and some form of ID. Many banks may also ask for proof of enrollment at a qualifying school if you’re opening a student-specific account. 

    International students will have to provide additional documentation, too. This can include a valid passport with photo, a permanent resident card, a valid visa, Student INS I-20 or ICE I-20 forms and the DS-2019 form. 

  3. Deposit money into the new account: Depending on the account, you may have to fund it right at opening. Other accounts allow you to make your opening deposit within 30 to 60 days. Pay attention to whether there is a minimum deposit requirement, as you won’t be able to open the account with an amount less than that. 

What are the pros and cons of opening a student bank account?

As mentioned above, there are both pros and cons to student bank accounts. The pros are generally as follows:

  • Waived monthly fees: Avoiding a monthly fee as a student is certainly a benefit. But watch out for when you graduate — banks are often quick to start charging you a regular account fee at that point. 
  • Features focused on students and youth: Many student bank accounts now include handy tools meant to help you manage and budget your money. These tools — as well as simply having your own account — will teach you important lessons about banking and responsible money management.
  • Option for parents to monitor student’s activity: For parents, a joint student account allows them to keep an eye on their student’s financial activity. It also gives parents a chance to impart some banking wisdom.

Meanwhile, keep the following cons in mind when deciding if a student bank account is right for you: 

  • Better accounts out there: While students will rarely have to pay a student account fee, there are regular accounts that are free regardless of enrollment status. That means you won’t have to worry about later avoiding the fee, especially when it comes close to graduation.
  • Rarely offer earned interest: Most student accounts don’t come with the added benefit of earned interest, which is an important part of banking and an important lesson for students to learn while they’re still young. If student accounts do earn interest, rates are usually low.
  • Automatically convert to regular accounts: When students no longer qualify for the waived monthly fee, banks often convert the account to a regular account that does charge a monthly fee. Students may find it hard to meet the requirements to waive this fee, especially if they’re right out of school. 

Should I get a high school bank account?

A high school bank account is certainly a helpful tool to teach high schoolers about money management. It’s important for kids to start learning good money habits from a young age. A student bank account can help high school students learn how to set up transfers, responsibly spend money and save that money, too. Some accounts even include tools to better assist students in learning these skills. 

For parents, a high school bank account is often a joint account with the student. This can be a good way to start teaching your student about money management before they go off to college and manage their money more independently. 

Should students choose a traditional versus online bank?

Students nowadays may very well gravitate toward online banks, which do offer some of the best accounts out there, although they’re not typically student-specific. Online banks are more likely to offer accounts with no monthly fees and be more transparent about the few fees they may charge. Online banks also provide competitive interest rates on their accounts more often than traditional brick-and-mortar banks. And since they’re online-only, online banks are basically guaranteed to offer some of the best online and mobile experiences. 

That’s not to say that traditional banks don’t offer solid mobile and online banking experiences; many of the big banks have the money to put behind great apps. Plus, brick-and-mortar banks offer physical access to your accounts and money with branches and ATMs, if that’s something students want in a bank. However, while online banks may not have branches, they still do partner with widespread ATM networks so customers can access their cash across the country. 

Should students choose a bank or credit union?

The choice between a bank versus a credit union may come down to personal preference. 

With a credit union, you’re a member and a shareholder in the institution, which means you get a say in much of the credit union’s decision-making processes. Further, credit union membership is based on common ground between members, whether that’s determined by employers, family members, parishes, geographic location or a mix of the above. In that sense, credit unions may offer a more tangible sense of community. 

This kind of experience can also be recreated at a local bank, although a local bank’s physical reach may not suit customers like college students who may often travel between states. In that regard, a more traditional, national bank may be the better pick. Still, many credit unions are able to offer nationwide branch and ATM access through the CO-OP Shared Network, which allows members to access their accounts at other credit unions as long as they’re within the network. 

Fees mentioned in the article are accurate as of the date of publishing. 

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