Top Student Accounts

Data Updated: 5/1/2022

Data in this table does not include all banks or available bank products, and may differ from offers listed elsewhere.

Pros and Cons of Student Bank Accounts

The pros and cons of any student bank account can vary depending on your needs. With that in mind, here are some benefits of selected student bank accounts that might be a good fit for you.

Best for No Overdraft Fees

Advantage SafeBalance Banking from Bank of America

This account, for students who are 24 or younger and enrolled in high school or a college, university or vocational program, charges no overdraft fees or nonsufficient funds fees.

Pros

  • No monthly service fee
  • Minimum opening deposit of $25

Cons

  • $2.50 fee for using non-Bank of America ATMs
  • No check writing

Clear Access Banking from Wells Fargo

Clear Access Banking from Wells Fargo, available for customers ages 13 to 24, charges no overdraft or NSF fees.

Pros

  • No monthly service fee
  • Minimum opening deposit of $25

Cons

  • $2.50 fee for using non-Wells Fargo ATMs
  • No check writing

Best for Campus ID ATM Card

Everyday Checking from Wells Fargo

Everyday Checking from Wells Fargo is available with no monthly fee when the account owner is 17 to 24. Wells Fargo has partnered with nearly 30 colleges to offer an "all-in-one" school-issued campus ID and ATM card. The card can be used for campus services, such as meal plans or library access, as well as banking.

Pros

  • No monthly service fee
  • Minimum opening deposit of $25

Cons

  • $2.50 fee for using non-Wells Fargo ATMs
  • $35 overdraft fee, up to three per day

Student Checking from U.S. Bank

High school and postsecondary students get a break on monthly fees and ATM fees with Student Checking from U.S. Bank. Student Checking customers are charged no fees for their first four non-U.S. Bank ATM transactions each month. At colleges in 16 states, you can link your student ID to a U.S. Bank Student Checking account.

Pros

  • No monthly service fee
  • Minimum opening deposit of $25
  • Four non-U.S. Bank ATM transactions per month with no fee

Cons

  • $36 overdraft fee, up to four per day

Best for ATM Rebates

Free Campus Checking from Navy Federal Credit Union

Free Campus Checking from Navy Federal, for students 14 to 24, reimburses up to $10 a month for ATM fees charged by out-of-network ATMs. As part of the Co-op network, Navy Federal offers customers access to more than 30,000 fee-free ATMs.

Pros

  • No monthly service fee
  • No minimum balance
  • Free checks

Cons

  • $20 overdraft fee, up to three per day
  • You must be a Navy Federal member or the child of a member to be eligible for this account. Membership is limited to current or former members of the armed forces and their families and Department of Defense employees.

Virtual Wallet Student by PNC Bank

Students qualify for PNC's Virtual Wallet Student for six years from the time of the account opening and may be required to show proof of enrollment. Benefits are twofold for use of non-PNC ATMs: two reimbursements per month of the $3 PNC fee and up to $5 per month in rebates of other banks' ATM fees.

Pros

  • No monthly service fee
  • $25 minimum opening deposit

Cons

  • $36 overdraft fee, maximum of one per day

A student bank account is a checking or savings account that a bank, credit union or other financial institution offers to students. Student accounts may have reduced fees and special features designed to meet students' financial needs.

A checking or savings account can be a safe and convenient place to deposit money, including financial aid, that you don't intend to spend right away. With a savings account, you can earn interest on your deposits. With a checking account, you can write checks, use a debit card to make purchases and use ATMs to deposit or withdraw cash or deposit checks.

Most checking and savings accounts offer online banking and a mobile app. These features let you use an internet-enabled computer, laptop or mobile device to check your account balances, deposit checks remotely, make payments and send money to other people.

If you have a checking account anda savings account, you can link the two accounts through your bank and transfer funds electronically from one account to the other.

Some banks have affiliate relationships with colleges, universities and other schools. These relationships allow those banks special access to market their student accounts and other financial products to the school's students.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advises students to choose a bank account as soon as possible and preferably before starting school.

"Once you have a bank account, sign up for direct deposit with your school before classes start," the CFPB suggests. "If you're expecting money from your financial aid office, you'll often get it faster this way. It can be weeks before the school gets to writing you a paper check."

To choose a bank account, think about which features you need and compare at least a few accounts from different banks both on and off campus.

Student checking account features to shop for include:

  • A low or no monthly account maintenance fee
  • A low or no minimum balance requirement
  • A higher rate paid on deposits
  • Branches located on or near your campus
  • Branches located near where you plan to live or work while you're in school
  • Easy-to-use online banking
  • A full-featured mobile banking app
  • A free first box of paper checks

You don't necessarily need to limit your options to banks and credit unions that have ATMs on or near your campus. That's because many banks and credit unions are part of ATM networks or will reimburse some or all of the fees that you might be charged to use other banks' ATMs.

It's smart to shop for a checking account with low or no overdraft protection fees, but keep in mind that you can also avoid these fees entirely by not signing up for overdraft protection.

A good bank account for students shouldn't charge fees and should be with a local bank or credit union that understands what local students want, says Adam Marlowe, principal experience officer at Georgia's Own Credit Union in Atlanta. He adds that some schools offer discounts, tickets, cheaper books or other perks to students who use a card from an affiliated bank on campus.

The CFPB says very few accounts charge no fees of any kind, so you should dig deeper into the fine print if a student account is marketed as "free" or "easy." Some banks will waive fees for students, so an account that normally charges fees could be free for you as long as you're in school. Once you graduate, the fees will kick in, however.

Reading the fine print for a bank account might seem like additional homework that you don't want to do. Still, it's smart to read the disclosure statements that will come with your new account. These legal documents explain how your account works, what the rules are and what fees you might be charged.

"Disclosure statements contain the critical information you need to make an informed decision about which financial institution and its products and services are right for you," says MyCreditUnion.gov, a website operated by the National Credit Union Administration.

You can open a student bank account in person at a branch, over the phone or online.

To open an account, you'll probably need to provide the following:

  • Name, birthdate and address.
  • Identification number, which could be your Social Security number, Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, passport number and country of issuance, alien identification card number or other government-issued identification number.
  • Government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, U.S. passport or U.S. military identification. Some banks and credit unions will accept a foreign passport or consular ID as identification.
  • Initial deposit. The required minimum might be as little as $25. If you open an account in person, you may be allowed to use cash, check, debit card or credit card for your initial deposit. If you open an account online or on the phone, your options might be limited to debit or credit cards.
  • If you're not yet 18 years old, you'll need a parent or other adult to open an account with you.

When you open a checking account, you'll have a choice to opt in or opt out of overdraft coverage. If you opt in and you withdraw or spend more money than you have in your account, your bank will cover the shortage. You will have to repay that amount, plus an overdraft fee. If you opt out, your bank won't process any transaction for more than what's in your account.

Overdraft coverage ensures that your checks and other payments will be processed, but overdrafts can result in hefty fees – typically $30 or more for each instance.A better strategy is to keep track of your account balance and your monthly bills and not spend money you don't have.

How to Monitor Your Account

After you open your account, you should decide how you will keep track of your balance.

One way is to monitor your monthly statements. Some banks offer e-statements, which you'll receive electronically as an alternative to the paper statements you'll receive in the mail. Some banks charge a monthly fee for paper statements.

Another way to monitor your balance is to set up an automated alert that will regularly send you an email or text message of your balance or when your balance drops to a certain amount that you specify. If your bank offers this feature, you normally can set it up online or with the bank's mobile app.

The answer is no. But a bank that offers student accounts might be a good choice because these accounts are designed for students and may have lower fees that could save you money. But if you find a bank account you like that isn't a student account, there's no reason you can't choose that account if you meet that bank's requirements to open it. There are nonstudent bank accounts that offer plenty of features and low fees and are just as attractive in many ways as student accounts.

When you shop for a bank account, finding one with the features you want, locations that are convenient and low or no fees should be more important than finding an account that's specifically marketed to students.

You should never be required to use a specific bank just because it's affiliated with your school. "Just because a bank, credit union or other account provider pays your college for the right to market an account with your college's mascot, logo or name, it doesn't always mean that it's the best deal for you," the CFPB says.

If you plan to do a lot of banking in person, an affiliated bank might be more convenient for you than a bank that doesn't have a strong presence on or near your campus. But if you're more likely to use online banking or your bank's mobile app most of the time, branch locations might not be as important to you as other account features or bank services.

Fees should be a consideration as well. An unpublished CFPB analysis from 2018 found that at most colleges, a majority of students didn't pay any fees for an account with an affiliated bank. But for those students who paid affiliated-bank fees, the amounts added up.

"The bureau reviewed 573 colleges across the country with marketing agreements with banks. It found that 1.3 million students attending these colleges had open and active accounts with their colleges' account providers. Students using accounts at these schools paid more than $27 million in fees during the 2016-2017 academic year, including overdraft and penalty charges," CNBC reported.

The analysis found one large national bank charged students an average of almost $47 per year in fees.

Marlowe says using an affiliated bank or credit union "shows off support for the university," but caution and research are paramount.

"Oftentimes (students) trade other features and options from a traditional account because of the affinity. It ultimately comes down to what works best for the individual," he says.

The bottom line is that your decision to use or not use an affiliated bank might come down to what's more important to you: showing your school spirit or finding the best bank for your needs.

Student bank accounts aren't only for college students. In fact, high schoolers can also open student accounts jointly with a parent. Accounts for these younger students are sometimes called teen accounts or youth accounts.

"High school students are highly encouraged to seek an account that is joint with a parent so they can begin to learn the process of managing money. This will be super helpful as they enter their college years and no longer have the daily support from their parents," says Marlowe.

A youth or teen checking or savings account can be part of a young person's financial literacy training, says Military Onesource, a government-run resource for military families.

The website offers these tips for parents to teach their teenagers about money:

  • Share aspects of your monthly income and expenses to illustrate basic living costs and how to prioritize needs versus wants.
  • Help your teen open a bank account. Teach your teen how to use a debit card responsibly and use online banking to monitor the account balance.
  • Review monthly bank statements together to identify your teen's spending patterns and discuss money management techniques.
  • Show your teen the value of saving for wants and goals.
  • Teach your teen to research products and make cost comparisons.
  • Give your teen small financial responsibilities to create smart spending habits.
  • Teach your teen about the rewards and dangers of credit cards and advantages of building good credit.

A bank is a for-profit financial company, and a credit union is a nonprofit cooperative that's owned by its members. Both offer deposit accounts, credit cards, auto loans, mortgages and other financial products and services, and deposits are insured at both. Here are some pros and cons for banks vs. credit unions:

Bank Pros

  • You don't need to qualify for membership or pay a membership fee.
  • National or large regional banks have a lot of branches and ATMs.
  • Bank mobile apps generally are more robust.

Bank Cons

  • Banks typically charge more – and higher – fees.
  • Banks usually offer lower interest rates on deposits.

Credit Union Pros

  • Credit unions generally have fewer fees.
  • They also typically offer higher interest rates on deposits.
  • Credit unions have a reputation for better customer service.

Credit Union Cons

  • You have to meet membership criteria and/or pay a membership fee.
  • Credit unions usually have fewer branches and ATMs than banks (though some credit unions belong to nationwide networks).

What is the Difference Between a Traditional Bank vs. Online Bank for Students?

Students can find good checking and savings accounts at both traditional banks and online-only banks.

  • Traditional banks offer both physical branch locations and online banking services. A branch location where you can walk in and talk face-to-face with someone can be helpful if you're new to banking, have questions about your accounts, need help with banking services or need to deposit cash into your account. Traditional banks usually offer their own ATMs with no additional fees.
  • Online banks tend to pay higher interest rates for deposits and allow a lower minimum balance. These banks don't have physical branch locations, so if you need help, you'll have to contact your bank by phone or email. Online-only banks typically don't have their own ATMs, but may be part of an ATM network or reimburse other banks' ATM fees.

You can have accounts at more than one bank, such as a checking account at a traditional bank and a savings account at an online one. If you need to transfer funds between accounts at different banks, the process to link them will be a bit more complicated than it would be if the accounts were at the same bank.

What Happens to a Student Bank Account When You Graduate?

The short answer to this question is that your account probably will convert to a standard checking account. But when this happens depends on your bank's rules.

With some banks, student accounts can last a limited number of years – four to six, perhaps. Other accounts are dependent on the account holder's age – up to, say, 24. And with some, a student gives the bank an estimated graduation date to mark the end of student account status.

When your student account converts to a standard account, check your bank's rules so you can avoid being hit with a monthly service fee. Many banks will waive the fee if you maintain a minimum balance or have regular direct deposits. If your bank's standard checking account comes with too many fees that are difficult to avoid, consider changing banks. There are many options for free checking.

ACH. Automated clearing house, an electronic network for fund transfers such as bill payments and payroll direct deposit.

APY. Annual percentage yield, the effective annual rate of return taking into account the effect of compounding interest.

Check clearing. The process of the funds in a check becoming available for the payee to use. When the funds are fully available, the check is said to have "cleared."

Checking account. A deposit account that allows withdrawals by writing a check or with a debit card.

Credit union. A nonprofit and tax-exempt savings and lending cooperative organization that's owned by its members, who vote for the board of directors that oversees management.

Custodial account. A savings account that's controlled by an adult for a minor. State laws usually define a minor as anyone who is younger than 18, but laws vary from state to state.

Direct deposit. A transfer of funds directly to a recipient's deposit account without the need to deposit a paper check and wait for it to clear.

Deposit insurance. A financial product that protects depositors from losses if a bank or credit union where they have deposited money fails. Most deposit insurance is provided by the federal government or a state government agency.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. A federal government agency that insures deposits at FDIC-insured banks.

National Credit Union Administration. A federal government agency that regulates federally chartered credit unions and insures their deposits.

Online-only bank. A bank that offers services and customer support only online, with no branches.

Overdraft. A transaction in which a bank allows a customer to withdraw more money than is in an account. The bank covers the shortfall, which the customer must repay, usually with a fee.

Savings account. A deposit account at a bank or other financial institution. Savings accounts may limit the number of withdrawals per month, charge fees and pay interest on the account balance. Savings accounts typically don't include check-writing.

Student bank account. A checking account that's marketed to college students.

Youth bank account. A checking account that's intended for teenagers.