Should You Open a Student Checking Account?

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If you've outgrown the bank account your parents opened for you (or you're a student exploring new banking options), comparing student accounts could be a good next step.

Student checking accounts may offer a wide range of benefits, such as low fees, no minimum balance requirement and the ability to connect your checking account to your campus ID card. Read on to find out how student accounts differ from regular bank accounts and whether opening one is worthwhile.

What Is a Student Checking Account?

A student checking account is a checking account that offers special benefits to students who are attending high school, college or a vocational school. In some cases, student account benefits may be restricted to account holders 17 to 24 years of age.

Compared with child and teen accounts, a student account is a step toward financial independence. That's because these accounts don't require an adult co-owner like a child or teen checking account does (as long as you're over the legal age for your state). This can give you greater flexibility and privacy to manage your cash how you want.

What Are the Benefits of a Student Checking Account?

Student checking accounts can offer multiple perks for people who meet the requirements, including:

  • No maintenance fee: Checking accounts for students may have no monthly maintenance fees, which is one less expense to worry about when you're on a tight college budget.
  • New member bonuses: Account issuers may offer a cash bonus when you sign up, and that money could come in handy if you need some extra cash for books or school equipment.
  • Campus banking options: You may be able to connect the checking account to your student ID for easier transactions. Debit cards with school branding may also be available.
  • Low deposit requirement: A low deposit may be necessary to open a student account, but you may not need to maintain a certain balance or direct deposit to keep the account open.
  • Mobile banking and peer-to-peer (P2P) transfers: Like many other bank accounts, student checking accounts may come with mobile banking features. Accounts may also come with P2P transfer capabilities that let you send and receive money.
  • Savings accounts: You might have the option to connect your checking account to a savings account to save for bigger-ticket items like a car or a deposit on an apartment. You may also be able to set up overdraft protection that makes an automatic transfer from checking to savings if the cost of a purchase exceeds the balance of your account. This could help you avoid costly overdraft fees.
  • Waived ATM fees: This perk saves you from fees if you use an in-network ATM. In some cases, banks may also waive their fee the first few times you use an out-of-network ATM.
  • Zero fraud liability protection: You may not be held liable for unauthorized card transactions as long as you report them right away.

Is It Worth Getting a Student Bank Account?

There's not much downside to opening up a student bank account, but student bank accounts have some stiff competition, particularly from online-only bank accounts. Some online accounts also have mobile features, no monthly fees and no monthly balance requirement, so it makes sense to compare student accounts to other options before signing up.

Special freebies and perks, such as a new member bonus and snazzy card design, may be enticing—but that alone shouldn't sway you to open one account over another. It's important to dig into the fees and terms to make sure that it's the right account for your lifestyle.

One factor to consider is how you plan on using the account. For example, if you plan to use cash often—perhaps you live in a city or town where most restaurants, shops and food trucks accept cash only—the better bank for your lifestyle may be one that has many ATM locations near you so you can avoid out-of-network ATM fees when you withdraw cash.

Other features to compare are the capabilities of the mobile platform. For example, having a feature like card lock can help you protect your cash if your card is lost or stolen. Email or text spending alerts and other digital tools can also help you better budget your money throughout the semester.

The Bottom Line

If you decide to sign up for a student checking account, the process of signing up is similar to any other checking account. You'll need to complete an application, which may ask for your Social Security number and address. You may also need to show government ID to identify yourself and other documentation to prove you're a student.

Choosing the right bank account is just one of many financial decisions you might need to make while in school. To read more financial advice on topics like how to pay for school and how to build good credit in college, visit the Experian blog.