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Entering adulthood means taking on the responsibility for many of your own financial decisions. As you reach your college years, financial maturity might include opening your own bank account, especially if you want to simplify receiving student loan money. While you can get a traditional checking account, a student checking account can grant you access to some student-centric perks and significantly lower fees and penalties.
Benefits of a Student Checking Account
Beyond the regular benefits of checking accounts, student accounts come with special perks exclusive to students. To be eligible, you typically must prove you're attending college or a vocational school and be in the bank's required age range.
These are some of the benefits usually available to those who meet account requirements:
- Build independence: Compared with bank accounts shared with or controlled by your parents, a student account is a step toward financial independence. They don't require an adult co-owner (as long as you're over your state's legal age), which can give you greater flexibility and privacy.
- No maintenance fee: Checking accounts for students may waive 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, which could come in handy if you need some extra cash for books or school equipment.
- Campus banking options: If your bank partners with your school, 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 starting 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 like convenient apps or P2P transfer capabilities, including Zelle, that let you send and receive money immediately.
- 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.
- Additional perks: Some banks and credit unions offer additional benefits, such as free credit scores, rewards programs and overdraft forgiveness.
Find Checking Accounts
Is It Worth It to Open a Student Bank Account?
There's not much downside to opening a student bank account: They reduce fees while providing benefits as you start managing money yourself. At the same time, you'll want to ensure the account has adequate access and convenience for your location.
Something to consider is how important it is for you to be near a bank branch you can go into for help. If this ranks highly on your list of banking priorities, then look for student accounts with banks or credit unions with branches on or near your campus. The same goes for ATMs: If you plan to withdraw cash often, find a bank with many ATM locations near you to avoid out-of-network fees (unless your bank reimburses ATM fees).
Additionally, some of the benefits may only be available if the bank has a partnership with your school. For example, some banks have programs with participating schools that allow your student ID to double as your ATM card. If your school isn't participating, that account may not have as much benefit to you, so don't forget to check the fine print.
How to Open a Student Checking Account
Opening a student checking account is usually a straightforward process:
- Choose a financial institution. First, do some research to decide where to open your student checking account. There are loads of options, from online-only banks to credit unions or banks with branches on your campus. Benefits and fees can run the gamut too; you may want to look for mobile features, no monthly fees and no monthly balance requirement. Compare checking accounts for students to choose the one with the most convenience and best features and fees for you.
- Open the account. You can visit a branch in-person to open a checking account, though many financial institutions allow you to open accounts online. You'll only need to bring a parent if you're a minor and are required to have a joint account with an adult. Make sure to bring or have available a form of government ID, and you might need proof you're a current student. Be prepared to provide some personal details, like your birthdate and Social Security number. You'll also need to provide an opening deposit, typically around $25.
- Receive your card. Once the account is open, you'll receive a debit card either on the spot or via mail soon after. You could also receive a checkbook, though you might have to request one. Make sure to read the account information to familiarize yourself with your fees and benefits so you don't accidentally get dinged with penalties or miss out on valuable perks. You may want to link your checking account to your savings account, if you have one, or with your parents' account if they plan to help you with expenses.
What Happens to a Student Checking Account After Graduation?
When you age out of your student checking account, usually at age 25, most banks automatically convert it to a standard checking account. This is convenient since you don't have to do anything and can keep banking with the same place.
The downside: You'll likely lose the benefits that came with your student account, such as no monthly maintenance fee or forgiven overdraft fees. As you approach this switchover, it's a good idea to review the bank's traditional checking account details online, or if there are multiple options, contact your bank to learn which type of account yours will become. Closely read the terms, benefits and fee schedule so you understand how the account will differ.
If you don't like what you see, you can always switch to a bank account elsewhere. In other words, if you discover your bank will start charging a $10 monthly maintenance fee, you could look for other financial institutions with standard checking accounts that don't charge these fees.
The Bottom Line
Having a student checking account can be a helpful way to manage your money, stick to a budget and easily receive funds from student loans or loved ones. If you're 18 or older and thinking about opening a new checking account, the Experian Smart Money™ Digital Checking Account & Debit Card can help you build credit without debt by automatically linking to Experian Boost®ø, which gives you credit for eligible bill payments. You will also pay no monthly fees¶ for Experian Smart Money, have access to more than 55,000 fee-free ATMs worldwide** and could receive your paychecks up to two days early when you enroll in direct deposit†. You can get an Experian Smart Money Account through a free or paid Experian membership, which also gives you access to your FICO® Score☉ , Experian credit report and more. See terms at experian.com/legal.