Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.
Updated on Wednesday, September 23, 2020
We know that checking accounts aren’t one-size-fits-all, especially for students. To make your search easier, we found the best checking accounts for students in various categories, so you can find an account with the features that are most important to you — including ATM access, overdraft protection, rewards, international student access, widespread branch access and accounts for parents. We also chose a top student account overall, which offers the best of each category.
To find these top student accounts, MagnifyMoney experts looked at dozens of student checking accounts and regular accounts. We weighed an account’s monthly fee structure, ATM access, overdraft protections and general accessibility. For further peace of mind, we ensured each bank below provides deposit insurance from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
This page is updated regularly to provide the most recent information.
Best student checking accounts
We rounded up the best student checking accounts based on a range of banking needs, whether it’s easy access to ATMs, cashback rewards or overdraft protection you’re after.
- What to look for in a student checking account
- Best student checking accounts
- Banking terms that students should know
What to look for in a student checking account
A student checking account needs to fit a student’s lifestyle. An account with low balance requirements and little to no fees is ideal, but today’s students also need the ease of banking on-the-go, making it all the more important that mobile apps and online features are offered.
Here are a few things to look for when finding the best student checking account for you:
- Fees: Look for an account with little to no fees. A free checking account is best — that way you don’t have to worry about any charges, and can focus more on money management.
- ATM access: Even in today’s tech-first world, we all need cash sometimes. Look for an account with widespread — and ideally — free ATM access. Even better, check whether a bank offers reimbursement for third-party ATM charges.
- Mobile app: Most banks nowadays offer a mobile app, but look for the features offered on the app, like mobile check deposit, and take a look at its rating on app stores.
- Overdraft protection: Look for free overdraft protection, which will cover you in case you try to pull more money from your account than you have. This will keep your money in your pocket, instead of adding to your bank’s revenue.
The above factors are all important in making your choice, but there are a couple extras that could make or break your decision. Free checks could be a handy feature, for example, while the offer of a cash bonus or ongoing rewards is also worth considering when making your choice.
Best student checking account overall
Capital One 360 Checking Account
- $0 monthly fee
- No minimum balance requirement
- Earns interest
- Mobile app with mobile deposit
- Locations in six states and D.C.
Students need a low-cost and accessible checking account. The Capital One 360 Checking Account is just that — a free, online checking account that you can easily access on the bank’s mobile app, as well as at branches and ATMs. Plus, since this is a regular account, you can keep this account without having to change a thing once you’re no longer a student, unlike student checking accounts that revert to a regular account with a monthly fee.
The Capital One 360 Checking Account doesn’t have a minimum deposit requirement, which means you can open the account with any amount. There’s also no minimum balance required to keep the account open or to earn interest. All balances earn a modest 0.10% APY.
The account comes with a contactless debit Mastercard that you can use to make free withdrawals at any ATM, including Capital One’s ATMs and those in the Allpoint network. However, you may face a third-party surcharge for using an ATM that is not in those networks — note that Capital One locations are limited to the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Virginia.
Capital One also offers free overdraft protection options, including:
- Auto-Decline: This prevents transactions that would overdraw your account from going through. It not only prevents you from overspending, but also allows you to avoid an overdraft fee.
- Free Savings Transfer: This covers your purchases by transferring money from your savings or money market account.
- Next Day Grace: When you opt in, this gives you a full business day to replace the overdraft amount before the bank charges the $35 overdraft fee.
This account can be opened jointly.
Best student checking account for ATM access
Ally Bank Interest Checking Account
- Widespread free ATM access
- ATM fee rebates
- No monthly fee
- Earns interest on all balances
- No cash deposits
Even without branches, Ally Bank offers notably widespread access to ATMs. You can use your Interest Checking Account debit card to withdraw cash from over 40,000 Allpoint ATMs in the U.S. at no cost. If you use an out-of-network ATM and are charged a fee, Ally Bank will reimburse you up to $10 per statement cycle.
A downside of this account is that you cannot deposit cash. Still, the Ally Interest Checking Account is easily accessible both online and on mobile apps, which allow for Ally eCheck Deposit. You can even transfer money via Ally Skill™ on an Amazon Alexa device.
The Interest Checking Account is free to own. Overdraft protection is offered at no cost by linking the checking account to an Ally Bank savings or money market account. In addition, there are no fees for incoming wire transfers and official or cashier’s checks. Ally Bank is upfront about the fees you might face, like those for returned deposit items, overdraft items and outgoing domestic wire transfers.
Avoid these fees, and your money can earn interest uninterrupted: Accounts with a balance of less than $15,000 earn 0.10% APY, while accounts with a balance of $15,000 or higher earn 0.25% APY.
Best student checking account for overdraft protection
Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Banking
- Prevents overdrafts and overdraft fees
- Monthly fee waived for students
- Spending and budgeting tools
- No paper checks
- Doesn’t earn interest
Bank of America’s Advantage SafeBalance Banking account keeps your balance safe (see what they did there?) by avoiding overdrafts altogether. The account does not offer overdraft protection services; rather, it declines all transactions that would overdraw the account. This allows you to avoid overdraft fees and nonsufficient funds (NSF) fees. However, you may still face a fee from the merchant if your payment bounces back.
Select students can get a better deal on the Advantage SafeBalance Banking account by requesting to have the monthly fee waived. Eligible students are those who are under 24 years of age and enrolled in a high school, college, university or vocational program. With the exception of high school students, you may have to provide proof of enrollment. Once you’re no longer an eligible student, you can waive the account’s $4.95 fee by enrolling in Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program.
This account does not earn interest, nor does it come with paper checks. However, you can still deposit checks into the account via remote check deposit on Bank of America’s Mobile Banking app, at a branch or at an ATM. The bank’s mobile app also includes the ability to lock and unlock your debit card if you lose it, and it provides a digital debit card in the meantime.
For physical access to your cash, Bank of America has locations in 37 states and the District of Columbia. It’s best to stick to Bank of America ATMs, though, because out-of-network ATM transactions will cost $2.50 ($5 when outside of the U.S.), plus any fees charged by the ATM operator.
Parents, you can open this account jointly with your child.
Best student checking account for rewards
Radius Bank Rewards Checking
- 1% cashback rewards (up to 1.50% for a limited time. Terms & Conditions apply.)
- Earns interest
- No monthly fee
- Unlimited ATM rebates
- Early direct deposit paycheck
The Radius Bank Rewards Checking account may not be a student-specific account, but its double rewards are too good to pass up. For starters, you can earn unlimited 1% cashback on online and signature-based transactions made with the linked Radius debit card. Until Dec. 30, 2020, you can also earn an extra 0.50% cash back on transactions made in certain merchant categories, including pharmacies, medical services, grocery stores, restaurants and more.
In addition to cashback, Rewards Checking account balances of at least $2,500 earn 0.10% APY, while balances of at least $100,000 earn 0.15% APY.
The account’s perks don’t stop there, though. There’s no monthly fee, and you can access any ATM worldwide for free. Radius Bank even offers unlimited rebates on third-party ATM surcharges. Plus, if you set up your paycheck to direct deposit into the account, you can access it up to two days earlier, as Radius Bank will deposit the check as soon as it receives it instead of waiting for the funds to process.
Best student checking account for international students
PNC Bank Virtual Wallet Student
- International students can open accounts (in branch)
- Interpretation services & bilingual bankers (in select branches)
- No monthly fee
- ATM fee reimbursements
- Limited geographical reach
International students can take advantage of PNC Bank’s Virtual Wallet Student by applying at a PNC branch with a valid passport or permanent resident card and a valid visa or driver’s license — that being said, PNC Bank only has branches in 22 states and the District of Columbia. Still, PNC Bank boasts customer service with interpretation services in over 240 languages, bilingual employees at select branches, ATMs featuring 10 non-English languages and online financial education services for Spanish-speaking customers.
In terms of international access, PNC Bank will reimburse the first two non-PNC Bank ATM transactions per statement period, whether international or domestic. The bank also allows one free incoming domestic or international wire transfer per statement cycle.
Virtual Wallet Student is technically three accounts in one:
- Spend: A non-interest-bearing checking account for your everyday spending needs
- Reserve: An interest-bearing checking account at 0.01% APY meant for short-term savings
- Growth: An interest-bearing student savings account at 0.01% APY meant for longer-term savings
Students can take advantage of this account package for free for six years, at which point the account converts to a regular Virtual Wallet. Students may have to provide proof of enrollment in a qualifying educational institution.
In addition to branch access, account holders can access Virtual Wallet Student online and through PNC Bank’s mobile app. The app allows for mobile check deposit, as long as you have a camera on your device.
Best student checking account for branch access
Chase College Checking & Chase High School Checking
- Branches in 38 states and D.C.
- No monthly fee (may require qualification)
- No overdraft protection on High School Checking
With branches in 38 states and the District of Columbia, Chase Bank is among the most physically accessible for customers. This is especially handy for college students, who may be hopping from state to state several times a year. Chase can even help you find a compatible international ATM if you have a Chase Visa® Check card or a Chase ATM card.
The Chase College Checking account is for college students who are 17 to 24 years old and have proof of their student status. The account is free for five years while the student is in college; it’s also free if, per statement cycle, you make a direct deposit into the account or maintain an average daily balance of at least $5,000 (otherwise, there is a $6 monthly fee). You can get overdraft protection by linking a Chase Savings account to your Chase College Checking account, which will also waive the monthly service fee on the savings account.
The Chase High School Checking account is a joint account for students 13 to 17 years old and their parents or guardians, which must be linked to the adult’s qualifying personal checking account. Once the student becomes eligible, they can convert the account to Chase College Checking; otherwise, the Chase High School Checking account will automatically convert to Chase Total Checking once the student turns 19 (the adult co-owner will remain on the account unless removed). Chase High School Checking does not include Chase Standard Overdraft Practice, where, for a fee, the bank may pay for overdraft transactions.
Both student checking accounts come with a debit card. They’re also both easily accessible online and through the Chase mobile app, which includes mobile check deposit. For adults on the Chase High School Checking account, you can set up text and app notifications to stay on top of your teen’s account activity.
Best student checking account for parents
Capital One MONEY
- Joint ownership between parent and child
- No monthly fee
- No minimum balance requirements
- Earns interest
The Capital One MONEY account is a joint account designed for teens and their parents or legal guardians, although kids aged eight and older can be a joint owner on the account. The adult owner of the account must have a personal deposit account with Capital One or a personal checking account at another U.S. bank to link to the MONEY account. Once the minor account owner turns 18, they can choose to open a 360 Checking account.
The MONEY teen checking account is free to own and doesn’t have any minimum balance requirements. The account focuses on teaching teens responsible money management skills through features available on the Capital One mobile app. This includes Spendable and Set Aside categories to help separate funds for spending and saving, and the ability to set up specific savings goals. Plus, the account earns 0.10% APY, showing your teen the value of an interest-bearing account.
For parents, the account provides text alerts and app notifications to help you keep track of your teen’s spending and the account’s balance. Parents can also take money out of the account, view transactions and set up allowances and transfers from their linked account. The account comes with only one debit card, meant for the teen.
There are very few fees associated with the MONEY teen account, and the ones you might run into are rare, such as those for statement copies, expedited card delivery and cashier’s checks.
A student bank account is one specially made for students. Student checking accounts typically offer the benefit of a waived monthly service fee for students (often with proof of school enrollment). Others provide better protections suited for younger users, like free overdraft protection and avoidance of overdraft fees.
Many student checking accounts nowadays also ensure easy mobile and online access, as well as online and/or mobile budgeting and spending features.
Students aren’t limited to student-specific bank accounts. In fact, students can open regular accounts that are often more fee-free than student accounts, as you can see in some of our picks above.
Students can also look into opening a joint account with their parent or guardian. This can help the student to get acclimated to the world of banking, while also offering the parent or guardian the chance to keep an eye on their student’s banking behavior.
- Head to the bank’s website or visit a bank branch. Starting the process of opening a new student bank account is usually as simple as clicking the “Open Account” button on the account’s webpage. International students will likely have to visit the bank’s branch to open an account.
- Provide personal and contact information. When opening a bank account, you typically will have to give your full name, Social Security number, email address and/or phone number and some sort of government-issued ID. To open a student-specific account, you’ll also likely need to provide proof of enrollment at a qualifying school.International students opening an account may be asked to provide additional documentation and information. For example, our best checking account for international students, PNC Virtual Wallet Student, requires a valid passport or permanent resident card and a valid visa or driver’s license to open an account. As another example, Chase requires non-U.S. students to provide a passport with a photo and either the I-20 form or DS-2019 form, as well as a residential address, proof of student status and expected graduation date when opening an account.
- Fund the new account. Depending on the account’s requirements, you may need to fund your new student checking account when you open it or soon after. You can typically fund a new account by linking another bank account and setting up a transfer, depositing a check or depositing cash.
- More control over your money
- Avoid monthly fees
- Converts to regular fee account when no longer a student
- Better regular accounts available
For students, opening your own bank account is a great opportunity to start managing your money on your own. You’ll learn the ins and outs of having a bank account — like how to make deposits and avoid certain fees — and you’ll become better versed in money management.
When you have your own account, you have more control over your money. Of course, that also means you’re responsible for keeping tabs on your expenses and account balance. This is especially true if you’re the sole account owner, rather than sharing ownership with a parent or guardian.
Certainly a perk of student checking accounts is that they often waive the monthly fee for students. But once you’re no longer a qualifying student, you’ll likely face that fee. It may be better for your peace of mind — and your wallet — to find a checking account that’s free right out of the gate, like our overall pick, the Capital One 360 Checking account.
Another downside to student checking accounts is that there are many regular accounts that provide a better deal. You can see that reflected above where we chose Capital One, Ally Bank and Radius Bank for their stellar accounts, even though they’re not student-specific.
If a bank has partnered with your college, there’s a chance there are some perks available to you as a student. This could mean ATMs on your campus, waived fees or a personalized debit card. Your school may even have its own credit union, which almost ensures your membership eligibility as a student.
However, you’re not tied to an affiliated bank. If you’re unsatisfied with that bank’s offerings, feel free to shop elsewhere for an account. You want to find an account that works best for you, not one that you have to work for.
A high school bank account is more likely to be a joint account, with ownership shared by the high school student and their parent or guardian. For the student, the benefit is that you don’t have to manage an account all by yourself quite yet if you don’t want to. You can learn the ins and outs of banking from the account co-owner, and build up those skills so you’re ready to get your own bank account in the future.
For parents, a joint bank account provides the opportunity to keep an eye on your student’s banking habits and hopefully teach them best banking practices along the way.
- Little to no fees: Online bank
- Competitive interest rates: Online bank
- Online/mobile experience: Case by case
- Widespread ATM access: Online bank
- Branch access: Traditional bank
As students often already have tight budgets, they may want to prioritize low or no fees. Traditional banks tend to be heavy on the fees, while online banks are typically much lighter on the fees and tend to be more transparent about those they do charge. Even better, online banks typically offer much more competitive deposit account interest rates.
In terms of access, online banks are limited to their desktop and mobile experiences, which may be less of a drawback for today’s tech-savvy students. Since they’re made to access on the go, you’re almost guaranteed to have a solid online banking experience, likely with added budgeting and savings features, too. That’s not to say traditional banks won’t have an online or mobile presence — big banks especially have the money to put behind these features.
Traditional banks also have the added benefit of physical branches, if you ever need to speak to a banker to complete a transaction. When it comes to ATM access, both traditional and online banks should offer this. However, an online bank may be able to offer a more widespread reach by partnering with a nationwide ATM network, while traditional banks often limit customers to their own branded ATMs.
The choice between a bank or credit union often comes down to personal preference, whether or not you’re a student.
Big banks are more likely to have a physical presence across the country, which could be beneficial for college students who often travel between states and want access to their cash. On the other hand, big banks tend to lowball deposit account interest rate offers and tend to be rife with fees, which is less than ideal for students on a budget.
With a credit union, you must become a member to use its services, which also makes you a shareholder in the institution. Because of this, credit unions can offer a more local feel to banking and are often more community-focused. Still, many credit unions are part of the CO-OP network, which provides nationwide access to credit unions and ATMs across the country. And whereas banks use fees to increase revenue, credit unions put their profits toward lower fees and higher deposit account rates.
Banking terms that students should know
ACH: The Automated Clearing House (ACH) is the system used by financial institutions to transfer money electronically between them. For example, when you receive your direct deposit paycheck or send money from one account to another, those are ACH transfers.
APY: The annual percentage yield (APY) of an account is the rate of interest it earns compounded over a year (we explain compounding below). APY is a big selling point of deposit accounts; you want a higher rate in order to earn more money.
Check clearing: The check clearing process starts when you deposit a check and ends when your bank has received the funds from the bank of the person who wrote the check. Those funds may not be made available to you immediately, however, depending on your bank.
Checking account: A checking account is a transaction account that comes with a debit card and often paper checks. Your checking account is the one you’ll typically send your direct deposit to and pay off your bills from. You can also use the linked debit card, checks and account number to make purchases.
Compound interest: Compound interest is the interest you earn on the interest you’ve already earned. It piles on interest so you can earn more over time. Bank accounts have different frequencies of compounding: Daily, monthly, quarterly or yearly. It’s best to find an account that compounds interest daily; the more frequent the compounding, the more interest you earn.
Credit union: A credit union is a type of financial institution that offers financial services like a bank, but you have to be a member to take advantage of its products. Membership eligibility is often determined by your employer, geographic location, association with other organizations or family connections.
Custodial account: A custodial account is an account managed by one person for the benefit of another, often a parent managing an account for their child. In that situation, the custodial account becomes owned by the minor when they become an adult (the exact age depends on the state).
Direct deposit: Direct deposit is when you have a payment deposited directly into your account, as opposed to being sent a check that you have to then deposit on your own. While it’s most often in relation to your paycheck, other payments can be direct deposited, such as Social Security benefits. You can set up direct deposit by providing the payment sender with the routing and account numbers for the account in which you’d like the funds deposited.
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation: The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is an independent regulatory agency for banks. It also provides government-backed insurance on bank deposits up to legal amounts. Typically, the amount for an individual’s account without beneficiaries is up to $250,000. If, for example, you had $250,000 in a student bank account and your bank went out of business, the FDIC would either set you up with a new account with $250,000 at another FDIC-insured bank or send you a check for $250,000.
Interest rate: The interest rate is how fast your money will grow in an account. Unlike APY, the simple interest rate does not take compounding or time into account.
Monthly fee: Also known as a monthly maintenance fee or monthly service fee, this charge is merely for owning an account. Traditional banks are more likely than online banks to charge monthly fees, and they typically increase the amount of this fee for more premium accounts. While the rate depends on your bank and account, monthly fees typically range from $5 to $25.
National Credit Union Administration: The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) is the FDIC counterpart for credit unions. Similarly, it regulates credit unions and provides deposit insurance up to legal limits ($250,000 for an individual’s account).
Neobank: Neobanks are often not technically banks; instead, they’re typically mobile-first companies heavily focused on the user-experience side that then partners with a chartered bank to provide financial services. Accounts from neobanks are often called cash management accounts, and they’re growing increasingly popular.
Online-only bank: An online-only bank works much like it sounds: It is available only online and does not have any physical branches. Online banks tend to offer a more fee-free experience and more competitive deposit account interest rates. To make up for their lack of a physical presence, online banks often partner with a widespread ATM network (or two) to provide customers with access to their cash.
Overdraft: An overdraft occurs when you try to make a purchase from your deposit account that costs more than what you have in the account and your bank steps in to cover the difference. Overdrafts should be avoided, as they often carry a steep fee — usually around $35. Many accounts offer some form of overdraft protection, which can be free or cost another fee.
Savings account: Unlike a checking account, a savings account is not a transactional account. Instead, it’s meant to hold your money and grow the balance according to its (hopefully high) interest rate. Savings accounts don’t usually come with debit or ATM cards. Per FDIC regulation, Federal law mandates certain types of telephone and electronic withdrawals, including transfers from savings accounts up to 6 per statement cycle, so it’s best to leave your savings account funds alone or keep an eye on your account activity.