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College Students and Recent Grads

Top Checking Accounts for College Grads

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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For many college students, their default banking option while in school is a student checking account, which is typically free. Unfortunately, when you graduate you lose those benefits. Many student checking accounts will begin to charge you monthly maintenance fees unless you meet certain requirements.

So, where do you go from there?

Few young adults would turn to their parents for fashion or dating advice and, yet, one of the most common ways we’ve found young people choose their bank account is by going with whichever bank their parents already use. This could be a bigger faux pas than stealing your dad’s old pair of parachute pants.

The bank your parents use may carry fees or have requirements that don’t meet your lifestyle or budget, and make accounts expensive to use.

But where do you even begin to choose the right checking account?

When you’re nearing graduation, start planning your bank transition.

Many banks send a letter in the mail a few months prior to your expected graduation date informing you that your student checking account is going transition to a non-student account. If you’re not careful and you disregard the letter, you may be transitioned into an account that charges a fee if you don’t meet certain requirements.

You can always call the bank and ask to switch to a different account or you can choose a new account that offers more benefits, like interest and ATM fee refunds.

Account Name

Minimum Monthly Balance

Amount to Open

ATM Fee Refunds

APY

Simple$0$0None0.60% APY
Axos Bank Rewards Checking$0$50Unlimited domestic Up to 1.25% APY if requirements are met
Discover Bank$0$0NoneNone, but 1% cash back on up to $3,000 debit card purchases per month
Ally Bank$0$0Up to $10 per statement cycle 0.10% to 0.25% APY depending on balance
La Capitol Federal Credit Union Choice Plus Checking$0(if less than $1,000, there is a $8 fee)$50Up to $25 per month4.25% APY on balances up to $3,000 2.00% APY on balances $3,000-$10,000 and 0.10% on balances over $10,000
Consumers Credit Union (IL) Free Rewards Checking$0$5Unlimited ATM reimbursements4.09% on balances up to $10,000,
0.20% APY on balances between $10,000 and $25,000 and 0.10% APY on balances over $25,000
T-Mobile Money$0$0None4.00% APY on balances up to $3,000, 1.00% APY after that
Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union Vertical Checking$0$25Up to $15 in ATM reimbursements per month 3.30% APY on balances up to $20,000

The 5 key things you should look for in a checking account

When you’re shopping around for a new checking account, there are several things you should look for to ensure you’re getting the most value from your account:

  1. A $0 monthly fee: Sometimes banks may say they don’t charge a monthly fee but read the fine print — they may require a minimum monthly balance in order to avoid it. There are plenty of free checking accounts available for you to open, so there’s no reason to stay stuck with an account that charges a monthly fee. Take note, as some accounts may require you to meet certain criteria to maintain a free account like using a debit card, enrolling in eStatements or maintaining a minimum daily balance.
  2. No minimum daily balance: Accounts without minimum daily balances mean you can have a $0 balance at any given time. This may allow you to have a free account without meeting balance requirements — although other terms may apply to maintain a free account.
  3. Annual Percentage Yield: APY is the total amount of interest you will earn on balances in your account. Opening an account that earns you interest on your balance is an easy way to be rewarded for money that would typically sit without earning anything. You should definitely aim to earn a decent APY on your savings account.
  4. ATM fee refunds: You may not be able to access an in-network ATM at all times, so accounts providing ATM fee refunds can reimburse you for ATM fees you may incur while using out-of-network ATMs. Those $3 or $5 charges add up!
  5. No or low overdraft fees: Most banks charge you an overdraft fee of around $35 if you spend more money than you have available in your account. Therefore, it’s a good idea to choose an account that has no or low overdraft fees.

Top overall checking accounts for college grads

For the top overall checking accounts, we chose accounts that have no monthly service fees, no ATM fees, refunds for ATM fees from other banks, interest earned on your deposited balances and with strong mobile banking apps. While there is no all-inclusive account that contains every benefit, the accounts below are sure to provide value whether you want a high interest rate, unlimited ATM fee refunds or 24/7 live customer support.

1. Simple

Cash management app Simple acts as a hybrid checking and savings account with a generous APY and no fees. It features unlimited transfers between your checking account and Protected Goals account, as well as a decent APY of 0.60% on balances in your Protected Goals account. Simple also provides fee-free access to 40,000 ATMs – although it doesn’t rebate ATM fees you might incur from machines outside its vast network. With built-in budgeting tools integrated into its app, Simple is a strong contender for the best checking account for college grads.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on Simple’s secure website

2. Axos Bank Rewards Checking

The Axos Bank Rewards Checking account is a great option for college grads, as it offers low fees and generous rewards. There are no monthly service fees, no overdraft fees and unlimited reimbursements for domestic ATM fees. Currently, you also can earn an APY up to 1.25% if you meet the following requirements:

  • Receive monthly direct deposits totaling $1,000 or more
  • Use your Axos debit card at least 15 times per month

SEE DETAILS Secured

on Axos Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

3. Discover Cashback Debit

Cracking our list for the best checking accounts for college graduates is Discover Bank, which takes a unique approach to checking account rewards. Instead of offering an APY on deposit balances, Discover opts for cash back as an incentive to get consumers to sign up for its checking product. The Discover Cashback Debit account offers up to 1% cash back on $3,000 of debit card transactions per month. That coupled with its zero fees and free access to 60,000 ATMs nationwide make it one of the best checking accounts for college graduates.

SEE DETAILS

Discover Bank's website is secure

4. Ally Bank

Online bank Ally Bank offers a solid checking account with minimal fees, decent APYs and other attractive perks. Its Interest Checking account charges no monthly maintenance fees and provides free access to Allpoint ATMs nationwide, as well as a $10 reimbursement per statement cycle for any other ATMs fees incurred. Ally Bank’s APY isn’t too shabby, either: You can earn an APY of 0.25% with a $15,000 minimum balance or 0.10% with balances under $15,000. Other cool features include its Ally Skill for Amazon Alexa, which enables you to transfer money with just your voice.

Top high-yield checking accounts for college grads

Since most checking accounts offer little to no interest, high-yield checking accounts are a great way for you to maximize the money that typically would just sit in your account without earning interest. These accounts often offer interest rates that fluctuate depending on how much money you have in the account. However, in order to earn interest, there are some requirements that you may have to meet such as making a certain number of debit card transactions and enrolling in eStatements.

1. La Capitol Federal Credit Union Choice Plus Checking

This checking account has a $2 monthly service fee, which can easily be waived if you enroll in eStatements.

While the terms state a minimum balance requirement of $1,000 and a low balance fee of $8, the fee can be waived if you make 15 or more posted non-ATM debit card transactions per month.

To earn the top interest rate on your checking balance, you just need to make at least 15 or more posted non-ATM debit card transactions per month. There are numerous surcharge-free La Capitol ATMs for you to use, and after signing up for eStatements you can receive up to $25 per month in ATM fee refunds when you use out-of-network ATMs.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on La Capitol Federal Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

2. Consumers Credit Union (IL) Free Rewards Checking

The Consumers Credit Union (IL) Free Rewards Checking account is just that: Rewarding. It offers a tier-based APY, which includes a 4.09% APY on balances up to $10,000, 0.20% APY on balances between $10,000 and $25,000 and 0.10% APY on balances over $25,000. In order to earn the highest APY, you must complete at least 6 signature-based debit purchases receive at least one direct deposit, ACH debit, or pay one bill through their free bill payment system totaling $500 or more, log into your online banking account and be signed up for eStatements and spend $1,000 or more with a Consumers Credit Union Visa credit card each month. This account has no fees and offers unlimited ATM reimbursements if requirements are met.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on Consumers Credit Union (IL)’s secure website

NCUA Insured

3. T-Mobile Money

Wireless carrier T-Mobile has forayed into finance with a checking account, T-Mobile Money. The account offers a generous APY of 4.00% on balances up to $3,000, with balances over that threshold earning 1.00% APY. In order to receive the higher APY, you must meet the following requirements: Be enrolled in a qualifying T-Mobile wireless plan, be registered for perks with your T-Mobile ID and have deposited at least $200 in qualifying deposits to your checking account within that current calendar month. T-Mobile Money does not reimburse for out-of-network ATM fees, but it does not charge any maintenance fees.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on T-Mobile Money’s secure website

Member FDIC

4. Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union Vertical Checking

Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union’s Vertical Checking account doles out a generous APY of 3.30% on balances up to $20,000 if you meet the following requirements per month:

  • Make at least 15 debit card purchases
  • Make at least one direct deposit
  • Make at least one online or mobile banking login
  • Receive electronic statements

This account boasts a low, minimum opening deposit of just $25 and no monthly service fee, as well as up to $15 in ATM fee reimbursements per month.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

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Best of, College Students and Recent Grads, Credit Cards

Best Student Credit Cards November 2020

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.

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Getting a credit card while you’re in college can set you up for financial success, provided you avoid racking up unnecessary charges. If you are over 18 and have a steady income, applying for a card now will kick start your credit history, and you can start building that all-important credit score.

Learning how to choose and use the right student credit card is relatively simple. Make sure you avoid annual fees and go with a bank or credit union you can trust. When you get the card, make sure you use it responsibly and pay the balance in full and on time every month. If you do these things consistently over time, you can leave school with an excellent credit score. And if you want to rent an apartment or buy a car, having a good credit score is very important.

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Magnify Glass Pros

  • Good Grade Reward program: Did you study extra hard this year? If you’ve gotten a 3.0 GPA or higher for an entire school year, Discover will reward you with an extra $20 statement credit. You can get this statement credit for up to five years in a row as long as you’re still a current student when you apply.
  • Free FICO® score: Just like how you have grades for your classes, your FICO® score is your “grade” for your credit. Credit cards have a huge effect on your FICO® score. You can watch how your new credit card affects your score over time with a free FICO® score update on your monthly statement.
  • 5% cash back: You can earn up to 5% cash back at different places that change each quarter, on up to $1,500 in purchases every quarter that you activate. Past categories have included things like Amazon purchases, restaurants, and ground transportation. Even if you don’t buy something in the bonus category, you’ll still earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Cash back match at end of your first year: In addition to rotating 5% cash back categories, new cardmembers will also get an intro bonus. When your first card anniversary comes around, Discover will automatically match your cash back rewards you earned during your first year.

Cons Cons

  • Remember to sign up for bonus categories: Even though this card comes with a great cash back rewards program, it comes with a catch: you’ll need to manually activate the bonus places each quarter. You can do this by calling Discover or logging in to your account online. If you forget, you’ll still earn 1% cash back if you make any purchases in the qualifying categories.
  • Gift certificates only available at certain levels: You can redeem your rewards for many things such as Amazon purchases, a statement credit, or a donation to a charity, to name a few. But, if you’d like to get a gift card instead, you’ll need a cash back balance of at least $20 saved up in your account.
Bottom line

Bottom line

The Discover it® Student Cash Back offers great benefits for college students, such as a rewards program for good grades and a free FICO® score so you can learn about your credit firsthand. Its cash back rewards program is our favorite. No other card for students (that we could find) offers the opportunity to earn up to 5% cash back. And with no annual fee, this is our top pick.

Read our full review of the Discover it® Student Cash Back

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

Magnify Glass Pros

  • 1.25% cash back if you pay on time: Each purchase you make earns a flat-rate 1% cash back on all purchases; 0.25% cash back bonus on the cash back you earn each month you pay on time. This makes it handy for people who want as simple a card as possible. And it rewards great behavior.
  • Higher credit lines after on-time payments: If you’re approved for this card, you’ll receive a credit line of at least $300. If you make five on-time payments in a row, you can call Capital One and ask them to increase your credit line.
  • No foreign transaction fee: This is a great card to take overseas, because you won’t have to pay any foreign transaction fees. Most cards charge an average 3% foreign transaction fee, but Journey allows you to use your card abroad without being charged extra fees.

Cons Cons

  • High APR: This card carries an APR of 26.99% (variable). That’s almost twice as high as some other student credit cards, such as the Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card with an APR as low as 12.90% - 22.90% Variable. It’s just one more incentive to pay off your bill in full each month.
Bottom line

Bottom line

We really like this card because it actively rewards you for developing good credit-management behavior by offering a small cash back bonus for on-time payments. In addition, the cash back program is straightforward with no confusing categories to remember or opt into, making this card a good option for students who want a simple, flat-rate card.

Read our full review of the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

Best Intro Bonus

Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card

The information related to Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card has been independently collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
3% cash rewards on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months, 1% cash rewards on virtually all other purchases
Regular Purchase APR
12.90% - 22.90% Variable
Credit required
excellent-credit

Magnify Glass Pros

  • APRs as low as 12.90% - 22.90% variable APR: Depending on your credit, your interest rate could be between 12.90% - 22.90% variable APR, but there is no guarantee you’ll receive the lower rate. This is a lower variable APR range than most student cards, and can help if you aren’t able to pay your balance in full one month.
  • Intro Rewards Bonus: 3% cash rewards on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months, 1% cash rewards on virtually all other purchases. Note that the 3% rate is on up to $2,500 spent in those categories.
  • Access to credit education: Wells Fargo provides you with all sorts of tools and information to learn about things like credit, budgeting, and expense tracking. While this is a nice feature, it’s not exclusive to Wells Fargo. You can get this information from free tools such as Mint, or even reading books and blogs. But it is pretty handy having it right at your fingertips when logged in to your account.

Cons Cons

  • Need to be a Wells Fargo member to apply online: You can go into any one of the 6,000+ branches and apply for the card. You can also apply online, but you’ll need to be an existing Wells Fargo customer. However, anyone can open a checking account online with a minimum deposit of $25.
  • High bars for some cash back redemption options: There are a lot of redemption options available through Wells Fargo’s own online cash back rewards mall. However, if you’d just like straight cash, you have a few options. You can request a direct deposit into your Wells Fargo checking account, savings account, or Wells Fargo credit card (if applicable) in $25 increments, or request a paper check in $20 increments. That can take a long time to accumulate if you’re not spending much with your card.
Bottom line

Bottom line

The Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card is a relatively simple card with a great intro bonus of 3% cash rewards on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months, 1% cash rewards on virtually all other purchases (the higher rate has a spending cap of $2,500). In addition, the low variable APR is handy for those who think they’ll be carrying a balance on their credit card from month to month at some point in the future. This is generally something we recommend against, but if you can’t avoid it, the Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card is your best bet.

Read our full review of the Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

Magnify Glass Pros

  • Unlimited rewards. Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points.
  • Flexible rewards redemption. You can redeem your points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars or baggage fees. Plus, this card doesn’t restrict you to a particular airline or chain of hotels.
  • Free FICO score. Keep track of your credit score via online banking or Bank of America’s mobile app.
  • Chance to earn more rewards. Have an active Bank of America checking or savings account? Then this card offers a chance to get a 10% customer points bonus on every purchase. The card is also eligible for the benefits of the Preferred Rewards program, though that program is based on banking and/or investment balances that might be too high for many college students to qualify for.
  • Foreign transaction fee? There is none.

Cons Cons

  • Points are not worth as much when redeemed for cash back. When redeemed for a travel credit, each point is worth $0.01. However, if redeemed for cash back, points are only worth $0.006 each. For example, 2,500 points redeemed for travel would be worth $25. The same number of points redeemed for cash back would be worth $15.
Bottom line

Bottom line

If you’re looking for a student card offering travel rewards, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students could be a good option. With an annual fee of $0 and points that can be redeemed for travel with any airline or stays with any hotel line, this card gives you options.

Discover it® Secured

Magnify Glass Pros

  • Cashback program: This card has a feature uncommon to other secured cards — a cashback program. You earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Cashback Match™: Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched (new cardmembers only). This is a great added bonus that increases your cash back in Year 1.
  • Automatic monthly reviews after eight months: Discover makes it easy for you to transition to an unsecured card with monthly reviews of your account starting after eight months. Reviews are based on responsible credit management across all of your credit cards and loans.

Cons Cons

  • Security deposit: You need to deposit a minimum of $200 in order to open this card, which is pretty standard for a secured card. This will become your credit line, so a $200 deposit gives you a $200 credit line. If you want a higher credit limit, you need to increase your deposit. The security deposit is refundable, meaning you will receive your deposit back if you close the card, as long as your account is in good standing.
Bottom line

Bottom line

The Discover it® Secured is great for students who want to build credit. This card easily transitions you to an unsecured card when the time is right, and you can earn cash back. With proper credit behavior, you’ll soon be on your way to an unsecured card.

Read our full review of the Discover it® Secured

Best for No Credit History

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

APPLY NOW Secured

on Celtic Bank’s secure website

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
1% unlimited cash back on ALL purchases
Regular Purchase APR
18.74% Variable
Credit required
bad-credit
Good/Fair/Limited

Magnify Glass Pros

  • No credit history required: You can qualify for this card without any credit history, making this a great option for students new to credit. And if you’re an international student, you don’t even need a Social Security number when applying.
  • Reimbursement for Amazon Prime Student*: This card will reimburse you for the cost of a year of Amazon Prime Student (valued at $59). You need to charge your membership to this card to qualify, and you will not be reimbursed for subsequent years’ membership fees.
  • No foreign transaction fee: Whether you travel abroad or study abroad, you can rest easy — there are no foreign transaction fees with this card.
  • Additional benefits: The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students also offers cellphone protection and a rental vehicle collision damage waiver.

Cons Cons

  • Low cash back rate: The rewards program has a subpar 1% unlimited cash back on ALL purchases. You can do better with some of the other cards mentioned in this post. Though as a student, rewards shouldn’t be your primary focus — instead, build your credit so you can qualify for better non-student cards. (Note that if you’ve applied without an SSN, you won’t build credit with this card until you link an SSN to your account.)
Bottom line

Bottom line

The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is a great choice for students who are looking to build credit. Deserve markets their cards for those who may have trouble qualifying for credit, and students who fall into this category may more easily qualify for this card than for cards from traditional banks. You can earn cash back, and receive a great promotional offer of a year of Amazon Prime Student for free*.

Also ConsiderAlso Consider

Golden 1 Platinum Rewards for Students

Golden 1 Credit Union Platinum Rewards for Students:

This credit card offers a snazzy rewards program: rather than accumulate points, you’ll get a cash rebate instead. All you have to do is make a purchase. At the end of the month, you’ll get a rebate of 3% of gas, grocery, and restaurant purchases, and 1% of all other purchases deposited back into your Golden 1 savings account at the end of the month. Anyone who lives or works in California is eligible for credit union membership.

What should I look for in a student credit card?

The most important thing to consider when looking for a student credit card is that it charges no annual fee. You should never have to pay to build your credit score. Fortunately, most student cards don’t charge you an annual fee, but it’s still something to watch out for.

The second most important thing you should keep an eye out for are tools that help you learn about credit or even promote good credit-building habits. For example, some student credit cards will give you a free monthly FICO® score update. You can use this freebie to see in real time how your credit score changes as you build credit history by keeping the card open, or paying down your credit card balance, for example.

The last thing you should be considering when picking out a student credit card is the rewards program. I know, I know, it seems counterintuitive. But stick with me — I’ll show you why in the next question.

Why shouldn’t I be concerned about maximizing my rewards while in college?

Rewards cards are nice to have. But if you’re a college student, here’s the truth: you probably won’t spend enough to earn meaningful rewards.

Why? With a good rewards program, you can earn points or cash back. A small percentage of your monthly spending can add up quickly. However, given the tight budget that most college students live on, it will probably take a while to earn meaningful rewards. For example, if you earn 1.25% cash back and spend $300 a month on your card, you would earn $45 of cash back during the year.

College students are very good at making good use of $45. And our favorite card offers a great cash back rewards program. Just don’t expect to earn a lot of cash back, given the tight budget of a college student.

Why should I get a credit card as a college student?

There are a lot of great reasons why you should get a credit card, as long as you can commit to using it responsibly.

The single biggest reason why you should get a credit card as a college student is because you can start establishing a credit history now. When you graduate from college, you will need a good credit score to get an apartment. And your future employer will likely check your credit report. Building a good credit history while still in college will help prepare you for life after graduation.

Getting a credit card while in college can also train you to develop good credit habits now. But you need to be honest with yourself. If you find that you can’t avoid the temptation of maxing out your credit card, you might want to switch to a debit card or cash.

Finally, getting a credit card now can be the motivation you need to start learning about credit. These skills aren’t hard to learn, and they could save you thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars later in life (when you want a mortgage, for example).

What is the CARD Act and why should I care about it?

Many years ago, credit card companies would market on college campuses. You could get a free beer mug or t-shirt in exchange for a credit card application. And you would be able to qualify for a credit card without having any income. The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act was signed into law in May 2009 to change a number of practices.

How did the CARD Act change student credit cards?

The CARD Act made a lot of changes in how credit card issuers do business with students. One of the biggest changes was requiring students to be able to demonstrate an ability to pay. If you are under 21 and do not have sufficient income (a campus job, for example), you would need to get a co-signer.

In addition, colleges must now limit the amount of credit card marketing on campus. The days of free t-shirts and pizzas in exchange for credit card applications are gone. But that doesn’t mean it is impossible for a college student to get a credit card. Some highly reputable banks and credit unions still offer student cards. And building a good credit score while still in college is still highly recommended.

How can I protect myself from racking up debt?

When used properly, credit cards are a very convenient method of repayment. However, when not used properly, you can end up deep in credit card debt. It is important to establish a healthy relationship to credit now, with your first credit card.

You should try to ensure that you pay off your credit card bill in full and on time every month. Ideally, you should set up an automatic monthly payment. And to keep yourself on track, take advantage of alerts offered by most credit card companies. You can even get daily text messages reminding you of your balance.

How can I automate my credit card usage?

If all of this sounds confusing, don’t worry. There’s actually a way you can automate your payments so you never even have to bother with the hassle of using a credit card. All it takes is a few minutes of upfront work.

First, you’ll need at least one recurring monthly bill of the same amount, such as Netflix or Spotify. Log in to your account and set up an automatic payment each month using your credit card. Make a note of how much your monthly bill costs.

Next, log in to your bank account. Set up a second automatic payment to go to your credit card each month for the same amount as the bill. If your bank doesn’t offer the option to set up automatic payments, you may also be able to set up your credit card to automatically withdraw the amount of the bill from your bank.

Because you know this bill will be for the same amount each month (barring any price increases), you can literally just leave this running in the background each month on autopilot. You don’t even have to carry your credit card in your wallet if you don’t want to. Then, when you graduate, you’ll automatically have an improved credit score!

What happens to my student credit card when I graduate?

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the finish line. But what about your student credit card? You may choose to hold on to your student card since it might be your oldest credit account and this can play a part in your credit score. If you close your student credit card account, it will reduce your average age of credit accounts and could hurt your credit score. Instead of closing the account, you can ask your student card issuer if there is an option to upgrade your card.

The information related to Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students has been independently collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Here is a summary of our favorite cards:

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Editor’s Choice: Best Student Checking Accounts

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.

Written By

Reviewed By

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

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.

Read the full review

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

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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

 Business Advantage Checking  Copy

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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

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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

Rewards Checking

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

FAQs

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.