The ideal student bank account has low fees, top-notch customer service and a sweet sign-up bonus.
College students often look for specific perks, such as a user-friendly mobile app or the ability to bank easily in both their college town and hometown.
It can be a drag to switch banks, so choosing one that will serve you freshman year and beyond should be a consideration. Here are our picks for the top 10 best banks for college students. (Scroll to the bottom to see the criteria we used.)
10 best banks for college students
Here is our alphabetical list of the 10 best banks for college students:
- No minimum opening deposit
- No monthly maintenance fees
- Maximum overdraft fee of $25 a day
- Up to $10 in out-of-network ATM fee reimbursements per statement cycle (Interest Checking)
Ally Bank doesn’t offer a student-specific checking or savings account, but its Interest Checking and Online Savings accounts are both smart choices for college students.
Since it’s an online bank, you’ll have to be comfortable working with a company that doesn’t have physical locations. But through its Interest Checking account, you’ll have access to more than 55,000 ATMs worldwide through the Allpoint network. If you do use an ATM outside the network and incur a fee, Ally Bank will reimburse you up to $10 per statement cycle.
Ally Bank also charges no maintenance fees and a maximum of $25 a day on overdrafts, compared to banks that may charge a fee every time you try to make a transaction.
- $50 minimum opening deposit
- No monthly maintenance or overdraft fees
- Competitive interest rates if you meet certain conditions
- Unlimited ATM fee reimbursements in the U.S.
Axos Bank is an online bank previously known as Bank of Internet USA. It offers a Rewards Checking account with some of the lowest fees around. College students will benefit from its ATM fee reimbursements and lack of overdraft fees.
You have the opportunity to earn higher-than-average interest rates on money you keep in the account if:
- You receive direct deposits of $1,000 or more each month
- You use your debit card at least 10 times
- You use your debit card an additional 5 times
You won’t have access to in-person support at bank branches, though.
- $25 (Advantage SafeBalance) or $100 (Advantage Plus) minimum opening deposit
- No overdraft fees (Advantage SafeBalance) as transactions are declined for insufficient balances
- No monthly maintenance fees for enrolled students younger than 24
- Access to a wide network of branches for in-person customer service
If being able to get help at a physical bank is important to you, opting for a retail bank with lots of locations may be your best bet. Bank of America has more than 4,400 branches and 16,000 ATMs across the U.S. But for that convenience, you’ll generally pay higher fees than what online-only banks offer. Bank of America offers a few ways to avoid them as long as you closely read your schedule of fees.
You’ll pay an ATM fee of at least $2.50 at non-Bank of America ATMs. The bank’s Advantage SafeBalance and Advantage Plus checking accounts both waive monthly maintenance fees for enrolled college students younger than 24. You’ll lose that perk when you turn 25, but you can avoid maintenance fees by meeting certain conditions, such as receiving qualifying direct deposits.
The Advantage SafeBalance checking account doesn’t offer overdraft services — transactions will be automatically declined if you don’t have the funds to cover them — or access to paper checks. The Advantage Plus checking account offers overdraft protection, if you opt in for the service. Overdrafts carry a $35 fee, which can be charged up to four times a day.
- No minimum opening deposit
- No monthly maintenance fees
- Free withdrawals at Capital One locations and Allpoint ATMs (360 Checking)
- Overdraft fee of $35 on each transaction over $5.01; only assessed if you enroll in overdraft protection (360 Checking)
Another online option open to students and non-students, Capital One offers 360 Checking and 360 Performance Savings accounts with limited fees.
The Capital One 360 Checking account provides multiple overdraft options, including the ability to automatically decline all transactions you don’t have enough account funds to cover. That means avoiding overdraft fees altogether.
This is a solid online bank to use throughout college and after, since its features make it a competitive option for ongoing banking.
- $100 sign-up bonus for new customers with qualifying activities
- No monthly maintenance fees for enrolled college students
- No monthly maintenance fee on a linked Chase Savings account when used for overdraft protection
- Access to physical branches for in-person customer service
Chase Bank has 16,000 ATMs and almost 5,000 branches, which are useful if you value being able to speak directly with a banker. Its College Checking account waives monthly maintenance fees for college students ages 17 to 24 for up to five years while in college. It also rewards you with a $100 sign-up bonus if you’re a new Chase customer and you make 10 qualifying transactions within 60 days of opening the account.
Make sure to keep an eye on other fees, though. Overdrafts carry a $34 fee, which Chase can charge you up to three times a day on items above $5. That makes it worthwhile to sign up for a linked Chase Savings account, which you can use as a backup to cover overdrafts. Banks that automatically decline charges you can’t afford are generally a better bet for college students since that also means avoiding overdraft fees.
After five years in college or when you’re no longer a student, you can avoid maintenance fees by getting direct deposits posted to the account or keeping a daily balance of at least $5,000.
- No minimum opening deposit
- No monthly maintenance fees
- 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month
- No Discover Bank fees on out-of-network ATMs
Discover Bank’s Cashback Debit online checking account will credit you up to $360 a year in cash back for using your debit card. That’s money you can transfer to savings or can give you peace of mind if you’re worried about an overdraft. It’s a unique feature in a checking account — most cashback cards are credit cards, which can be tough to qualify for as a college student with little credit history.
Students will appreciate Discover Bank’s lack of fees, too. You’ll get access to more than 60,000 in-network ATMs, and Discover Bank won’t charge you if you use an out-of-network kiosk. The ATM operator could charge you a fee, but you’ll still save with Discover Bank’s policy.
- No minimum opening deposit if you open an account online
- No monthly maintenance fees for the first six years
- Two ATM fee reimbursements a month; up to $5 in other banks’ ATM surcharges reimbursed per month
- Additional interest-bearing checking account and savings account automatically bundled with primary checking account
PNC Bank’s Virtual Wallet Student offers college students three bank accounts: two checking accounts, one of which earns interest, and a savings account that earns interest, too.
PNC’s student accounts have a few features that make it stand out from other big-bank competitors: It reimburses two of its own non-PNC ATM fees per month, and it will also cover other ATMs’ surcharges of up to $5 a month.
But PNC’s out-of-network ATM fees are a costly $3, compared with $2.50 at Bank of America and Chase. Its overdraft fees are $36, which are also steep, but PNC will refund your first overdraft fee.
- No monthly maintenance fees
- No fees on out-of-network ATMs
- Competitive interest rates (Protected Goals)
- Mobile-oriented account interface and budgeting tools
If you’re comfortable with an online- and mobile-only bank, Simple could be a good choice. Its fees are minimal and easy to understand: It doesn’t charge any monthly maintenance fees or overdraft fees (it will typically decline transactions your account won’t cover).
You’ll have access to the Allpoint network of ATMs, and if you use one that’s out of network, Simple won’t charge you a fee (though the ATM operator could, and those fees won’t be reimbursed). Simple provides in-app budgeting tools, which can give you a useful overview of your spending habits, and a checking account (Protected Goals) with competitive interest rates.
If you need to deposit cash, you can fill out a money order or transfer money from another account to Simple. You can also deposit checks and set up direct deposits in the account just like you can at other banks.
- No minimum opening deposit
- No monthly maintenance fees for students younger than 24
- No monthly maintenance fees on a linked Simple Savings account if younger than 24
- Overdraft protection transfer fees waived for students younger than 24
If you’re looking for access to TD Bank’s network of branches and ATMs on the East Coast, you might consider opening a Convenience Checking account for students.
You won’t pay maintenance fees while you’re a student younger than 24 for the first five years, after which you can avoid fees by keeping at least $100 in the account each day.
You will pay a fee of $3 for using a non-TD Bank ATM, plus any fees the ATM owner charges, so this is a better bet if both your home and school are in TD Bank’s service area. You’ll also need to be extra wary of overdrafts, which come with a $35 fee and can be charged up to five times a day. Up to age 24 on this account that doubles as Student Checking, you won’t pay an additional overdraft transfer fee of $3.
- No monthly maintenance fees
- No fees on first 10 ATM withdrawals at non-USAA ATMs
- Cash back on debit card purchases (Cashback Rewards Checking)
- Up to $15 in other banks’ ATM fees reimbursed each month (Classic Checking)
USAA provides financial products to service members and eligible family members. You can join if you are currently serving in the:
- Air Force
- Coast Guard
- National Guard
Veterans, cadets and midshipmen are also eligible. If you’re eligible, the Classic Checking and Cashback Rewards Checking accounts come with low fees. USAA has fewer financial centers than the bigger banks, but you’ll get access to 10 fee-free ATM withdrawals a month at Allpoint, PNC Bank and MoneyPass ATMs.
Both accounts require a minimum opening balance of $25, or $0 if you’re a new military recruit. You can earn interest if your Classic Checking account’s daily balance is $1,000 or more. Cashback Rewards Checking accounts don’t earn interest, but they offer 10 cents in cash back on every debit card purchase.
To get overdraft protection, you’ll have to opt in. There typically are no overdraft transfer fees and no additional fees if you link your checking account to another USAA checking or savings account. USAA will also automatically decline debit card transactions and ATM withdrawals if you don’t have sufficient funds to cover. Some overdrafts — as a result of a payment by check, for instance — may incur a $29 overdraft fee.
Credit unions and other alternatives
It’s worthwhile to consider local or national credit unions as alternatives to traditional or online banks. Since a primary goal of credit unions is to support and invest in their communities, they typically offer members financial products with limited fees.
When you open a checking or savings account, you could also gain access to other financial products. Some credit unions also offer private student loans and personal loans, potentially with lower interest rates than what you’d find at traditional banks.
You may need to meet certain requirements to join a credit union, such as living or working in a particular place or making a donation to a partner nonprofit. You may prefer to use a checking account linked to a parent or guardian while in college. You can include the person as a co-account owner if that’s a priority for you.
What college students should look for in a bank
- Examine all the fees you may be charged now and after you graduate
- Explore what type of account yours might transition to once you’re not a student or don’t meet the requirements, and whether it’s likely to be a good fit for you
- Take stock of your lifestyle and how easy it is to withdraw fee-free money or deposit cash from your account
Once you’ve decided on a bank, it’s time to focus on building your credit, which will put you on a strong footing when it’s time to rent an apartment, buy a car or get a credit card. That could mean joining a parent’s credit card account as an authorized user or using a secured credit card that requires a deposit to open the account.
Banking is just one part of your financial life. After you’ve worked hard to pick one that works for you, you’ll gain confidence to explore other aspects of your finances.
Our primary criteria:
- No or low minimum opening deposits
- No account maintenance fees, or easy ways to avoid them
- Wide ATM network
- Low likelihood of incurring overdraft fees, ideally by declining charges that would lead to an overdraft
- Easy-to-use mobile and online banking options
Our secondary criteria:
- Customer satisfaction
- Reimbursement for — or no charges on — out-of-network ATM fees
- Competitive interest rates on checking and linked savings accounts
- Availability of in-person support at bank branches
- Access to “nice-to-have” features, such as budgeting tools and cash back
Student Loan Hero didn’t assign a number valuation, but we chose banks by balancing the relative importance of our criteria.
For instance, national retail banks lack the competitive maintenance, overdraft and ATM fees that an online-only bank can offer. But those new to banking may value a name they know and potentially trust, and they may want to speak to a banker in person occasionally.
The information in this article is accurate as of the date of publishing. For up-to-date information, please visit the Bank’s website.
Elyssa Kirkham contributed to this report.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2021!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.89% – 5.99%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 5.64%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 6.84%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.91% – 5.25%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.25% – 6.53%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.17% – 4.47%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews! |
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of Feburary 1, 2021.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of October 26, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 10/26/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 02/17/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.91% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
6 Important Disclosures for PenFed.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.99%-5.15% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.17%-4.47% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.