As you enter college, your account with the Bank of Mom and Dad might not be as accessible as it once was. Getting a student checking account can help you learn how to manage your money and gain a little independence while you’re at it.
The best student checking accounts make it easy to keep your costs down and give you resources to establish your financial life as an adult. Here are the top three options.
At a glance: The best student checking accounts
|Capital One MONEY||Best free student checking account|
|U.S. Bank Student Checking||Best for branch access|
|PNC Virtual Wallet Student||Best money management tools|
Capital One MONEY
Some student checking accounts are regular checking accounts with some or all of the monthly fees waived.
Once you graduate or reach a certain age, you’re faced with paying fees, finding ways to get fees waived, or switching to a free checking account.
With the Capital One MONEY account, there are no monthly fees — ever. Here are some other features:
- You get free withdrawals from over 39,000 ATMs in the Allpoint network.
- You earn a 0.25% APY on your balance; that’s more than five times the national average, according to October 2017 data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
- There are no foreign transaction fees.
- You have options for free overdraft coverage, including a transfer from savings and a grace period that gives you a full business day to get your account out of the negative before a $35 fee hits.
The main drawback to the MONEY account is that it must be a joint account, usually with a parent or guardian. That means your parent has access to your account and can monitor your spending.
Also, Capital One has branches in the following states only:
- The District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New York
So if you want a bank with local branches and don’t live in one of those states, you’re out of luck.
U.S. Bank Student Checking
The U.S. Bank Student Checking account also has no monthly fees — if you opt out of paper statements, which cost $2 per month.
One of the account’s shining features is its ATM fee waiver. U.S. Bank won’t charge a fee on up to four transactions with non-U.S. Bank ATMs per statement period. Keep in mind, however, that the bank that owns the out-of-network ATM might charge a fee.
That said, U.S. Bank belongs to the MoneyPass ATM network. With access to more than 25,000 ATMs nationwide, you might not have a problem finding one nearby.
Here are some other features that make the account appealing:
- Your first order of personal checks is free, which is especially helpful if your landlord takes only checks.
- You get access to Spend Analysis, a tool that lets you view and evaluate your spending on a monthly, quarterly, year-to-date, or annual basis.
- There are branches in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
One thing to watch out for with the U.S. Bank Student Checking account is its overdraft fee. If you overdraw your account by more than $5, you’ll pay $36 for each transaction over that amount while your account is negative. There’s no fee, however, for transactions of $5 or less.
PNC Virtual Wallet Student
As long as you’re an active student, PNC will waive your monthly fee on its Virtual Wallet Student account for up to six years.
You’ll also get free ATM withdrawals from more than 9,000 PNC ATMs. The account comes with other extra features specifically for students:
- The Spending Zone helps you track your spending by categorizing your transactions.
- You and your parents can get an alert when your account is running low, which is especially helpful if they’re helping cover your expenses while you’re in school.
- You can get a university-branded debit card. Check out the options on the PNC website.
PNC charges a $36 overdraft fee per item unless you opt to replenish the account with a transfer from savings. However, you’ll get a courtesy refund of your first overdraft charge within the first 12 months after you open your account.
You’ll also get any overdraft fees incurred on a specific day refunded if your account is overdrawn by $5 or less at the end of that day.
Like Capital One, PNC has limited branch coverage. The bank currently has branches and ATMs in the following states:
- The District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
Which student checking account should you choose?
Before you open up a new bank account, thoroughly research and consider all your student checking account options. There’s no one account that’s best for everyone, so you’ll want to consider how you plan to use yours.
For example, if you want easy access to a branch, U.S. Bank has the largest branch network. If, however, you want the account with the cheapest fee options, the Capital One MONEY account is for you.
Regardless of which account you choose, the most important thing is that you have a plan for your money, and getting the right student checking account is the first step.
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