10 Fee-Free Checking Accounts That Are Perfect for College Life (and Beyond)

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by Dana Sitar

Published on March 1, 2021

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10 Fee-Free Checking Accounts That Are Perfect for College Life (and Beyond)

Students typically have different financial needs during their college years than they'll have later in life. Their financial situation is relatively uncomplicated, but includes unique needs. For example, students may rely on low or no income, use frequent money transfers among friends and family, and visit ATMs often. They may also possess dual residency and share finances with their parents.

To accommodate these needs and help introduce students to personal money management, many banks offer checking accounts that cater specifically to students.

To help you find an account that fits your needs, this guide covers five of the best student checking accounts. The guide also details five popular online bank accounts for students and what to look for during your search for a student checking account.

Best Student Checking Accounts

Which bank has the best student checking accounts? Here are five student accounts offered by traditional banks and credit unions.

HSBC Choice Checking for Students

Any U.S. or international student who is at least 18 years old can open this account with no minimum deposit. It comes with no monthly maintenance fee for up to six years while you're a student.

HSBC also offers a $100 welcome deposit for new customers. To qualify for this offer, you have to deposit at least $25 within 30 days of opening your account and meet one of these qualifying activities within your first three months:

Direct deposit of $500 or more. Spend $100 or more on your debit card. Set up electronic bill pay.

This account gives customers fee-free access to HSBC ATMs around the world, plus online and mobile banking. Users can also make money transfers through the Real-Time Payments System.

Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Banking

Students under the age of 24 qualify for a waiver of the $4.95 monthly fee for this account. The no-frills account comes with no overdraft fees (your transactions are instead denied) and no paper checks.

Customers get access to online banking, Zelle money transfer, and the Bank of America mobile app with a financial assistant to help guide students' money management. You also get fee-free access to Bank of America's nationwide network of ATMs.

US Bank Student Checking

This account includes no monthly maintenance fee, no ATM fee at US Bank ATMs, and no fee for your first four non-US Bank ATM transactions per month. You get access to online and mobile banking, plus money transfer via Zelle.

You can get fee-free overdraft protection by linking a US Bank savings account to draw from. Customers get their first box of checks for free (or 50% off custom designs).

US Bank's campus banking programs include campus-specific cards, on-campus branches, and customer advisory centers at participating schools.

Chase College Checking

College students ages 17-24 can get this account's $6 monthly maintenance fee waived for up to five years. If you link a Chase savings account for fee-free overdraft protection, you'll also pay no monthly service fee on the linked account.

Chase customers get access to online and mobile banking, money transfer via Zelle, and fee-free access to Chase's ATMs.

Golden 1 Credit Union Student Checking

Students 17 years and older qualify for the Student Checking account at this California-based credit union for up to five years. After five years, the Student Checking account automatically converts to a Golden 1 Free Checking Account, which includes the same features plus the ability to add on additional services.

This account includes no minimum opening deposit, no monthly maintenance fee, a free box of checks, and access to a network of 30,000 Golden 1 and Co-Op ATMs. Customers get access to online and mobile banking and money transfer through Popmoney.

Online Bank Accounts for Students

Most online banks only offer one type of account, so they don't cater to students specifically. However, these accounts typically meet all the criteria that make for the best student bank accounts. An online bank account could be a solid option for students who need an account that can move and grow with them.

Discover Cashback Debit Account

Discover's online checking account includes no monthly fees, free ATM access to more than 60,000 Allpoint or MoneyPass ATMs, and a user-friendly mobile app.

The account doesn't bear interest, but users earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.

Radius Rewards Checking Account

This free online checking account earns up to 0.15% APY and offers 1% cash back on all debit card purchases with a signature. Plus, if you get paid via direct deposit, funds could land in your account up to two days ahead of your typical payday.

You'll pay no ATM fees at ATMs in the MoneyPass and SUM networks, and Radius reimburses out-of-network ATM fees each month.

Customers have access to online and mobile banking and in-app money transfers. You'll pay no overdraft fees if you link up to three Radius accounts (savings or Money Market) for overdraft protection.

Chime Spending Account

Chime's free online Spending Account includes no monthly maintenance fees and no minimum balance requirement. You get free ATM access in the MoneyPass and Visa Plus Alliance ATM networks throughout the U.S.

Qualifying customers get free overdraft protection up to $100. If you're paid through direct deposit, you can receive funds up to two days early. If you open a Chime Savings Account, you can take advantage of automatic savings features, including debit card round ups and Save When I Get Paid, which automatically saves a portion of your paycheck.

Customers have access to online and mobile banking, a debit card, and money transfers to Chime customers and noncustomers through Chime's Pay Friends feature.

Ally Interest Checking Account

This online account comes with no minimum opening deposit and no monthly maintenance fee, plus fee-free access to more than 43,000 Allpoint ATMs. Depending on your balance, you can earn 0.10% or 0.25% APY.

If you open an Ally Online Savings Account, you can take advantage of debit card round ups for automatic saving. The account includes online and mobile banking, a debit card, and money transfers through Zelle.

Stash Banking

For students who want a more comprehensive financial management app, Stash is an all-in-one solution. Its flagship product is a micro-investing app, and it now includes a full-service online checking account through Green Dot. Stash also offers retirement savings.

Banking is included with a Stash Beginner account, which costs $1 per month. It comes with micro-investing options, budgeting tools, and a debit card that earns free stocks as you spend.

Through the Green Dot network and technology, Stash Banking includes early direct deposit, bill pay via ACH or paper check, free access to Green Dot ATMs, and cash deposits at participating retailers.

Features of a Good Student Checking Account

To accommodate your unique financial needs as a student, look for accounts that include:

Low or no opening deposit requirement. No monthly maintenance fees. No balance requirements. No direct deposit requirements. Online and mobile banking options. A nationwide and/or international account and ATM/branch access if needed. No ATM fees. Large and widespread ATM network. An ability to continue or convert the account after you leave school.

Are Student Bank Accounts Worth It?

Student bank accounts at traditional banks tend to meet students' need for a fee-free account by stripping away banking perks like interest, bill pay, and checkbooks. Also, they often include financial education features and safeguards like no overdrafts.

Traditionally, these accounts are a good way for young students to get started managing their own money. A potential drawback is that these accounts typically convert into nonstudent accounts with fees and financial requirements once you're no longer a student.

Students can often get these same perks with fee-free online and mobile banking services. These services don't market specifically to students, but their features may meet students' unique needs. They can also grow with you after you leave school, without tacking on additional fees or requirements.

Feature Image: martin-dm / E+ / Getty Images

What is financial literacy and how can it help students? Learn how to use financial literacy tools for college students and make smarter money decisions. College savings accounts help families and students save money for college. Learn about the pros and cons of six types of college savings accounts. Many students start to build credit in college. Learn the pros and cons of getting a student credit card and how to build credit wisely.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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