Adulting 101: How to Open a Bank Account in College
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- Many banks offer special perks for college students opening checking or savings accounts.
- Consider how you plan to use the account and determine which accounts you need.
- Select a bank that meets your needs and is convenient for you to access.
- To open an account, gather the required documentation and visit the bank's branch or website.
For many students, college comes with many firsts, from living on your own to managing your finances. When beginning to manage your money, you may want to open a bank account. Thankfully, many financial institutions acknowledge the learning curve in money management, so they offer special accounts specifically for students.
Read on for a breakdown of how to open a college bank account.
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Step 1: Decide Between a Student Bank Account and a Regular One
A student bank account can give you a great start at learning to manage your money. Student bank accounts are typically available to anyone enrolled as a student (though some may have age limits). Student bank accounts are typically affordable to open and often come with perks specifically geared toward students on a budget, like:
- No minimum balance
- Lower or waived monthly fees
- Lower or waived ATM fees
- Lower minimum deposits
- Overdraft protection or overdraft forgiveness
- Added bonuses and rewards
If you already have experience managing money, you may not need to open a student account. However, many students enroll in a student account while in school to take advantage of the discounts and perks.
Step 2: Determine What Account Type You Need
When opening a bank account, there are two different types. You can open only one account, or you may choose to open both.
A checking account allows you to deposit and withdraw money as needed. A checking account can be a good place to deposit your paycheck to cover expenses. A checking account typically comes with a debit card and checkbook.
If you're saving for college or looking to grow your money, a savings account can be a good option. In a savings account, your money earns interest. There are many different types of savings accounts that offer different benefits depending on what you're saving for.
Step 3: Research Banks to Open Your Account With
You'll want to compare types of accounts and their terms to ensure you're taking advantage of the features you'd use most.
- Signing bonus: Some banks will award free money for signing up.
- Perks: Some bank accounts allow you to earn cash back on purchases or receive discounts on services that normally carry a fee (like ATM fees or overdraft protection).
- Minimum balance: You may be charged if you don't carry the minimum balance for an account.
- Annual fees: Most bank accounts require a yearly fee. However, many student accounts waive the annual fee.
Considering how you plan to use the account can help determine which bank you want to use.
If you think you'll be depositing a lot of cash, you may want to consider a brick-and-mortar bank. These traditional banks have physical branch locations that you can visit with personal support services. However, brick-and-mortar banks often have higher fees.
An online bank allows you to conduct your transactions exclusively online. Because they don't maintain physical locations, these banks generally can charge lower fees and pay out more interest. However, working with cash can be challenging, and customer service may not be as personalized as at a brick-and-mortar bank.
While banks are businesses, credit unions are not-for-profit organizations owned by its members. Credit unions can provide many of the same financial services as banks. However, you must meet certain requirements to join a credit union (like living in a certain area or being part of a particular group).
Step 4: Gather What You Need to Open Your Bank Account
Here is a list of what you'll need to bring to open a new account:
- Personal identification: You'll need to present a valid, government-issued photo ID like a driver's license, passport, or state ID card.
- Initial deposit: A bank may require you to make a minimum initial deposit (from $0-$25) to open the account.
- Proof of residence: You may need proof of residence, such as a recent bill or credit card statement.
- Proof of school enrollment: If you're opening a student bank account, the bank may want to see some proof of enrollment in a school.
- A parent or legal guardian: You need to be 18 to sign any legal documents, so if you're not yet 18, bring a co-signer.
Step 5: Open Your Bank Account
To open the account, you'll need to visit the branch or website with the information and documents you've gathered.
If you're visiting a branch, you'll likely meet with a banking representative to get your account opened. They'll ask you for information, make copies of your documents, and provide you with information about your account. They'll also give instructions on obtaining checks and a debit card.
If you're opening an online account, you'll likely complete an online application and digitally submit documentation to the bank. From there, the bank will notify you when you're approved and can start transacting on your account.
Step 6: Put Money in Your Bank Account
Once you open your account, you can begin depositing money and making transactions in your account. Some accounts may require an initial deposit, which means you'll need to put money in the account to open it.
You can also deposit money into the account by visiting the branch or completing a digital deposit. Many employers use direct deposit, meaning they deposit the money directly into your account.
You may be offered additional services like a student credit card when opening your account. A credit card can be a great way to build your credit in college. If you do this, however, you'll want to ensure you're living within a budget and keeping a close eye on the funds in your student accounts.
DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute professional financial advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Readers of this website should contact a professional advisor before making decisions about financial issues.