10 Tips For Opening A College Student Checking Account

By Matthew Cenzon. May 7th 2016

It's your first year of college, meaning it's your first real step towards adulthood and the real world. Whether you are commuting from home or living in a completely new area, there is a sense of independence that almost everyone feels when they begin their college tenure. An important step that many people take at the brink of maturity is to open their own checking account. Many banking institutions offer special checking accounts catered to the needs of the average, first-year college student.

Now, before you run off to the bank to set up your very first checking account, here are some tips to help you:

1. Make Sure The Bank Is Nearby

A key factor that will affect your decision when choosing a financial institution for your college student checking account is the location of the bank. Opening a student checking account at the local bank in your hometown makes absolutely no sense if you are going to school across the country. Locations near campus and accessibility will affect your decision on whether you want to go with a big bank, or smaller institution like a credit union. Paying a non-bank ATM fee when you are strapped for cash can really hurt your monthly budget.

2. Find The Location Of Nearby ATMs

You may be able to sign up for a student checking account at a financial institution far from campus if you can find a nearby ATM. Many credit unions and local banks are a part of ATM networks, allowing them to have multiple, fee-free ATMs in a wider range of locations. While these ATM networks may not match the convenience of a big bank, many college campuses tend to have at least one credit union ATM that is part of a network.

3. Look For A Low Minimum Deposit

If you are entering college with little to no job experience, chances are you've been living off of the allowance money you received from your parents with the only savings in the form of loose change and a few bucks in a piggy bank. When opening a college student checking account, shop around for a bank with a low minimum deposit. Most minimum deposits for student checking accounts should be low to begin with, but there are some that can be as low as $1!

4. Ask About The Monthly Fees

Review any monthly fees required for maintaining your college student checking account before you sign up. Make sure you read the fine print, as some financial institutions may promise no fees, but require certain conditions that must be met to avoid some type of service charge. They may tell you it's a free checking account, it may even have the word "free" in its name, but until all the rules and requirements are made clear to you, assume there is some type of service fee for your student checking account.

5. Know What Is Being Offered

You may have a new checking account, but what privileges and services are you entitled to? Do you get free online banking? How about a debit card? Make a list of the things you want most from your checking account, and make sure the bank you choose can meet most or all of these needs. Having a checking account that is only good for depositing and withdrawing money is no better than stashing money under your dorm mattress.

6. Credit Cards

Upon enrolling for a student checking account, you may be eligible to receive a student credit card through the bank. Often times, these credit cards have a low interest rate and low line of credit. This works out very well for college students who don't want to rack up huge credit card debt, and may not be able to pay off a credit card bill all at once. A student credit can be very handy for emergencies.

7. Are There Any Rewards?

Some financial institutions may offer perks or rewards for college students who are signing up for their first checking account. For example, you may receive your first set of checks for free, or you may be rewarded for using your debit card on certain purchases. Find out if your student checking account comes with rewards and be sure to take advantage of them.

8. Linked Savings Accounts

In some cases, new college students may already have a savings account in their name. Find out if the institution where you have your savings account offers a student checking account that you can link together. This will prevent heavy overdraft charges, and makes transferring money simple in times of emergency.

9. Co-signing with Your Parents

Parents who are sending money to their children for college may want to have a joint checking account, or at least link their account to their child's student checking account. This makes money transfers easy, and allows parents to conveniently send money to their child in increments to ensure they don't go over a monthly budget, or in case of emergency.

10. Look Towards the Future

A student checking account is a great way to establish a relationship with a financial institution you may be using for the rest of your life. Take the time to learn more about the company that is providing you with a student checking account. They may have services that can be useful to you once you've graduated college.

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