Best Student Checking Accounts in April 2022 - MagnifyMoney
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Best Student Checking Accounts in April 2022

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Checking accounts are an essential tool for managing your finances, and some accounts design their services around the needs of young people. Those accounts typically waive fees, provide protection in case of overdrafts and sometimes pay interest on the balance or cash rewards for purchases.

MagnifyMoney reviewed several checking accounts from different financial institutions to determine the best student checking accounts. Read our methodology for account selections below.

Best student checking accounts in December 2022

Discover Cashback Debit

Best overall student checking account

  • Minimum balance to open: None
  • Monthly fee: None
Pros Cons
  • 1.0% cash back on debit purchases
  • No monthly maintenance fee, limits other fees
  • Highly rated mobile banking app
  • No branch locations for in-person services
  • Limits to monthly cash back rewards
  • Not specifically designed for students

Why we like it: Discover isn’t a traditional bank, and its checking account isn’t designed with students in mind, but it was named our best overall checking account for students because of how accessible it is and what kind of perks it offers.

There are no monthly maintenance fees (or minimum balance requirements) and there are no fees for insufficient funds, paper checks, replacement debit cards or several other services that can incur fees from other banks. The Discover ATM network has over 60,000 ATMs available for fee-free withdrawals as well.

The key perk with Discover Cashback Debit is the 1.0% cash back on debit card purchases up to a limit of $3,000 per month. While it’s technically not the highest possible reward amount available (Quontic Bank has a higher rate), it’s a nice benefit for those who often use their debit card. Plus, even though Discover doesn’t have physical bank branches, it has 24/7 customer service and one of the best available mobile apps for banking.

Discover Cashback Debit is a great all-around choice for everyone, including students, due to its cash rewards and lack of banking fees.

Read our selections of the best checking accounts for everyone.

Alliant Teen Checking

Best student checking account for high school students

SEE DETAILS

on Alliant Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

  • Minimum balance to open: None
  • Monthly fee: None
Pros Cons
  • Pays 0.25% APY on all account balances
  • Large ATM network and fee rebates
  • Efficient transfers between parents and teens
  • Caps daily spending and withdrawals
  • No branch locations for in-person banking
  • Joint ownership requires membership

Why we like it: Alliant Credit Union allows anyone to join with a donation (which Alliant pays on your behalf) to Foster Care to Success, so parents and teens can easily become Alliant members in order to open the Teen Checking account. Alliant requires eStatements and a monthly direct deposit to bear interest on its checking accounts, and if those requirements are completed, Teen Checking pays 0.25% APY on all balances. Even though there are no credit union branch locations, there’s solid ATM access.

An especially notable feature of the Teen Checking account is that there are low daily debit card limits ($100) and cash withdrawal limits ($300). Some parents may prefer to limit their teens’ access to their money, but for those who need more liquidity, another account may be a better option. Account holders have the option to convert their Teen Checking account into a regular Alliant Checking account when they turn 18.

Chase College Checking

Best student checking account for college students

  • Minimum balance to open: None
  • Monthly fee: None for college students
Pros Cons
  • $100 sign-up bonus currently available
  • Large network of bank branch locations
  • Autosave feature for linked savings accounts
  • Monthly maintenance fee is waived during enrollment; additional actions required after graduation
  • No overdraft protection for insufficient funds
  • Doesn’t pay interest or cash back

Why we like it: Chase Bank has a large geographic footprint and offers one of the best available checking accounts specifically geared for college students. There’s a $100 bonus for opening a Chase College Checking account as long as you complete at least 10 qualifying transactions within 60 days. These transactions can be debit purchases, online bill payments and other transfers. There are some features designed for young people, including financial education content and an automated savings tool with a linked Chase Savings account.

Before opening an account, you should know that there could be monthly account maintenance fees in the future. The $6 fee is waived for up to 5 years in college; otherwise, you’ll need to complete a monthly deposit requirement or have an average daily balance of $5,000 to avoid it. To open an account, you must be 17 to 24 years old and provide proof of student status. If you’re 17, you must open it in person.

Quontic Cash Rewards Checking

Best student checking account for cash rewards

  • Minimum balance to open: $100
  • Monthly fee: None
Pros Cons
  • Best available cash back on debit purchases
  • No overdraft fees
  • $100 minimum opening deposit required
  • No branch locations for in-person banking

Why we like it: While Quontic Bank’s Cash Rewards Checking account isn’t exclusively designed for college students, it’s the best option for students who are focused on earning cash back on debit card purchases. It has the same reward structure as a credit card, without the possible downsides. Eligible debit card transactions earn 1.5% cash back — which can really add up over the course of a year.

Quontic is an online bank without physical branch locations, but it does have deposit insurance from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) — so you know your money will be safe. There’s a $100 opening deposit to open an account. If earning cash back is the most important feature you’d like in a checking account, Quontic offers better potential to earn rewards than Discover.

Wells Fargo Clear Access Banking

Best checking account for in-branch banking

  • Minimum balance to open: $25
  • Monthly fee: None for those ages 13 to 24 years old
Pros Cons
  • Large footprint of branch locations nationwide
  • Available for those as young as 13 years old
  • No overdraft fees
  • Monthly fee for those over 24 years old
  • Relatively small ATM network
  • No interest paid on the balance

Why we like it: Wells Fargo has the largest branch network of any bank in the U.S., and chances are that you’ll be able to find a location in your state for in-person banking. Teenagers younger than 18 will need to visit a branch and sign up for a Clear Access Banking account with an adult co-owner. Once you turn 25 years old, you’ll start paying a $5 monthly fee — this is an account designed for younger account holders.

There’s no interest or rewards with Clear Access Banking. While you can deposit checks from a mobile app, there are no check-writing privileges with the account. There are no overdraft fees, and Wells Fargo won’t authorize transactions if the account would drop to a negative balance. Wells Fargo offers other checking accounts as well, including Everyday Checking, which has check-writing and also waives fees for account holders who are 17 to 24 years old.

PNC Virtual Wallet Student

Best student checking account for total money management

SEE DETAILS

on PNC Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

  • Minimum balance to open: $25
  • Monthly fee: None
Pros Cons
  • Combines features of checking and savings
  • Converts into standard account after six years
  • Offers modest ATM rebates for out-of-network use
  • Charges overdraft fees after first overdraft
  • Limited in-network ATM availability
  • Low interest rates on savings balances (Reserve and Growth)

Why we like it: The Virtual Wallet is an account that combines features of checking and savings accounts. The Spend portion is used for everyday banking transactions, while Reserve and Growth bear interest on balances. PNC’s Virtual Wallet Student has the same resources and digital tools as the standard Virtual Wallet account, but it has no monthly fee for up to six years. Once an account holder has had their student account for six years, it will convert into a standard account — which helps minimize the transition out of student banking.

PNC provides one courtesy refund for the first overdraft, but subsequent overdrafts incur a fee. While there are also some ATM rebates ($5 per month for out-of-network ATM fees), PNC has a limited ATM network, especially if you reside in a state where there are no branch locations. The interest rate offered on the savings portions of the account is low relative to other savings accounts at just 0.01% APY.

LendingClub Rewards Checking

Best student checking account for budgeting

SEE DETAILS

on LendingClub’s secure website

Member FDIC

  • Minimum balance to open: $25
  • Monthly fee: None
Pros Cons
  • Unlimited 1.0% cash back with credit transactions
  • Provides unlimited ATM fee rebates
  • Early access to paychecks with direct deposit
  • No physical bank branch locations
  • $2,500 minimum balance to earn interest
  • Poor mobile application reviews

Why we like it: While the LendingClub Rewards Checking account isn’t designed for students, it’s a solid all-around account that keeps costs low and provides a nice perk with the cash back rewards. You’ll earn 1.0% on credit-based signature transactions with your debit card — make sure to choose “credit” when making purchases to receive your rewards.

LendingClub’s finance tools are the reason why Rewards Checking is the best student bank account for budgeting. You can link your external accounts, track your debts and most importantly, view your spending history and trends while setting budget goals for various categories. Those insights are quite helpful when learning how to manage your money.

Advantages of checking accounts

Checking accounts help people complete everyday transactions like purchases, cash withdrawals and direct deposits from employers. Here are some of the key reasons to open a checking account:

Spend money easily

Instead of paying for things with cash, debit cards issued with checking accounts let you make purchases. This is especially useful with online payments, and debit cards typically come with security features to ensure that only you can use it. It’s simply much easier to use a debit card when you buy things, online or in person.

Connect with other accounts

Checking accounts also integrate seamlessly with other bank accounts. If you need to transfer money between checking and savings accounts, you can do so with free transfers. You can also use your checking account to fund investment accounts, for example. Employers typically send paychecks through direct deposit into a checking account — it’s easier than sending checks through the mail.

Safely store money

Checking accounts are a safe place to keep your money, as long as you bank with a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)-insured bank or a National Credit Union Administration (NCUA)-insured credit union. Accounts through those programs have deposit insurance up to $250,000.

What are student checking accounts?

Student checking accounts are deposit accounts for common banking transactions that are designed for younger customers. Account holders under the age of 18 typically need an adult to cosign with them on an account, and some accounts place certain restrictions on underage customers (such as daily purchase limits or an inability to overdraw the account).

Because students and young people tend to carry lower account balances, banks often waive monthly account maintenance fees with proof of enrollment in college or if you’re under a certain age. Those maintenance fees, if they apply, can usually be waived — but many student bank accounts don’t have them. Some standard checking accounts are free.

Beyond minimizing fees, student checking accounts often have features for people who are new to banking. Many banks provide educational resources for younger customers or anyone who wants to learn more about money management. Tools for budgeting and goal-setting are nice features for those who want some assistance. There’s plenty of free information online, but it can be a nice perk to read up on checking accounts and other topics in your banking app.

Choosing the right student checking account

No two checking accounts are the same, so it’s important to weigh the factors that are most important to you when deciding which account to open. A certain reward, perk or account feature may entice you. Here are some important features to consider:

  • Limiting fees: Student checking accounts tend to have no monthly maintenance fees or waive them for those under a certain age, but there are other fees to consider when choosing an account. Some financial institutions charge overdraft fees if your account dips below zero, while some provide some overdraft protection. Out-of-network ATM fees can also be an issue if you don’t have in-network ATMs nearby.
  • ATM network: Big banks with numerous branch locations tend to only allow fee-free withdrawals from their ATMs, and online banks and credit unions usually participate in ATM sharing agreements to provide a wider network for account holders. Some financial institutions even provide ATM rebates so that you can potentially avoid out-of-network fees altogether.
  • Sign-up bonuses: Accounts designed for younger customers don’t tend to provide the best interest rates, though there are some accounts that provide solid cash back on purchases. The best way to earn a little bit of money with your checking account may be to find a checking account bonus offer for opening an account and completing requirements.

What happens to my student bank account when I graduate?

If you become too old to continue using your student checking account, banks will typically let you convert those accounts to another checking account they offer — or they may automatically do it for you.

If you don’t convert your account, you may incur monthly fees for keeping that account open. This is because those monthly fees are typically waived when you’re a certain age or when you’re enrolled in school.

Comparing the best student checking accounts in December 2022

AccountCategory
Discover Cashback DebitBest overall
Alliant Teen CheckingBest for high school students
Chase College CheckingBest for college students
Quontic Cash Rewards CheckingBest for cash rewards
Wells Fargo Clear Access BankingBest for in-branch banking
PNC Virtual Wallet StudentBest for total money management
LendingClub Rewards CheckingBest for budgeting

Methodology for choosing the best student checking accounts

MagnifyMoney reviewed hundreds of checking accounts using information from financial institutions, DepositAccounts and other sources to put together a list of the best checking accounts for students. While many of these accounts are specifically geared toward younger banking customers, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusively for students or for people under a certain age.

All of the accounts considered by MagnifyMoney must have Federal Deposit Insurance Committee (FDIC) or National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) insurance on the deposits, and all must be nationally available. Factors considered for inclusion on the list of best student checking accounts include:

  • Low monthly fees that are easily waived
  • Low minimum deposit requirements to open and maintain an account
  • Overdraft protection features
  • ATM and in-branch banking availability
  • Cash rewards and interest paid on the account balance

Additionally, the selections for specific categories are judged by the most important criteria for those categories — for example, if an account offers specific perks to college students, that account would be more favorably assessed for the “best for college students” designation.

Frequently asked questions

It depends on what kind of account you’re trying to open, but some institutions let customers as young as 13 open an account with an adult co-owner. It’s common to need an adult to help open an account until you’re 18.
In some cases, yes, you can overdraft a student bank account. Some banks prevent you from withdrawing more money than you have, but not all do. Be sure to check an account’s overdraft policy before opening one.
Student checking accounts don’t tend to pay much interest (if any) on the balance, compared with standard or premium checking accounts. There also can be some restrictions on account activity for customers under the age of 18.
You’ll need the same documentation as you’d need to open any bank account: a driver’s license or other government-issued ID, your Social Security number and possibly further documentation to corroborate your identity. If there’s a required minimum opening deposit, you’ll need that too.