Student bank accounts are functionally the same as regular bank accounts, but they offer special benefits for students and young people.
Whether you’re young or old, if you’re earning money, you need a place to safely store it. Student bank accounts are essentially regular bank accounts with some special features for young people. You can deposit cash, earn interest, and use the money to pay expenses.
The best banks for students should have a low minimum deposit — the amount you need to put in the account when you first open it. You should also be able to avoid paying common fees, like account maintenance fees.
Student bank accounts can help you learn how to manage your money. Some banks even offer a teen checking account that rolls over into a regular checking account when you turn 18. Note that, if you’re not an adult, you may have to open a joint account with your parent or guardian.
When choosing an account, look for a bank or credit union with branch locations and ATMs close to you. If you’re on campus, or if you don’t drive, you can use an online-only bank. If you’re opening a savings account, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the best interest rate.
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A student checking account allows people to deposit and use money in the account. Checking accounts don’t often earn any interest, but they do let you write checks against them. It functions the same as a bank account for non-students except it has low minimum deposit requirements and fewer, if any, fees.
Unlike savings accounts, you can make an unlimited number of transactions using the account, provided you have enough money in it.
Many checking accounts come with fees. But if you have a student checking account, some of those fees, such as the low-balance fee, are waived while you’re in school. (Just graduated? There are other ways to waive these fees.) Like regular bank accounts, you’ll be given a debit card.
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If you’re younger than 18, you may need a parent or guardian to open the account with you. This person will be a co-signer on this joint account.
You also may not be able to open a student checking account after your early 20s, even if you’re still in school. Most banks limit student bank accounts to people younger than ages 23 to 26. Beyond that age, you’ll need to get conventional bank account.
You’ll usually need to make a minimum deposit, although the amount is low for students and young people. Once the account is open, you’ll be given a debit card, which allows you to withdraw cash from the bank or ATM as well as to make purchases.
Bring your ID, such as a driver’s license, to open the account. If you use an online bank, you may need to upload a picture of the ID. You can also set up direct deposit so your paychecks, if you have a job, go straight into the account on payday.
Read more about what you need to open a bank account.
You’ll want a bank account insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC. FDIC-insured banks protect the first $250,000 of each account. If you go to a credit union, which may provide more favorable terms, your account is insured by the National Credit Union Administration, or NCUA.
(Read more about the difference between credit unions and banks.)
Make sure your student checking account has low or no fees for international transactions. If you study abroad, foreign ATM fees may become costly.
Some student bank accounts don’t allow check usage. If you need to write checks, make sure you open an account that allows them.
Additionally, students should look for a bank or credit union either on campus or close enough to drive to easily. Many students may be fine with just an online bank, which has no branch locations or ATMs.
You may even want to consider a bank’s opening hours; a bank that closes while you’re in class may not be a good fit. Read more about banks’ opening hours here.
Savings accounts earn interest, but they also only allow you to make just six transactions each month, depending on the type of transaction. They’re an important way to save money and should be part of any student’s rainy-day fund.
You also won’t get a debit card with your savings account, but some may come with an ATM card that can only be used to withdraw money at a bank or ATM.
They also have all the same limitations: you can’t open one if you’re a minor unless your parent or guardian co-signs the account, and you have to be below a certain age.
Student savings accounts should be FDIC-insured (or NCUA-insured if from a credit union). However, you won’t be able to write a check against your savings account.
Learn more about the different types of savings accounts.
Savings accounts can earn about 0.5% interest, but many savings accounts earn far less than that. (Interest rates are expressed as an annual percentage yield, or APY.) Students can open savings accounts at virtually any bank, so they should be able to get as much interest as possible.
Like student checking accounts, student savings accounts should have none of the fees associated with conventional accounts.
The location of the bank (or credit union) isn’t as important a consideration as it is with checking accounts. You’ll mostly want to use the savings account to grow your money and use it for emergencies.
If you have a student checking or savings account, you don’t necessarily need to close it. If you’re the only owner of the account — meaning that your parent or guardian doesn’t co-own the account with you — then most banks will roll it over into a conventional account when you reach a certain age.
If you do need to close the account, talk to your bank or credit union. You’ll cash out the account and sign a form stating that you want to close it.
But when you have a joint account, your parent or guardian may need to go with you to the branch location to close the account. You’ll both have to present ID and sign the account closure form.
You could keep the account open. However, if your co-signer defaults on debt, lenders may go after the money in that account even if the money was deposited by you.
Zack Sigel is a SEO managing editor at Policygenius. He covers personal finance, comprising mortgages, investing, deposit accounts, and more. His previous work included writing about film and music.
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