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Credit Unions with Free Checking for College Students

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Free checking in college? It’s possible at your university credit union. A recent NerdWallet study found that 88% of the time, credit union student checking accounts were better than big-bank accounts in terms of fees, accessibility and perks.These days, a big bank might be able to offer you a free t-shirt, but not truly free checking. A truly free checking account has no minimum balance requirements and no monthly fees. As far as we’re concerned, it’s the best way to bank. It’s your money, after all, and if you’re in college, you probably don’t have a ton of it. Why should you have to keep $1,500 in your account just to avoid fees? Visit your university credit union today and score a better deal.

What’s a university credit union?

Unlike big banks, credit unions are not-for-profit organizations owned by their members, and a number of them are also affiliated with a local university. One of their biggest priorities is serving students like you, not bank shareholders. Any profits they make go back to you in the form of higher interest rates and better deals on loans for you, your neighbors, and even local businesses. And, even though credit unions might not have as many branches as big banks, shared branching and partner ATM networks make it easy to perform the transactions you need (for free) no matter where you are. When you open a free checking account at a credit union, everyone wins.

Free student checking: NerdWallet’s picks

Below are NerdWallet’s picks for free student checking accounts. If you don’t see your school on the list, stop by your local credit union branch and ask about free checking for students. We think you’ll like what you find.

Bowling Green State University – Glass City Federal Credit Union

Glass City Federal Credit Union has branches in three Ohio cities: Maumee, Bowling Green and Toledo. Their Regular Checking account is a great, no-fuss account with unlimited check writing. You can also enroll your free debit card in their Swipe and Save program, which automatically rounds your purchases to the next whole dollar and deposits the difference into your savings account. Glass City Federal Credit Union membership is open to individuals who live, work, worship or attend school in Lucas, Wood, Fulton or Ottawa counties. Immediate family of members and businesses within the field of membership may also join.

Texas Tech University – Texas Tech Federal Credit Union

Texas Tech Federal Credit Union has two branches in Lubbock. Their Masked Rider Checking account, which is just for students, has all the same features of their regular free checking account, but it has a lower opening deposit of $5. It also comes with one free box of checks at opening, and unlimited free transactions at 28,000+ CO-OP network ATMs and over 30 Plains Capital Bank ATMs. Membership is open to faculty, students and employees of Texas Tech University or Texas Tech Health Sciences Center. Other eligible groups include Texas Tech Alumni Association members, employees of University Medical Center, and faculty and employees of Lubbock Christian University. Retired people who receive pensions from these organizations and immediate family of eligible members may also join.

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) – University Credit Union

University Credit Union has one city branch in Los Angeles, and one on-campus branch at Ackerman Union. Their free checking account comes with online banking and telephone banking, and free access to CO-OP network ATMs. If you’re a student at UCLA, be sure to check out their Student Banking Bundle, which includes the free checking account plus an interest-bearing savings account and access to special loan programs. University Credit Union membership is open to employees and students of UCLA, Loyola Marymount University, Pepperdine University or Mount St. Mary’s College. Please see their membership page for complete details and other ways to qualify.

University of Iowa – University of Iowa Community Credit Union

University of Iowa Community Credit Union has branches in Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls, Grinnell and Hiawatha. Their Student Checking account comes with mobile and text banking, free money transfers between banks, and a Visa Debit card with purchase rewards. This program gives you targeted cash-back coupons that you activate online and use automatically. You can also avoid overdrafts by setting up text or e-mail warnings to alert you when your balance is low. If you’re not a student, U of I Community Credit Union’s Basic Checking account is also free and comes with many of the same perks. Membership is open to anyone living or working in Eastern Iowa (42 eligible counties), University of Iowa alumni and direct relatives of current members. Please see their About Us page for a list of eligible counties and more information.

University of Michigan – University of Michigan Credit Union

University of Michigan Credit Union has 6 Ann Arbor branches and 1 Dearborn location. 3 of the branches are on the University of Michigan campus (north campus, central campus, and next to the bookstore in the Michigan Union). The Dearborn location is on the University of Michigan-Dearborn campus. Their Basic Checking account is free when you enroll in e-statements. It comes with free online banking and bill pay, unlimited check writing privileges, and free transactions at over 30,000 CO-OP network ATMs and over 4,900 shared branches. In addition, you can set-up account alerts to let you know if your balance is low. University of Michigan Credit Union membership is open to students, employees, retirees and alumni of the University of Michigan, Washtenaw Community College, Cleary University or Concordia University. Please see their membership page for details and other ways to qualify.

University of Notre Dame – Notre Dame Federal Credit Union

Notre Dame Federal Credit Union has branches in South Bend, Mishawaka and Granger, Indiana, as well as one branch on-campus in the basement of LaFortune Student Center. Their free student checking account, the edge Checking, is a paperless account that comes with free online, mobile and text message banking, free iPhone and Android banking apps, free online bill payment and 10 free foreign ATM fees per month. Notre Dame Federal Credit Union membership is open to over 850 groups, including faculty, staff, students and alumni of the University of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College, or Holy Cross College. Affiliates of many other local organizations and business also qualify; however, membership is also open to anyone who makes a donation to the Holy Cross Alumni Association. Please visit their Who Can Join page for a complete list and additional information.

University of South Florida – USF Federal Credit Union

USF Federal Credit Union has two on-campus branches: one at the Marshall Student Center and one on the Tampa Campus. They have additional branches in Tampa, Brandon and St. Petersburg. Their Dividend Checking account is truly free, and it even pays a competitive interest rate. It also comes with online banking and bill pay, unlimited check writing, and free access to the CO-OP ATM network. Membership is open to all University of South Florida faculty, staff and students. Employees of organizations housed on a USF campus, members of the USF Alumni Association, USF retirees, and immediate family and housemates of eligible members may also join.

University of Wisconsin – UW Credit Union

As the name implies, UW Credit Union has branches on multiple University of Wisconsin campuses, including UW Madison, UW Milwaukee, UW Whitewater, UW Green Bay and UW Oshkosh. You’ll also find plenty of branches in the Madison Area, Milwaukee Area and beyond. Their Campus Package includes a free checking account with online banking and bill pay, a savings account and Visa student credit card. UW Credit Union membership is open to UW system employees and students, past and present, and anyone who lives, works or attends school within 5 miles of a credit union branch. Please see their membership eligibility page for details and other ways to qualify.

Vanderbilt University – Vanderbilt University Employees Credit Union

Vanderbilt University Employees Credit Union is based in Tennessee and has one branch on campus at Oxford House. Their Share Draft Checking account earns interest and comes with free checks. It also comes with easy online and telephone access, and e-statements. Vanderbilt University Credit Union membership is open to employees, faculty, students and officers of administration of Vanderbilt University, Vanderbilt University Hospital and other eligible organizations. Please see their membership page for complete details.

Wright State University – Wright-Patt Credit Union

Wright-Patt Credit Union has 24 locations throughout the Miami Valley and Southwest Ohio. They also have a branch on campus at the Wright State Student Union. As advertised, their Totally Fair Checking account is “an honest deal”. There’s no minimum balance requirement, of course, but they don’t stop there. There’s no daily negative balance fee either. We hope you never have to take advantage of that perk, but if life happens, it’s there. Other free perks include unlimited check writing, online banking and bill pay, and mobile banking. Membership is open to individuals who live, work, worship or attend school in Montgomery, Greene, Warren, Miami, Clark, Clinton, Champaign or Hamilton counties. Wright State students, staff and faculty qualify, of course, as do military and civilian employees of the Wright-Patterson Air Force base. Please see the eligibility page for complete details and other ways to join.

Know another great student checking account?

Tell us about them. NerdWallet is always looking to spread the word about free student checking.