University Credit Unions Vs. Banks – Which Are Better for Students?
Across more than 80 universities, NerdWallet found that 88% of the time, credit union student checking accounts were better than big-bank accounts in terms of fees, accessibility and perks.
- Free checking: Free student checking is alive and well, with a median monthly fee of $0 for both banks and credit unions. The few financial institutions that did charge monthly fees had simple waive requirements, such as signing up for electronic statements or maintaining a minimum balance of $250.
- Out-of-network ATM transactions: Credit unions charged less for out-of-network ATM transactions, and many offered a set number of free out-of-network ATM transactions per month. 57% of credit unions surveyed gave customers at least 1 free out-of-network ATM transaction per month, while only 18% banks gave customers this perk.
- Accessibility: Credit unions tend to be more accessible than banks—university credit unions had branches on campus more often than banks did, and university credit unions offered more surcharge-free ATMs near campus than banks did. Banks that had more on-campus ATMs than credit unions often participated in affinity agreements with the universities.
- Perks: Student perks were abundant, including free sweatshirts, courtesy overdraft refunds and gift card rewards for good grades. We listed some of the best perks we found.
Our analysis revealed several key differences in student checking accounts at banks and credit unions.
|Median monthly fee||$0||$0|
|Median overdraft fee||$35||$28|
|% of completely free student checking accounts||82%||99%|
|Median cost for 2 out-of-network ATM transactions per month||$4||$0|
|% with branches on campus||54%||72%|
|Median number of ATMs within 1 mile of campus||4||7|
Wondering what the difference is between a bank and a credit union? Read our overview.