6 Best Banks for College Students

Melissa LambarenaApr 14, 2021
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Many financial institutions offer deposit accounts with college students in mind. Some of them are great, but others aren’t.

When looking for a new banking service as a college student, seek out accounts (whether or not they cater specifically to students) that have the following: no or easily avoided monthly fees, solid overdraft policies, good interest rates, extensive ATM networks and online banking. The following institutions have accounts that offer all or most of those features.

6 best banks for college students

  • Alliant Credit Union: Strong credit union overall.

  • Ally Bank: Good online bank with no monthly fees.

  • Capital One 360: Good choice for in-person service.

  • Discover: Rewards checking and no fees.

  • Golden 1 Credit Union: Credit union with student accounts.

  • TD Bank: Strong branch presence on the East Coast.

Best banking services for college students

Alliant Credit Union Overall Star Rating
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  • Strong choice for a credit union.

Ally Bank Overall Star Rating
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  • Good online bank with no monthly fees.

Capital One Overall Star Rating
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  • Good choice for in-person service.

Discover Bank Overall Star Rating
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at Discover Bank, Member FDIC

  • Rewards checking.

Golden 1 Credit Union Overall Bank Rating
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  • Credit union with student accounts.

TD Bank Overall Bank Rating
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  • Strong branch presence on the East Coast.

Alliant Credit Union

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Alliant is a credit union with inclusive membership criteria and accounts that are great even once you’ve graduated.

  • Monthly fee: Alliant doesn’t charge a monthly fee on either of its checking accounts, and the fee is easy to avoid on its standard savings account (just select e-statements).

  • Overdraft policy: Alliant offers free overdraft protection transfers. Otherwise, if you do incur an overdraft, the fee is slightly lower than average.

  • Interest rates: Alliant’s standard savings account pays a competitive interest rate. Its High Rate Checking account pays interest, and it’s easy to qualify for the rate: Just choose e-statements and have at least one electronic deposit per month.

  • ATM accessibility: More than 80,000 fee-free ATMs and up to $20 per month in rebates for out-of-network ATM fees.

  • Branch accessibility: Alliant is now an online-only credit union, but joining is easy. Just indicate that you support a partner charity, and Alliant will make a donation on your behalf.

Read more about Alliant in our Alliant review.

Ally Bank

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Ally Bank is a strong online bank with no monthly fees and competitive interest rates.

  • Monthly fee: Ally charges no monthly fee on checking or savings accounts.

  • Overdraft policy: The bank offers free overdraft transfers. That means if you spend more than what’s in your checking account, Ally will pull money from a linked savings account to cover the difference for free. If your savings doesn't cover it, you may get hit with a $25 overdraft fee, up to once per day.

  • Interest rates: Rates are competitive, particularly for savings accounts.

  • ATM accessibility: 43,000 fee-free ATMs nationwide.

  • Branch accessibility: Since it’s an online bank, you’ll have to complete all your banking tasks on your computer or mobile device.

» Check out NerdWallet’s favorites: Our picks for best banks and credit unions overall

Capital One 360

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Capital One 360 is an online bank with no fees, highly competitive interest rates and in-person help at select locations.

  • Monthly fees: Capital One 360 doesn’t have any monthly fees on its checking or savings accounts.

  • Overdraft policy: If you don’t have enough money to cover a debit transaction, Capital One 360’s default overdraft policy is to reject it, costing you nothing. You can opt into your choice of several overdraft service options, but for standard overdrafts, you’ll be charged $35 per item.

  • Interest rates: Capital One 360 offers competitive interest rates on its checking and savings accounts.

  • ATM access: Over 70,000 fee-free Capital One, MoneyPass and Allpoint ATMs nationwide. The bank won't charge you for using an out-of-network ATM, though the ATM owner may.

  • Branch access: Capital One 360 is the online subsidiary of Capital One, but you can access services at Capital One branches, as well as at Capital One 360’s Cafes.

» Learn about more online options in NerdWallet’s best online checking accounts roundup.

Discover

Discover Bank Overall Star Rating
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at Discover Bank, Member FDIC

Discover Bank doesn’t offer specific products for students, but its rewarding checking and savings accounts are great for people of all ages.

  • Monthly fee: No monthly fee for checking or savings.

  • Overdraft policy: There are no insufficient funds or overdraft fees for Discover's checking, savings and money market accounts. You can sign up for free overdraft transfers from a linked account, or the overdraft transaction would be declined.

  • Interest rates: Discover’s savings account pays a competitive rate. Its checking account doesn’t pay interest, but it does offer 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit spending each month.

  • ATM accessibility: More than 60,000 fee-free ATMs across the country.

  • Branch accessibility: Discover is an online bank, but its customer service agents are available by phone 24 hours a day.

Read more about Discover in our Discover review.

Golden 1 Credit Union

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Golden 1 Credit Union’s Student Checking account, for college students 17 and older, has no monthly maintenance fees and no minimum balance requirements.

  • Monthly fee: No monthly fees for its student checking or regular savings accounts.

  • Overdraft policy: If you don’t opt in to an overdraft policy, Golden 1 will simply decline debit card and ATM transactions. However, they’ll hit you with a fee for checks and automatic bill payments if there's not a sufficient balance.

  • Interest rates: While not rock-bottom, rates aren’t as strong here as they are at many online banks.

  • ATM accessibility: 30,000 fee-free ATMs across the country, plus a free box of checks.

  • Branch accessibility: Golden 1 is based in California, and it's easy to join if you live or work in the state. Non-Californians can join if they're a domestic partner or family member of a current member, or if they're a member of one of the credit union's employer groups.

Read more in our Golden 1 review.

» Wondering how big banks measure up? Use our student checking account tool to compare.

TD Bank

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Sometimes it’s easiest to deal with banking issues by walking into a branch and talking to an actual person. TD Bank doesn’t offer the best interest rates, but it does offer student perks on its Convenience Checking account and has over 1,200 locations along the East Coast. Accounts are available in Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

  • Monthly fee: No monthly fee for students under 24 years old on the TD Convenience Checking and the TD Simple Savings accounts.

  • Overdraft policy: Overdraft transfer fees to replenish a depleted checking account are waived for students, but if you do overdraw your available balance, you may be charged standard overdraft fees. If you stick to the default option, TD Bank will decline debit card and ATM transactions at no charge.

  • Interest rates: You won’t find competitive interest rates at TD Bank.

  • ATM accessibility: TD Bank has over 1,900 ATMs.

  • Branch accessibility: Over 1,200 branches along the East Coast.

Read more about TD Bank in our TD Bank review.

Keep it cheap

If you’re a college student, chances are money is tight. Avoid fees where you can, especially overdraft fees — they're are expensive, and adults age 18 to 25 incur more overdrafts than any other age group.

Frequently asked questions

The best banks for college students feature no or easily avoided monthly fees, solid overdraft policies, good interest rates, extensive ATM networks and online banking.

These institutions have accounts that offer all or most of those features: Alliant Credit Union, Ally Bank, Capital One 360, Discover, Golden 1 Credit Union and TD Bank.

The best bank accounts for college students might not be labeled or specified as being for college students, but will offer perks and features helpful to them. That could include a lack of monthly fees (or easy ways to waive them), reasonable overdraft policies, competitive interest rates, a network of free ATMs and online banking.


Methodology

We took a close look at over 70 financial institutions, including the largest U.S. banks based on assets, debit card volume, internet search traffic and other factors; the nation’s largest credit unions, based on deposits as well as broad-based membership requirements; and other notable and/or emerging players in the industry. We rated them on criteria including annual percentage yields, minimum balances, fees, digital experience and more.

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