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Best Banks for College Students

Sept. 25, 2018
Banking, Checking Accounts
Best Checking Accounts for College Students
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We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

Many banks offer deposit accounts with college students in mind. Some of them are great, but others aren’t.

When looking for a new bank as a college student, seek out accounts that have the following: no or easily avoided monthly fees, solid overdraft policies, good interest rates, extensive ATM networks and online banking. The following banks have accounts that offer all or most of those features.

Ally Bank

NerdWallet has rated this bank:

 

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. You may still 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 ATMs fee-free across the nation.
  • Branch accessibility: Since it’s an online bank, you’ll have to complete all your banking tasks on your computer or mobile device.

Capital One 360

NerdWallet has rated this bank:

 

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

  • Monthly fees: Capital One 360 doesn’t have any monthly fees on its checking, savings or money market accounts.
  • Overdraft policy: If you don’t have any money in your checking account and try to make a debit transaction, Capital One 360’s default overdraft policy is to reject the transaction, costing you nothing. You can opt into an overdraft service, but you’ll be charged $35 if it’s ever used.
  • Interest rates: Capital One 360 offers competitive interest rates on its checking, savings, and money market accounts.
  • ATM access: 39,000 fee-free Capital One 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, which means you won’t have full access to services at a Capital One branch. Be prepared to conduct most of your services online, unless you find yourself near one of Capital One 360’s Cafés.

Read more about Capital One 360 in our review.

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

Simple

NerdWallet has rated this bank:

 

Simple

at Simple,

Member, FDIC

For those who prefer to do their banking on mobile devices, Simple’s no-fee checking account can be a good fit.

  • Monthly fees: Simple doesn’t charge any monthly fees.
  • Overdraft policy: There are no overdraft fees. If you try to spend money you don’t have, your transaction is simply declined.
  • Interest rates: Simple offers a checking account, which earns a mere 0.01% APY. But if you create a protected goal account between Sept. 25 and Oct. 31, 2018, and fund it with at least $2,000, that money will earn 2.02% APY. Protected goal accounts opened before Sept. 25 also qualify for the promotion as long as they hold at least $2,000.
  • ATM accessibility: 40,000 fee-free ATMs across the country.
  • Branch accessibility: Given that it’s a mobile bank, there are no branches you can access, and there’s no way to deposit cash directly. But Simple’s mobile app has perks like a spending tracker, budgeting tools and customizable goals that can help you develop good spending habits.

Read more about Simple’s banking experience in our Simple review.

Golden 1 Credit Union

NerdWallet has rated this bank:

 

Golden 1 Credit Union

at Golden 1 Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

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 Student Checking or Regular Savings.
  • Overdraft policy: If you don’t opt in to a different overdraft policy, Golden 1 will simply decline debit card and ATM transactions. However, they’ll hit you with a fee if checks and automatic bill payments go through without there being 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, but it’s easy to join, even if you live or attend school elsewhere in the U.S. You can become eligible by joining the Financial Fitness Association, a nonprofit that raises awareness about personal finance. Membership in the association costs $8.

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

TD Bank

NerdWallet has rated this bank:

 

TD Bank

at TD Bank,

Member, FDIC

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 a free student checking account and has over 1,200 locations along the East Coast.

  • Monthly fee: No monthly fee on Student Checking, and you can avoid the $5 fee on Simple Savings by maintaining a $300 minimum daily balance.
  • Overdraft policy: Though overdraft transfers to replenish a depleted checking account are waived for students, you may be charged standard overdraft fees if your available balance is overdrawn. 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: Any of 1,900 TD Bank ATMs in the U.S. and Canada.
  • Branch accessibility: Over 1,200 branches along the East Coast.

Best banks for college students

Financial institutionWhy we like it
Good online bank with no monthly fees
Good choice for students who travel
Simple

at Simple,

Member, FDIC

Mobile checking with budgeting tools
Golden 1 Credit Union

at Golden 1 Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

Strong choice for credit union
TD Bank

at TD Bank,

Member, FDIC

Many branches on the East Coast

Keep it cheap

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

Melissa Lambarena is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: mlambarena@nerdwallet.com.


METHODOLOGY

To determine the best accounts, we took a close look at 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 rates, minimum balances, fees, digital experience and more.

Financial institutions surveyed include: Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, Alliant Credit Union, Ally Bank, America First Credit Union, American Express, Aspiration, Associated Bank, Bank5 Connect, BankDirect, Bank of America, Bank of Internet, Bank of the West, Barclays, BB&T, BBVA Compass, Boeing Employees Credit Union, BMO Harris, Capital One 360, Charles Schwab Bank, Chase, Chime, CIT, Citibank, Citizens Bank, Comerica Bank, Commerce Bank, Connexus Credit Union, Consumers Credit Union, Discover Bank, TIAA Bank, Fidelity, Fifth Third Bank, First Citizens Bank, First National Bank, First Tech Federal Credit Union, GoBank, Golden 1 Credit Union, GS Bank, HSBC Bank USA, Huntington Bank, KeyBank, M&T Bank, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, PNC, PurePoint Financial, Qapital, Radius Bank, Regions Bank, Santander Bank, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, Security Service Federal Credit Union, Simple, Star One Credit Union, State Employees’ Credit Union of North Carolina, State Farm Bank, Suncoast Credit Union, SunTrust Bank, Synchrony Bank, TCF Bank, TD Bank, Union Bank, UFB Direct, USAA, U.S. Bank, Varo, Wells Fargo, Woodforest National Bank, and Zions Bank.

How we rate banks and credit unions