NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Doughnuts, museum admission, electronics and trips to space aren’t the only things college students can get for free these days. Many banks offer a student version of their popular checking account products that is decidedly less fee-laden than its counterparts.
“A lot of them actually are free,” says Stephanie Wei, vice president of deposit products at NerdWallet, so long as you are enrolled in college. She adds that banks also traditionally require a low initial deposit to be made in order to open these accounts. Citibank’s student checking option, for instance, features a $0 minimum balance, though most big banks require around a $25 deposit to start.
But those in high school or college can’t assume every checking account featuring the word “student” is on the house.
“You need to read through the terms and conditions,” Wei says. Wells Fargo, for instance, requires a student to either maintain a $500 average daily balance or enroll in direct deposit to bypass the $3 monthly service fee associated with its college checking and savings combo account, a stipulation Wei calls “somewhat ludricrous” since a big chunk of the student population doesn’t work while in school.
Wei also points out that while students generally opt to open an account with a big bank since it increases the odds that branch locations and ATM machines will accessible to them, it does pay to look into which student credit unions may be available in your school’s area.
“They may have a branch right on campus,” she says, adding that these credit unions also tend to offer additional perks as part of their packages. Georgetown’s Alumni and Student Federal credit union, for instance, offers free overdraft protection to its students.
Even if you prefer to bank with a large financial institution, students may want to wait until their orientation to decide which one to go with.
“Financial services is always represented at those events,” Wei says, adding that financial organizations will often offer sign-on bonuses in orientation packets and handouts.
If you do decide to go with a big bank, you might want to research standard checking options before selecting your financial institution of choice.
“Student checking accounts are a great way for banks to initiate the first contact with young adults in hopes to develop a long-term financial relationship,” Wei says. Just keep in mind that they are generally converted into standard accounts upon graduation or when an account holder drops out of school. By then, the student is likely to be enrolled in online bill pay or have signed up for other financial services that can make it tricky to switch banks.
Are you looking to leave the financial institution you signed up for while in college? Check out this MainStreet guide to learn how to quit your bank in the simplest way possible!