6 Best Banks for College Students

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Jeff White, CEPF

By Jeff White, CEPF

March 26, 2024

Many college students are living away from home for the first time and are given the responsibility of managing their money without a lot of extra income. Many banks offer accounts designed to meet the unique needs of college students. Furthermore, most of these student checking accounts come with attractive benefits and perks, as banking institutions hope to gain loyal customers during their college years who will continue their business after graduation.

When assessing the best bank for college students, we looked for banks with little to no fees, no minimum balance requirement, and excellent online access, among other criteria. We also considered the individual needs of different students. For example, savings may be critical for some, while bonuses and perks are more of a priority for others. Therefore, the list below reflects the best banks for a range of needs and criteria.

1. Chime: Best Overall

Chime was launched with a mobile-first banking approach, and its mobile banking and zero maintenance fees make it a great option for students, allowing you to enjoy free mobile banking on the go. The bank doesn’t have any physical branches, operating fully virtually and offering all its banking services online.

Their user-friendly mobile banking platform has a range of features that make it easy to manage your money, such as immediate alerts for every transaction. You can also link your Chime Visa card to mobile payment apps like Google Pay or Apple Pay. If you lose your debit card, all you need to do is disable the transaction in your Chime app and request a new card – there’s no fee for debit card replacement.

  • Fees: None
  • Minimum Deposit: None
  • Best Features for Students:
    • You’ll earn 2% interest on your deposits each year.
    • Access to 38,000+ fee-free ATMs nationwide.
    • Transfer money to family and friends for zero fees, up to $2000 per transaction.
    • Compatible with mobile wallets like Google Pay and Apple Pay


  • Interest available on deposits
  • No maintenance, transfer, or ATM fees
  • Built-in saving tools to help you save more
  • Works across all major ATMs nationwide


  • No physical branches for in-person service
  • No mobile check deposit if you don’t have a direct deposit

You can sign up directly on Chime’s website and get your account going in a matter of a few minutes.

2. Chase College Checking: Best Sign-Up Bonus 

Chase offers a college checking account for college students between 17 and 24 years of age. Customers who open an account during college won’t need to pay any monthly maintenance fees for the first five years after opening the account. Once you graduate, you’ll need to pay a monthly fee of $12 unless you maintain an account balance of $5,000 or more.

Students can also enjoy a $100 sign-up bonus when they open their account, though you will need to make 10 transactions within the first two months to qualify. The bank has over 4,700 branches and 15,000+ ATMs across the country and is a well-known, full-service bank. You can also bank from the comfort of your couch with Chase’s excellent mobile banking app, which allows you to set up account alerts via text or email.

  • Fees: No monthly fees while in school up to the graduation date provided at account opening (five years maximum) for students 17-24 years old. After graduation, you’ll be subject to a monthly maintenance fee of $12, but that will be waived if you maintain a balance of $1,500. $34 overdraft fee.
  • Minimum Deposit: None
  • Best Features for Students:
    • No monthly fees and the option to waive fees after graduation
    • Sign-up bonus of $100
    • An extensive network of 15,000+ ATMs across the USA
    • Excellent online banking with their highly-rated Chase Mobile® banking app; ability to send and receive money using Zelle®.
    • 24/7 customer service and the option to visit a branch in-person


  • The excellent promotion offers for students
  • No monthly fees for five years or until you graduate
  • Large ATM and branch network
  • Great customer support and online banking accessibility


  • A monthly service fee applies after you graduate
  • Overdraft fees
  • No interest on the deposit
  • A $3 ATM fee is charged on non-Chase ATM withdrawals ($5 outside of the U.S., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands)

If you’re looking for a traditional bank with plenty of physical locations throughout the country, Chase might be your best bet.

At Savingforcollege.com, our goal is to help you make smart decisions about saving and paying for education. Some of the products featured in this article are from our partners from whom we receive compensation, but this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own, not those of any bank, investment manager, or student lender. 

3. Capital One Money: Best for Students under 18

Capital One Money is an excellent banking account for students under 18, which can take you into your college years. You can open a Capital One Money account from as young as 8 years to help you save for college. For this account, the bank doesn’t charge a maintenance fee or have a minimum balance requirement. You also get a debit card that you can use fee-free at more than 70,000 ATMs nationwide. The bank pays 0.10% APY on your annual deposits, helping you grow your savings.

Parents also love Capital One Money, as they encourage joint accounts where parents can keep track of all their kids’ transactions. You can open your account when you’re in high school and keep it through college: you don’t have to roll over the account when you turn 18, but you can choose to open a Capital One 360 checking account at this point and transfer all or some of your balance.

  • Fees: None
  • Minimum Deposit: None
  • Best Features for Students:
    • 0.10% APY on your annual balance
    • 70,000+ ATM nationwide
    • Joint account feature


  • Account holders can be under 18 and keep the account after turning 18
  • You earn interest on your savings
  • No minimum deposit requirements
  • No monthly fees


  • Interest rates not competitive

4. Current: Best for Savings

Current doesn’t have any brick-and-mortar locations. It operates completely virtually and allows customers to make deposits, process transactions, and manage their accounts with the mobile app, with cool features such as a budget and spending tracker. It’s great for college students looking for a solid interest rate for savings, easy access to their money, and a feature-packed mobile banking platform.

Current offers reward for using your debit card at their partner retail stores and you can make fee-free cash withdrawals from more than 40,000 ATMs across the USA. You also won’t need to pay overdraft fees, and there’s no minimum balance required.

  • Fees: None
  • Minimum Deposit: None
  • Best Features for Students:
    • User-friendly mobile app
    • No overdraft or withdrawal fees
    • 4% interest on your annual deposits of up to $6,000
    • Earn points for making transactions at select retailers and redeem these points for cash and other rewards
    • No minimum balance


  • Excellent interest rate
  • Cash-back rewards
  • User-friendly and features-packed mobile app
  • Fee-free withdrawals


  • No phone customer service
  • No physical location for in-person service

You can sign up directly online to open an account and get started. The process only takes a few minutes if you’re ready to fund your account.

5. Bank of America: Best for Full-Service Banking

Bank of America’s Advantage Banking Program waives college students’ monthly account maintenance fees until they turn 25. There are also no overdraft or non-sufficient funds fees on student checking accounts: you just need to be enrolled in a high school, university, or vocational school to qualify.

You’ll also have access to Bank of America’s large network of 16,000 surcharge-free ATMs across the USA. Alternatively, you can use the bank’s excellent online banking system, which includes customized alerts and tools that enable you to set your budget and monitor your day-to-day spending.

Another bonus is the bank’s “Keep the Change” feature, which automatically rounds up debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and puts the difference into your savings. You can keep your account after turning 25 and continue to enjoy the benefits of a full-service bank, but maintenance fees will apply. Fees are $4.95 per month and $12 per month for SafeBalance and Advantage Plus accounts respectively.

  • Fees: No fees as long as you’re under 25
  • Minimum Deposit: $25 for SafeBalance and $100 for Advantage Plus
  • Best Features for Students:
    • Network of 4,100 branches and 16,000+ ATMs across the USA
    • Spending and budgeting tools help you to track your spending
    • Customizable alerts available
    • You can keep the account after you turn 25


  • Overdraft protection
  • No monthly fees until you’re 25 years
  • Easy to access cash through a full-service bank
  • Cash back on debit card purchases


  • High maintenance fee after graduation
  • A minimum deposit is required
  • ATM fees apply

6. Discover Cashback Debit: Best for During & After College

Discover Cashback isn’t specially designed for students, but it’s an excellent choice for students over 18 who want to enjoy all the benefits of an account with a debit card. There’s no minimum balance, zero monthly maintenance fees, zero overdraft fees, and no hidden costs. You’ll also earn 1% cash back on all debit card purchases, up to $360 per year.

Best of all, you keep these perks when you’re no longer a student, making this the best choice if you don’t want to have to change banks after you graduate. Though Discover has fee-free withdrawals at over 60,000 ATMs across the country, they don’t have any physical branches, so you have to contact customer support via phone or text. They do, however, accept check deposits, mail-in deposits, and online transfers.

  • Fees: None
  • Minimum Deposit: None
  • Best Features for Students:
    • Partnered with AllPoint ATM Network
    • 1% cashback available on purchases up to $3000 a month
    • No ATM withdrawal fee or overdraft fee
    • 60,000+ ATMs nationwide


  • No deposit fees or hidden costs
  • Cash back available
  • Free debit card replacement
  • All perks continue after graduation


  • No physical location
  • Upsell offers for credit products

How to Choose the Best Bank for College Students

As a college student, you don’t necessarily need a student-specific account. However, choosing an account that is designed for college students can represent significant savings over the long term. Most students have little to no regular income or find that their income immediately goes to college tuition, fees, and living expenses.

Therefore, it’s important to find a bank account that reflects this, with low or zero fees, and features like no zero-balance penalty. Many college students are also new to the banking system, especially international students, so it’s also essential to opt for a user-friendly bank that offers excellent customer service.

Here are some key things college students should look for when choosing a bank account:

  • No Maintenance Fee: The best student bank accounts waive the monthly maintenance fee while you’re in school, helping you save on expenses when you have little to no income. Some also waive other charges such as overdraft fees.
  • No Minimum Balance Requirement: As a college student, you may also struggle to maintain a balance in your account. Many student bank accounts allow you to keep your account open with a low or even zero balance, and the best also have a low or zero minimum deposit requirement to open the account.
  • Excellent Online Access: As a busy student with a full schedule of classes, being able to manage your money online through a mobile app is crucial. All the banks mentioned above offer excellent online banking services, and some have a mobile-first approach.
  • ATM Fees & Network: This can be an area where banks charge hefty fees, but some offer free withdrawals for out-of-network ATMs for students. Otherwise, look for a bank with a large ATM network so you’ll be able to withdraw cash no matter where you are.
  • No Direct Deposit Requirement: Some standard bank accounts require regular direct deposits for free checking. However, as a student, you probably don’t have a regular job, which can make it difficult to meet this requirement, so look for an account that waives this requirement.
  • Other features: The best student checking accounts offer additional features and benefits, such as a sign-up bonus when you join the bank, free fraud protection, and allowing you to link your account to an external account.

It’s also important to make sure you meet the requirements for each student account, as these vary from bank to bank. In most cases, you’ll need to be enrolled in a university or vocational college, or in high school for some accounts. There may also be minimum and/or maximum age restrictions.

Check this detailed guide for more on how to choose a bank account as a new college student.

How to Open a Student Checking Account

Opening a student bank account is essentially the same as opening a regular bank account, with the one key difference that you’ll need to prove that you’re a student. The exact requirements depend on the bank, but typically you’ll need to show your student ID, college acceptance letter, or academic transcripts. You’ll also need to provide a government-issued ID and your Social Security number, which are standard requirements for opening any type of bank account.

Many banks allow you to start your application online, but you may need to go into a branch, in which case it’s a good idea to make an appointment. When you go to the branch, be sure to take your ID, proof of enrollment, and the minimum deposit amount, if the bank has this requirement, in the form of cash or a check written to you.

The Bottom Line

Choosing the best bank for college students can be a challenge, with so many features and criteria to consider. The accounts listed above offer a range of benefits to help students keep their expenses low and make it easier to manage their money. These features include waiving monthly maintenance and ATM fees, no minimum balance requirement, and excellent online access.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Should you open a student bank account?

Student bank accounts are a great way to manage your money. The best student bank accounts offer a range of benefits to college students, including no fees, no minimum balance, and easy access to your cash. However, you don’t necessarily need to open a student-specific account, especially if you already have a good checking account that meets your needs. It’s simply a good idea to check out all the options and decide if a student checking account is a right choice for you.

What are the benefits of a student bank account?

Student bank accounts offer specific features and benefits that can make it easier to manage your money, as well as significant savings on fees. The best accounts offer features like no monthly maintenance fees, no ATM fees, zero overdraft, and no minimum balance or direct deposit requirements. Many also have additional perks like interest on the balance, sign-on bonuses, and rewards for using your debit card.

What happens to a college bank account after graduation?

Typically, your student account will be converted to a standard account once you graduate or reach a certain age limit. In some cases, you may need to open a new account and transfer your balance across. However, most banks want you to keep doing business with them, so they make this process pretty easy. At this point, you’ll continue to enjoy many of the benefits of having your bank account, but you’ll lose the student-specific perks.

Can I open a standard checking account as a college student?

Yes, as long as you’re over 18 and have a Social Security number, you can open a standard checking account with most banks. However, you may need to meet certain requirements, such as a minimum initial deposit, as well as maintaining a minimum balance, and/or having regular direct deposits going into the account. You also won’t be able to access the specific perks offered by many student accounts, such as no account maintenance and ATM fees.

What are the drawbacks of student bank accounts?

There are no real disadvantages to student bank accounts. These accounts offer the same benefits as a standard checking account with extra perks for students. Having said that, there are some fantastic alternatives that can also be excellent choices for students, especially online-only bank accounts. So, it’s worth considering all of your options, including standard accounts, and weighing up the features and benefits against your own individual needs.

A good place to start:

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