Students—need a bank account? Start here.
Students have enough to worry about, like trying to survive on ramen and coming up with the hundreds of dollars needed to buy textbooks.
As a student with basic survival on your mind, the last thing you want to worry about is opening a bank account.
Many banks offer bank accounts specifically for students to get young customers in the door—they are, after all, an important customer segment for financial institutions. Other banks may simply offer bank accounts which are suitable for students, but not necessarily only available to students.
Banks hope that these students and young customers will graduate, and then, down the line, return to that same bank when they need loans to buy houses and cars. As a student, though, you want to make sure you’re choosing a bank that is a good fit.
Why do students need bank accounts?
For many students, life consists of little more than eating, sleeping, and studying. And given that you may have a meal plan at a dining hall, and aren’t getting a steady paycheck, you may wonder why you even need a bank account.
But you’ll need one if you want to spend money, have a debit card, and earn any kind of interest on your deposits. In this day and age, having a bank account is more of a necessity than a choice.
You’ll also need an account in the event that you do pick up a job. What if a lucrative tutoring position opens up that fits into your schedule, for example? You might also find that one of your classmates wants to hire you to work part-time for their startup.
If that’s the case, you’ll want to have an account to deposit your paychecks—and not go scrambling around trying to determine the best account given your status as a student.
Of course, some people get by only using cash. While you may be able to get away with that for a while, there are some places that won’t accept cash (good luck booking a hotel room, or renting a car, for example, with cash) and it’s also fairly insecure.
Where will you store your cash? Under a mattress? What happens if it is lost or stolen? These are things you’ll need to ask yourself if you want to try and skate by on cash only.
What features do student bank accounts offer?
There is a wide range of features typically offered with student bank accounts. But you’ll probably want to focus on only a few of them.
First, look at the fees associated with the bank account.
A student bank account should, ideally, have no monthly fees. Every dollar counts when you are a student, and you should be looking for a bank account that does not siphon away your money just for the privilege of keeping your money safe.
You should also ensure there are no extra fees for using a debit or ATM card, or to use online and mobile banking services. Chances are that most of your purchases will be made with plastic, and you don’t want to get dinged for using it.
What are some examples of student bank accounts?
Most major banks have account options for students. Plenty of community banks offer them too. And so does the ever-growing number of Internet-only banks.
Also, consider credit unions. These are member-owned financial cooperatives offered in many communities, or by states, the federal government, or your own state.
How old do you have to be to open a student bank account?
Age restrictions for student bank accounts can vary. You’ll probably want to consult your bank’s website for the specifics before planning to make an in-person visit. Some banks offer accounts for high-schooler students, that transition into college accounts at age 18, or upon graduation from high school. You’ll need to provide a college or university student ID.
In most other cases, you will have to be an adult, or 18 years old, to open your own bank account. If you are under 18, then you will need to have a parent or guardian to co-sign on the account.
How can a student bank account help you budget?
Budgeting is perhaps the most important financial habit that you can develop. However, only about 40% of people actually use a budget, according to industry data.
Using a student bank account with fewer or no fees can help free up money that can be used elsewhere in your budget. And for students who tend to be short on cash, every extra dollar you can find can be enormously helpful.
Most importantly, having a bank account makes it easier to track your expenses down to the penny. You should be able to use your bank’s online statements to make sure you are sticking to your budget.
For many college students, building and maintaining healthy financial habits can be just as valuable as a degree.