Ally Bank is an online-only bank and one of the best overall banks for anyone regardless of student status. In fact, Ally does not offer a specific student checking account, but its grown-up checking account is great for students and helps create good habits while young and keep them into adulthood.
Ally Bank’s Interest Checking Account has no monthly maintenance fees and charges hardly any fees at all. You can use any Allpoint ATM for free (55,000 locations) or use any ATM with up to $10 in fee reimbursements per month.
You can do anything with this account but deposit cash (it is an online account, after all; there are no branches). But you can deposit a check from your phone. Accounts also come with the ability to transfer funds to or from any other bank account in the U.S. and send funds (or receive) to friends or family instantly with Zelle.
Ally Bank’s checking currently pays 0.10 percent APY on balances up to $15,000 and 0.60 percent for balances over $15,000. It’s not the best interest rate out there, but it is well above the average among large and traditional banks. The account is so good that students will want to keep it after graduation.
Teens need to build a strong financial foundation before they are let loose to manage their own money in college or when getting their first job. Capital One 360 offers a teen checking account called MONEY with no fees.
This account has no minimum balance and no monthly fee. It comes with a debit card and free access to 39,000 ATMs through the Capital One and Allpoint networks. The account pays 0.25 percent interest, which isn’t the best around but is far from the worst.
The account gives holders access to mobile check deposits, online banking, text alerts and branch banking at a limited number of Capital One Cafes (the name for Capital One’s bank and coffee shop in one).
Parents have full access to the account to all features aside from the debit card. This makes it great for teaching good banking habits and showing your teen how banking works, like using automated savings plans.
Chase is one of the biggest banks in the world and offers both high school and college versions of its student checking accounts. Because Chase is so big, they have something for everybody. They also have a massive network of branches dotting the nation from coast to coast, which makes it likely convenient both at school and when visiting back home.
Chase High School Checking is for students 13 to 17 years old and must be opened with a co-owner parent or guardian. Accounts require a $25 minimum opening balance. To avoid a $6 monthly fee (yuck!), you’ll need to link to a qualifying parent or guardian account, make a monthly direct deposit or keep a minimum $5,000 average ending day balance in the account.
For college students 17 to 24, Chase College Checking is the account of choice. With proof of college student status (bring a student ID, acceptance letter or transcript when opening a new account), you will get no monthly fee for up to five years while in college. After five years, fees work like the high school account. It also has a $25 minimum opening deposit.
Definitely not the best account on the list due to fees, but you do get a lot of branches to meet with a human for help or deposit cash. If either of those is a priority to you, Chase is the best choice.
Simple is another general checking account designed for anyone, but is particularly great for students. Simple combines banking and budgeting into one mobile app, which is great for learning how to manage money and understanding where your money goes each month. And there no fees for regular banking activity.
Simple is an online-only bank, so no cash deposits. But like other online banks, it gives you access to a debit card, mobile check deposits, online and mobile banking and transfers to or from any other bank account in the U.S. Through online bill pay, they will even print and send a check for you - which is good because it doesn’t come with a checkbook.
Simple uses budgeting and savings features usually found in online money management software such as Mint or Clarity Money and integrates them right into your bank account. Those budgeting features include savings goals, spending tracking by category, as well as the trademarked Safe-To-Spend tool that helps you know if you can make a purchase or not before you pay.
It’s an overall great account, and the mobile-first focus is particularly comfortable and appealing to younger banking customers. Even adults should consider this bank, particularly if you need a little extra help managing your budget and savings.
USAA is a bank designed specifically for military members and their families. USAA membership pays off well after college, as it gives you access to some of the best insurance products with the lowest rates around. But for now, we will just focus on the student banking products.
USAA Classic Checking for College Students is a free checking account with no monthly fees, no minimum balance requirements, free ATMs at any bank in the United States (they refund other bank ATM fees) and free transfers and bill payments.
With mobile banking, you can deposit a check with your phone. You can also deposit checks and cash in deposit-capable ATMs. USAA’s debit card works with mobile wallets and USAA is a Zelle member for instant transfers to friends, which comes in handy when you need to split the pizza delivery bill.
Younger students do better with Young Savings and Checking options, including a mobile experience specifically designed for teens.
No fees and a mobile-first banking experience make Chime a great option for students. It is similar in many ways to Simple, but without the budgeting features. Also, like several others on this list, Chime’s accounts are not student specific. They are great for students and adults alike.
Chime has great mobile banking, including a quick view of recent transactions, mobile deposits and other handy features. There are no overdraft fees, monthly fees, minimum balance fees or even foreign transaction fees. If you want to use the Chime debit card while studying abroad, swipe away (or dip the chip) and avoid the fees most other banks charge.
One cool feature for students with a job is early access to direct deposits. When you get paid by direct deposit, your employer likely sends out a file to the banking system days before your scheduled payday. With Chime, you’ll get credit as soon as they know about the file, up to two days before you would get paid with a traditional bank.
Wells Fargo is the biggest bank in the United States when you measure by the number of branches, though like most big brick and mortar banks it is regularly closing branches. But for now, it is still in first place for branches and also offers a huge number of ATMs.
Wells Fargo offers a wide range of accounts, including its flagship Student Checking account and student savings accounts. The Student Checking account is for college-age students. Students 17 to 24 years old get a $5 discount on monthly service fees. But that also means this account charges monthly service fees. Beware the fees!
The account requires a $25 minimum opening deposit. The account has a $10 monthly service fee, regularly applied to the corresponding Everyday Checking account, less the $5 fee if you qualify. You can also avoid the fee with 10+ monthly debit purchases, $500+ in monthly direct deposits or a $1,500 minimum daily balance. A linked Wells Fargo Campus ATM or Campus Debit Card also gets you out of the fees.
High fees and low rates make this the least exciting option on the list. Further, Wells Fargo is trying to turn around from a major scandal involving opening tons of bank accounts without the authorization of the owners. It makes it hard to trust Wells Fargo. But if you want the biggest number of branches, Wells is the winner.
The 7 Best Banks for Students to Use in 2018
Open an account with one of these banks before arriving on campus
High school and college are times to learn more about many things in life, including managing money. If you are a student or have a student in your life, it is important to choose the right bank account to not only avoid big fees but also get the features important to you (no minimum balance requirements, free transfers, etc.). Accessibility is also something to keep in mind if you plan on using the account when you're away at school. If you are looking to open an account before you head off to campus, you’ll want to check out at these best banks for students first.