While most older teens and young adults are focused on their academic education, it’s important they get schooled on personal finance as well. One of the first steps toward financial independence is opening a bank account. To help you or the student in your life get started, we researched the best banks for students, looking for accounts that are geared toward the student lifestyle. The banks that made our list include those with student-friendly features like no fees, online and mobile banking options, ample ATM access, and more. These are our picks for the best banks for students.
Best Banks for Students of 2020
|Bank or Credit Union||Why We Picked It||Best Account for Students||Monthly Fees|
|Chase||Best Overall and Best for College Students||College Checking||None while in college, for up to 5 years|
|Bank of America||Runner-Up and Best for Savings||Advantage SafeBalance||None while under the age of 24|
|Capital One||Best for High School Students||MONEY||None while under the age of 18|
|Discover||Best for Rewards||Cashback Debit||None, must be 18 or older|
|U.S. Bank||Best for No Fees||Student Checking||None, must be 18 or older|
|TD Bank||Best for Customer Service||Student Checking||None, must be 17 to 23 years old|
|Ally||Best Online Bank||Interest Checking||None, must be 18 or older|
Chase: Best Overall and Best for College Students
Chase stands out as the best bank for students overall, especially for college students aged 17 to 24. For starters, as long as you’re in college (for up to five years), you won’t have any monthly service fees to worry about with the Chase College Checking Account. Additionally, Chase often runs promotions that may make the account even more enticing. For example, in May 2020, Chase offered new customers a $100 bonus for opening a Chase College Checking Account (offer valid until July 9, 2020).1
And if you have a student in high school, you can be a co-owner on their Chase High School Checking account, too. Students age 13 to 17 can take advantage of this account, which comes with no monthly fees.2
Customers also have the best of both worlds as far as physical ATM access and branches, and online/mobile account features. Chase has a large bank footprint with access to 16,000 ATMs and almost 4,900 branches across the nation.3 Busy college students will appreciate the robust mobile banking app, too, which lets them make deposits, send and receive money, and manage their account.
If you’re happy with the checking account, you may be interested in other Chase accounts and services, including the Chase Savings account (which also waives the monthly service fee for students). There’s also the Chase Freedom Student Card, which comes with a sign-up bonus and cash back on purchases.4What We Like
- Specific accounts for both high school and college students
- No account fees while in college, up to 5 years
- Ample branches and solid mobile banking
- Opportunity for long-term banking relationship
What We Don’t Like
- You can find better savings account interest rates elsewhere
Bank of America: Runner-Up and Best for Savings
Students under the age of 24 pay no monthly maintenance fees for Bank of America’s Advantage SafeBalance account while they’re enrolled in school. This is a great starter account for students because there are no overdraft fees to worry about. Transactions will simply be declined if you don’t have enough money in your account.5
There are no paper checks, but you can make online payments, use a debit card for purchases, or send and receive funds with Zelle. Should you decide you want checks, you can make a seamless switch over to an Advantage Plus Banking account.
It’s also a great idea to add on an Advantage Savings account. This allows students to activate the Bank of America “keep the change” feature, which lets them round up their debit card purchase amounts and deposit the difference into the savings automatically. Again, students under age 24 will not have to pay any monthly fees for the savings account.6
What also makes Bank of America a solid choice all around is its large physical footprint (about 4,300 branches and 16,800 ATMs), as well as its intuitive mobile app, with lots of great features for managing and monitoring accounts.7What We Like
- No overdraft fees to worry about
- Keep the change feature
- Solid mobile banking app
What We Don’t Like
- Minimal opportunities to earn interest
Capital One: Best for High School Students
For teens looking to get a jumpstart on banking, Capital One’s MONEY account is geared toward students under 18 years of age. This is actually a joint checking account with a parent, but it’s a good practice run for students who want to open a future account of their own. Note: Students will have to switch over to another account once they turn 18.
Teen account holders get a debit card in their name, and can access and manage the account via the mobile app. Parents have access, too, whether it’s to set up automatic allowance deposits or one-time transfers, or receive text alerts and notifications about transactions through the app. Teens will also earn an annual percentage yield (APY) of 0.20% on their account balance, which is much higher than what many traditional banks offer.
You can open a MONEY account either online or in person at a Capital One branch. Capital One also has a large free ATM network, totaling 39,000 Capital One and Allpoint ATM locations.8What We Like
- Ability to earn interest on account balance
- Free debit card in the student’s name
- Text alerts for parents
What We Don’t Like
- The account must be upgraded when the child turns 18
Discover: Best for Rewards
The Discover Cashback Debit account makes our list of the best banks for students, even though it’s not technically a student account. That’s because it offers the unique opportunity to earn rewards on debit card purchases—a great perk. This can be beneficial to college students age 18 and older who pay for most of their expenses using their Discover card since they’ll get 1% cash back on up to $3,000 each month. That comes out to be a much higher rate than most student checking accounts would offer in interest.
One of the other student-friendly features is that there are no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements. And, there are 60,000 ATMs across the country that students can use without paying.9 The Discover app has a convenient ATM locator. It’s just like other checking accounts since you can get paper checks, too, or use the mobile app to deposit checks and pay bills.
Of course, Discover is best known for its credit cards, and there are two earmarked for students: the Discover it Chrome for Students and Discover it Student Cash Back cards. Discover also offers a savings account, which earns a higher interest rate (1.01% APY as of June 26, 2020) than savings accounts at brick-and-mortar banks.10What We Like
- Cash-back rewards
- Very large fee-free ATM network
- High-yield savings account
What We Don’t Like
- No physical branches
U.S. Bank: Best for No Fees
U.S. Bank is a good bank for students who prefer a physical bank, but still want student-focused features and a digital banking experience. In fact, it’s the fifth largest bank in the nation.
Especially appealing is that Student Checking account customers pay nothing for their first four non-U.S. Bank ATM transactions per statement.11 Because those fees can add up fast for students on the go, it’s good to know that there is some wiggle-room if you’re not near one of the 4,400 U.S. Bank ATM locations. 12
The account also features mobile check deposit, the ability to send and receive money via Zelle, and your first set of personal checks free.What We Like
- Ability to use non-U.S. Bank ATMs for free
- First set of paper checks free
- Good mobile app and tools
What We Don’t Like
- Minimum deposit of $25 required to open an account
TD Bank: Best for Customer Service
TD Student Checking is another solid choice when choosing from among the best banks for students aged 17 to 23. In particular, the bank is known for its top-notch customer service, longer branch hours, and being open even on the weekends. In fact, TD Bank is actually the highest ranked in J.D. Power’s 2019 U.S. National Banking Satisfaction Study.13 (Keep in mind, though, all of its 1,200 locations are located on the East Coast.)
TD Bank also has lots of customer-friendly mobile banking features for those who don’t want to always do their banking in person. The mobile banking app lets customers pay bills and deposit checks. Students can also load their TD Bank Visa Debit Card into their mobile wallet or use the card for tap and go contactless payments. TD Bank is set up for Zelle payments, too.
Student status also means that monthly maintenance fees are waived on both the checking and TD Simple Savings accounts (which, by the way, has a slightly higher APY than some other traditional banks).What We Like
- Strong customer service, and convenient branch hours
- No monthly fees on multiple accounts
- Good online/mobile tools
What We Don’t Like
- Physical locations limited primarily to the East Coast
Ally: Best Online Bank
While this is another selection that doesn’t offer a student-specific account, Ally Bank has all of the features that students rely on. Ally is an online-only bank known for its interest checking and savings accounts with no monthly fees. Because there isn’t the overhead of branch expenses, interest rates on savings are typically higher than you’ll find at traditional banks.
Students who don’t care about physical bank branches can do all of their banking from their phones, including mobile check deposits and bill pay. Ally also uses the Allpoint ATM network, so you’ll have 43,000 free locations to use. Plus, Ally reimburses you up to $10 per statement period for outside ATM fees.14
Ultimately, it’s nice to know that your account features won’t change when you leave school, meaning this account can stay with you long after you get your diploma.What We Like
- Savings interest rates are higher than at traditional banks
- ATM fee reimbursement
- Wide array of accounts and services
What We Don’t Like
- No option for depositing cash
How Do You Open a Bank Account as a Student?
In order to open any bank account, you will typically need some form of photo ID (such as a driver’s license or passport) and your Social Security number. Many banks let you open accounts online, but you can also do so by visiting a branch.
Another requirement may be having a minimum starting deposit to open the account, which can be done with cash or with money transferred from another banking institution. For student-specific accounts, you may also have to show proof that you are indeed a student.
For younger student/teen accounts, a parent or guardian will usually have to set up and be a co-owner on the account. Sometimes, this can be done online, but for certain banks or account types, you may both have to go in person to the branch.
Pros and Cons of Opening Your Own Bank Account
- Establish good financial habits early
- Get acquainted with banking practices
- Have access to funds when you need them
- Requires attention and account maintenance
- Need to become more mindful about protecting your data and financial information
Pros and Cons Explained
Opening your own bank account while you’re a student can be a great first step toward financial independence that you need to develop before you graduate. It provides you with a way to save money, pay bills in your own name, and establish a relationship with a banking institution. This is especially useful if you have a part-time job and need a way to deposit your earnings, and/or if you pay for some of your own expenses, such as a cell phone or car insurance.
Eventually, you may be responsible for paying your own way, including student loans and other expenses related to moving out of your family home, getting your own vehicle, and more. Having your own bank account can help with all of that.
It’s also a good idea to get used to banking practices, balancing a checkbook, and monitoring a financial account for when you begin using credit cards. How you handle your early credit responsibilities will determine your credit score, which is a vital building block for your financial future.
How Should You Choose the Best Bank Account?
Choosing a student-friendly bank is all about looking for perks and benefits that appeal to young account holders. For college students, especially those living out of state during the school year, having strong online and mobile account features can make banking more convenient. Along those lines, so could having a lot of fee-free ATM options.
In addition, any time you consider a bank account, it’s a good idea to look at any fees that you might be charged, such as monthly maintenance fees. You should also check if there is a minimum amount of money you need to open the account or keep in there on an ongoing basis to avoid service fees. Having no service fees is always preferable, especially for young bank account holders who don’t typically carry high balance amounts.
Be sure to sign up for e-statements—some banks may charge a fee for paper statements.
Finally, it’s always nice if you can earn interest or rewards when you have a bank account. That’s why some of the best banks for students offer such perks on their accounts.