Best Banks For College Students: How To Choose

August 11, 2023

When it comes to choosing the right bank for your college needs, several standout options offer specific features tailored to enhance your financial journey. Provident National Corporation (PNC) stands out as the best overall choice, providing students with low fees, convenient mobile banking, and access to a vast ATM network. Chase Bank entices students with its attractive sign-up bonus and robust online and mobile banking tools that simplify money management.

Bank of America caters to those seeking full-service banking, offering a wide range of financial products, personalized support, and access to a nationwide branch and ATM network. Wells Fargo focuses on convenience, with an extensive presence of branches and ATMs, complemented by innovative digital banking solutions designed specifically for college students. Lastly, Discover rewards students for their banking activities, offering cashback incentives, competitive interest rates, and a user-friendly mobile app that streamlines financial management.

Choose the best bank that suits your needs and sets you up for financial success during your college years.

Going to college can be both exciting and scary. It's probably the first time you'll live on your own and handle your own finances, including student loans. To manage your money well, you'll need your own bank account.

Selecting a bank account for college doesn't have to be complicated, but it's important to ensure you're getting a good deal. Many banks offer special accounts specifically designed for students. However, some of these accounts come with high monthly fees or charges for ATM withdrawals. Therefore, it's best to look for student accounts with good interest rates for your savings, easy access to your money, and helpful tools for managing your accounts.

Choosing the right bank can make a huge difference for a busy student. To help students find the best option for their financial needs, we've compiled a list of the best student bank accounts based on flexibility, convenience, and affordability.

What Are The Best Banks For College Students?

Here are the best banks for college students:

  1. Provident National Corporation (PNC): Best Overall
  2. Chase Bank: Best sign-up bonus
  3. Bank of America: Best for Full-Service Banking
  4. Wells Fargo: Best for Convenience
  5. Discover: Best for Rewards
  6. U.S. Bank Student Checking Account: Best On-Campus Banking Experience

Let's look at what makes each one of these banks for college students special.

PNC: Best Overall

Best Banks For College Students

PNC stands out as our best overall student bank due to its well-rounded package tailored to young customers. The PNC Virtual Wallet Student Account is an excellent option with a $0 minimum deposit requirement when opened online, and it waives the monthly service fee for up to six years for actively enrolled students.

The PNC Virtual Wallet Student Account offers three different accounts in one package: a Spend Account for day-to-day expenses, a Reserve Checking Account that earns interest, and a Growth Account designed for long-term savings. PNC provides interactive mobile tools and informative online articles, making it simple for students to manage bills, set financial goals, and plan their spending and savings.

You can link these accounts to your university ID, which you can then use as a debit card. There are no service fees for this PNC account, and you'll have access to an extensive network of ATMs (over 60,000 machines). You can also use features like Zelle and even activate a “Low Cash Mode,” which allows you to control your spending when your balance is running low.

Features Of PNC

  • Virtual Wallet Student Account: PNC's Virtual Wallet Student Account is designed specifically for students, offering a $0 minimum deposit requirement when opened online, making it easy for students to start banking.
  • Three-in-One Account: The Virtual Wallet Student Account combines three accounts in one package – Spend, Reserve, and Growth – providing students with flexibility and convenience for their everyday spending, interest-bearing checking, and long-term savings needs.
  • Interactive Mobile Tools: PNC provides interactive mobile tools that empower students to manage their finances efficiently. With user-friendly features, students can track expenses, set budgets, and monitor their accounts on the go, ensuring financial control at their fingertips.
  • Online Educational Resources: PNC offers many online educational resources, including articles and guides, to help students enhance their financial literacy. These resources cover topics such as budgeting, saving, and managing student loans, providing valuable insights for making informed financial decisions.
  • Courtesy Refund and ATM Fee Reimbursement: PNC values its student customers and offers benefits like an automatic courtesy refund of the first overdraft fee and reimbursement of ATM fees charged by other banks up to a certain limit, ensuring cost savings for students.
  • Extensive Branch and ATM Network: With over 2,600 branches and approximately 19,000 ATMs nationwide, PNC provides students convenient access to banking services, allowing them to deposit and withdraw funds, access customer support, and make transactions easily at various locations.

Pros Of PNC

  • Automatic courtesy refund of the first overdraft fee.
  • Earn interest on Reserve and Growth accounts.
  • Large network of branches and ATMs (over 2,600 branches and approximately 19,000 ATMs).
  • Online and mobile banking to manage your money how and when you want.
  • No monthly service charge.

Cons Of PNC

  • Low-interest rates on accounts.
  • The student ID debit card program is only available at a limited number of colleges.


  • Monthly fees: $0 ($7/month after six years).
  • Minimum balance required: $0 when opened online if, but the Spend account has a $25 minimum.
  • Interest: 0.01% to 0.03%.
  • ATM Fee: $3 for non-PNC ATM transactions in the U.S.
  • Overdraft Fee: $36 per overdraft, for a maximum of $36 per day. PNC waives the overdraft fee for the first overdraft incident.

Ideal For

It’s best for students who want to start banking without any minimum deposit requirements, manage their day-to-day expenses, earn interest on their checking account, and have options for long-term savings.

Chase Bank: Best Sign-Up Bonus

Best Banks For College Students

Chase provides a specialized college checking account for students aged 17 to 24. If you open an account while in college, you won't have to pay any monthly maintenance fees for the first five years. However, once you graduate, you will have to pay a monthly fee of $6 unless you maintain a minimum balance of $5,000 or more.

In addition to student checking and savings accounts, Chase offers the Chase Freedom Student credit card, which provides cashback rewards on purchases and a sign-up bonus. You can also get a $100 sign-up bonus when you open a Chase account, but you must complete ten transactions within the first two months to be eligible.

Chase is a widely recognized, full-service bank with over 4,700 branches and 16,000+ ATMs throughout the country. Chase has a user-friendly mobile app that allows you to conveniently manage your accounts from anywhere. Chase accounts also offer Zelle, which will enable users to send and receive money online to any U.S.-based account.

Features Of Chase Bank

  • College Checking Account: Chase offers a dedicated college checking account designed specifically for students between 17 and 24. This account provides a range of benefits and features tailored to meet the unique financial needs of college students. It offers a convenient and secure way for students to manage their money while pursuing their education.
  • No Monthly Fees: With Chase's college checking account, students can enjoy no monthly maintenance fees for the first five years after opening their account.
  • Generous Sign-Up Bonus: Chase sweetens the deal for new account holders by offering a great sign-up bonus of $100. To qualify for this bonus, students must make ten transactions within the first two months of opening their account. It's a great way to kickstart their banking relationship and put some extra cash in their hands.
  • Extensive Branch and ATM Networks: Chase boasts a widespread presence with over 4,700 branches and a vast network of 16,000+ ATMs across the country. This extensive coverage ensures that students can conveniently access their accounts, withdraw cash, and perform banking transactions wherever they are, whether on or off campus.
  • Use-Friendly Mobile Banking App: Chase Bank provides a user-friendly online and mobile banking experience. Their website and mobile app make it easy to access and manage your accounts from anywhere, anytime. You can check balances, pay bills, transfer funds, deposit checks, and track transactions with convenience and simplicity.

Pros Of Chase Bank

  • $100 sign-up bonus (Offer expires 10/18/2023).
  • No fees or minimum balance (while a student).
  • Access to nationwide ATMs.
  • User-friendly mobile app.
  • Cashback credit card for students

Cons Of Chase Bank

  • Great promotion offers specifically designed for students.
  • A monthly service fee applies after you graduate.
  • Overdraft fees.
  • No interest on the deposit.


  • Minimum deposit: $0.
  • Interest: None.
  • Monthly Fees: $0 monthly fee while in college, $6 monthly service fee after you graduate (waived if you maintain a minimum balance of $5,000).
  • Overdraft Fee: $34 per overdraft, with a maximum limit of $102 in overdraft fees per day. The fee is not charged if your account is overdrawn by less than $50 or you bring the overdraft within $50 or less by the end of the following business day.

Ideal For

It’s best for students who value convenience: Chase has a widespread branch network and many ATMs across the country. This makes it convenient for students to access in-person banking services and withdraw cash without incurring additional fees.

Wells Fargo: Best For Convenience

Best Banks For College Students

Wells Fargo offers the Everyday Checking account, which can be a great choice for students, especially if their college or university participates in the Wells Fargo Campus Card program. This program provides exclusive benefits, such as a Campus ATM card that doubles as an official school ID when linked to an eligible checking account. Additionally, Wells Fargo offers CollegeSTEPS, a resource that provides various student tools and resources, including college planning, financial education, money management guidance, access to scholarships, and career preparation resources.

Wells Fargo offers reliable account options. It has one of the largest ATM networks in the country, with over 12,000 machines and nearly 4,600 branches. This extensive network helps students avoid withdrawal fees. Even when using an out-of-network ATM with an eligible Campus Card-linked checking account, Wells Fargo doesn’t charge fees for up to four withdrawals per fee period.

You can get a Wells Fargo Everyday Checking account when you’re 17, with a minimum deposit of just $25. The bank waives the monthly service fee for ages 17–24.

Features Of Wells Fargo

  • Campus Card Program: Wells Fargo's Everyday Checking account offers exclusive benefits for students through the Campus Card program. The program includes a Campus ATM card that doubles as an official school ID card when linked to an eligible checking account, providing added convenience for students.
  • CollegeSTEPS Resources: Wells Fargo provides a comprehensive range of student resources and tools through CollegeSTEPS. This program offers college planning assistance, financial education, money management guidance, and access to scholarships and career preparation resources, helping students navigate their academic and financial journeys.
  • Extensive ATM and Branch Network: Wells Fargo boasts one of the largest ATM networks in the country, with over 11,000 machines and nearly 4,600 branches. This vast network ensures students have convenient access to their funds and helps them avoid withdrawal fees.
  • Low Opening Balance Requirement: With Wells Fargo, students can open an Everyday Checking account for just $25, making it accessible for those who may have limited initial funds. This feature allows students to start their banking relationship with a modest deposit.

Pros Of Wells Fargo

  • Low opening balance requirement of $25.
  • $0 monthly service fee for ages 17-24.
  • No Wells Fargo fees on up to four out-of-network ATM withdrawals per month with a Campus Card linked checking account.
  • The CollegeSTEPS program provides access to scholarships, financial guidance, and career preparation resources.

Cons Of Wells Fargo

  • The everyday Checking account doesn’t earn interest on deposits.
  • There is a $2.50 fee when you use non-Wells Fargo ATMs.


  • Minimum deposit: $25.
  • Interest: None.
  • Monthly Fees: $0 monthly fee for ages 17-24.
  • Overdraft fee: Wells Fargo charges an overdraft fee of $35 per item. They charge a maximum of three overdraft fees per business day for personal accounts.

Ideal For

It is ideal for students who value convenience and easy access to ATMs and branches. It’s also best for students seeking additional benefits through the Campus Card program, such as using their ATM card as an official school ID.

Discover Cashback Debit Account: Best For Rewards

Best Banks For College Students

While the Discover Cashback Debit Account isn't explicitly for students, it offers an excellent option for individuals aged 18 or older who desire the benefits of a student account along with a debit card. This account comes with attractive features, such as no monthly fee, minimum deposit, overdraft fee, or ATM fee, and these advantages continue even after graduation. Moreover, users can earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in monthly debit card purchases, which could result in up to $360 in cash back annually.

Discover also provides added perks like free checks, online bill pay, ACH payments, and replacement debit cards. The bank collaborates with the Allpoint ATM network, granting free access to over 60,000 ATMs nationwide.

Additionally, the lack of physical branches is definitely not a dealbreaker. What the Discover Bank lacks in physical presence, it usually makes up for through its mobile and online experiences. You'll find plenty of digital resources to manage your money effectively.

Features Discover Cashback Debit

  • No Monthly Fees: The Discover Cashback Debit Account has no monthly fees, making it an attractive option for individuals who want to avoid unnecessary charges.
  • Cash Back Rewards: Users of the Discover Cashback Debit Account can earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in monthly debit card purchases. This feature allows users to accumulate cashback rewards, potentially up to $360 annually.
  • No Minimum Deposit: There is no minimum deposit requirement to open a Discover Cashback Debit Account, making it accessible for individuals who may not have a large sum of money to start with.
  • No Overdraft Fees: Discover Cashback Debit Account holders don’t have to worry about overdraft fees or charges for insufficient funds. This feature provides peace of mind and helps users avoid additional financial burdens.
  • Allpoint ATM Network: Discover collaborates with the Allpoint ATM network, offering users access to over 60,000 ATMs nationwide. This widespread network ensures convenient and fee-free ATM withdrawals for Discover Cashback Debit Account holders.
  • Convenient Online and Mobile Banking: While Discover Bank may not have physical branches, it compensates with its robust online and mobile banking experiences. Users can enjoy features such as free checks, online bill pay, ACH payments, and replacement debit cards, providing convenient and efficient money management.

Pros Discover Cashback Debit

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

Cons Discover Cashback Debit

  • No physical location.
  • No interest on deposits.


  • Minimum deposit: $0.
  • Interest: None, cash back only.
  • Monthly Fees: $0 monthly fee.
  • Overdraft Fee: $0—no charges for overdrafts or insufficient funds.
  • ATM Fee: $0.

Ideal For

It is an ideal option for those seeking a fee-free banking experience, cashback rewards on debit card purchases, and the convenience of a vast ATM network.

U.S. Bank Student Checking Account

Best Banks For College Students

For students residing in the Western, Midwestern, and Southern regions, the U.S. Bank Student Checking Account is an excellent option. By linking their student ID to their checking account, students can use it for ATM withdrawals and PIN purchases. The account also provides access to tailored financial education programs for students to manage their finances effectively.

One perk of this account is its $0 monthly maintenance fee and a U.S. Bank Visa debit card. With a network of over 2,000 branches, U.S. Bank offers student account holders the same comprehensive set of tools available to non-student accounts. These include online and mobile banking services, no-fee transactions at U.S. Bank ATMs, mobile check deposits, and the convenience of using Zelle for payments. Moreover, the account waives ATM fees for the first four non-U.S. Bank ATM transactions per statement period.

U.S. Bank provides no-fee overdraft protection when students link a qualifying U.S. Bank account, although there may be charges for overdraft protection transfers. Any overdraft fees are waived if the account balance falls below $50 by the end of the day.

Features Of U.S. Bank

  • Convenient ID Integration: U.S. Bank Student Checking Account allows students to link their student ID to their checking account easily. This integration enables them to conveniently use their student ID for ATM withdrawals and PIN purchases, eliminating the need for carrying an additional debit card.
  • Financial Education Program: Through the campus banking program, U.S. Bank provides students with a comprehensive financial education program. This program offers valuable resources and tools to help students gain essential financial management skills and make informed financial decisions.
  • No Monthly Maintenance Fee: Students can enjoy the benefit of a $0 monthly maintenance fee with the U.S. Bank Student Checking Account. That means they won't be charged any fees for maintaining their account, allowing them to save money and allocate it towards other college expenses.
  • U.S. Bank Visa Debit Card: Account holders receive a U.S. Bank Visa debit card, which offers a secure and widely accepted payment method. Students can use their debit cards for everyday purchases, online transactions, and accessing funds from ATMs.
  • Extensive Banking Tools: U.S. Bank provides students with various convenient banking tools. With over 2,000 branches, students have easy access to in-person banking services. Additionally, they can use online and mobile banking services to manage their accounts, deposit checks, and make payments anytime, anywhere.

Pros Of U.S. Bank

  • Free U.S. Bank ATM transactions.
  • No minimum balance.
  • No bank fee on the first four non-US ATM transactions per statement period.
  • The on-campus banking program turns student ID into a debit card.
  • Online banking with free credit score access.

Cons Of U.S. Bank

  • On-campus banking is only available at select schools.
  • U.S. Bank charges a $36 overdraft fee for each overdraft transaction, and this fee can be charged up to four times per day.


  • Minimum deposit: $25.
  • Interest: None.
  • Monthly Fees: $0 for students.
  • ATM Fee: $2.50 for Non-U.S. Bank ATM transactions.
  • Overdraft Fee: U.S. Bank charges a $36 per overdraft of $5.01 or more. It offers a maximum of four overdrafts per day.

Ideal For

It’s ideal for financially conscious students who prioritize saving and managing their money wisely. With access to comprehensive financial educational resources, this account provides valuable information and guidance to help students develop sound financial habits.

Benefits Of A Student Bank Account

Student bank accounts provide numerous advantages for young individuals.

  • Lower minimum deposit requirements make opening and maintaining the account easier.
  • Student bank accounts waive monthly maintenance fees, reducing the financial burden for students.
  • They forgive ATM fees, enabling convenient access to cash without extra charges.
  • Access to budgeting tools, mobile apps, and educational content for improved financial literacy.

How To Select The Best Bank For College Students

Choosing the best bank account for college students is crucial for saving money in the long run. While student-specific accounts are not necessary, they offer benefits tailored to the needs of college students, such as low or zero fees and no zero-balance penalties. It's important to prioritize banks that provide user-friendly services and excellent customer support, particularly for students who are new to the banking system.

Here are key things you should look for when selecting a bank account as a college student:

  • No Maintenance Fee: Opt for student bank accounts that eliminate monthly maintenance fees, especially when you have limited income. Some accounts even waive additional charges like overdraft fees, saving you money.
  • No Minimum Balance Requirement: Look for student accounts that allow you to keep your account open with a low or zero balance. Additionally, choose accounts with a low or no minimum deposit requirement to open the account, making it accessible for students.
  • Excellent Online Access: Efficiently managing your finances as a busy student requires robust online banking services and a user-friendly mobile app. Prioritize banks that offer comprehensive online access, allowing you to handle your transactions and monitor your account from anywhere conveniently.
  • Wide ATM Network with no fees: Avoid excessive ATM fees by selecting banks that offer free out-of-network ATM withdrawals for students. Alternatively, choose banks with a large ATM network, ensuring you have easy access to cash wherever you are.
  • No Direct Deposit Requirement: Since students may not have consistent employment with regular direct deposits, opt for accounts that don't impose this requirement for free checking. This flexibility allows you to enjoy the benefits without meeting strict criteria.
  • Additional Features: Consider student accounts that offer extra perks such as sign-up bonuses, free fraud protection, and the ability to link your account to external accounts. These features can enhance your banking experience and provide added value.

It’s crucial to review the specific requirements for each student account as they may vary. Typically, enrollment in a university or vocational college is necessary, and certain accounts may have age restrictions or limits. Taking these factors into account will help you make an informed decision about the best bank for your college needs.

How Do You Open A Student Bank Account?

Opening a student bank account is now easier than ever. Here are some of the things you’ll require:

  • A valid student ID with a photo: This identification verifies your student status and helps establish your eligibility for a student bank account.
  • School transcript: Providing your official school transcript showcases your enrollment and assists the bank in verifying your student affiliation.
  • College acceptance letter: This document confirms your acceptance into a college or university, further supporting your eligibility for a student bank account.

Additionally, like any account, you'll need to present a government-issued ID, such as a driver's license or passport, to establish your identity. Your Social Security number is also necessary for account verification purposes.

Most banks offer the convenience of online applications, which allow you to apply for a new bank account quickly and effortlessly. Simply provide the requested information and submit the required documents digitally. However, if online application options aren't available to you, you can visit a bank branch and schedule an in-person appointment. Bring all the necessary documents during the appointment, and a bank representative will guide you through the account opening process.

Why Should A Student Open A Checking Account?

Having a checking account can help you as a student learn how to budget and manage your money. Here are several reasons to open a checking account:

  • Manage Part-Time Job Income: Students who work while attending school need a secure place to deposit their paychecks and conveniently pay their bills. A checking account offers a centralized platform for managing their finances.
  • Access To Free Financial Tools And Resources: Many banks provide students with access to helpful tools and resources that can assist them in achieving their financial goals. These resources may include budgeting apps, financial educational resources, and personalized financial advice.
  • Develop Financial Knowledge: Opening and managing a checking account while dealing with limited funds and transactions can provide valuable financial experience. Students can gain essential money management skills that will serve them well in handling the finances of a full-time job after graduation.
  • Access To Other Financial Products: By establishing a checking account, students may have opportunities to access other financial products the bank offers. This can include a student credit card, a savings account, and even options for auto loans, helping them build credit and achieve their long-term financial goals.

What Can Students Do With A Checking Account?

A checking account will make handling your money a little easier. Below are some things students can do with a checking account:

  • Depositing Cash: Students can deposit cash into their checking accounts, providing a secure place to store their money.
  • Paying Bills: Checking accounts enable students to easily pay their bills electronically, whether it's for rent, utilities, or other expenses.
  • Earning Interest: Some checking accounts offer the opportunity to earn interest on the deposited funds, allowing students to grow their money over time.
  • Writing checks: Students can write checks to make payments or cover expenses, offering a convenient transaction method.
  • Using A Debit Card: Checking accounts typically come with a debit card, which allows students to make online and in-person purchases, directly deducting the funds from their accounts.
  • Withdrawing Money From An ATM: Students can withdraw cash from ATMs using their debit card, providing convenient access to funds whenever needed.

In Summary

When you're trying to make your way through school, keeping track of your finances can be quite challenging. This is why it's helpful when banks offer flexible bank accounts that are free from excessive fees or complications. To determine which bank is the best fit for you, it's crucial to have a clear understanding of what you truly need from a bank. If you find yourself frequently in need of cash, opting for a bank with a wide-reaching ATM network or an excellent ATM fee reimbursement policy would be highly beneficial.

The student banks above provide a wide range of advantages designed to assist students in minimizing expenses and simplifying their money management. These benefits include waiving monthly maintenance and ATM fees, a lack of minimum balance requirements, and outstanding online access. By selecting an account that offers these features, students can effectively keep their costs low, effortlessly handle their finances, and enjoy the convenience of online banking services.

Best Banks For College Students FAQs

Should you open a student bank account?

Opening a student bank account isn’t a necessity for every student. If a student already has good financial habits with a regular checking account, they may not need a student bank account. However, the affordable nature of student bank accounts and their additional benefits make them an appealing choice for eligible individuals. Whether or not a student requires the financial benefits provided by a student bank account, taking advantage of waived fees and offered rewards is advantageous.

What happens to a student's bank account after graduation?

Banks will usually automatically convert the student account into a standard account when the student reaches a certain milestone, such as graduation or a specific age. However, if a student takes longer than four years to graduate, the bank may require proof of ongoing enrollment to retain the student's bank account.

What are the costs involved with banks for students?

Costs associated with student bank accounts can vary. While most accounts waive monthly maintenance fees, there might be a minimum deposit requirement to open the account. Additionally, some accounts may charge overdraft fees, which can amount to $30 or more. Writing checks from a student bank account could also incur additional costs. ATM fees may apply when using an ATM outside the bank's network, but certain accounts may reimburse these fees.

What is the minimum age requirement for banks for students?

The minimum age requirement for student bank accounts differs from bank to bank. Some student banks allow students as young as 17 to apply, while others may have maximum age limits. Once a student reaches the maximum age, the bank can convert the account to a standard one.

Can banks for students help with financial education?

Student bank accounts can help with financial education. While using a bank account itself teaches financial skills, some banks offer additional resources. For instance, U.S. Bank offers free financial coaching, and several student-focused banks provide online webinars and educational sections on their websites. These resources allow students to learn about various financial topics, such as budgeting, borrowing, debt management, and investing.

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