For many, going away to college is the first big step toward independence. You’re no longer under your parents’ wing, and you have the freedom to make decisions on your own.
Along with that freedom, however, comes increased financial responsibility. Tuition, housing, food, books – all of them come with a price tag. Tracking what you’re spending your money on and how much you’re shelling out isn’t something you can take lightly.
That’s why it’s good to have a checking account. It gives you a way to monitor your spending habits. It’s a place to keep your money, and keeps you from having to carry around cash all the time. Practically all checking accounts come with a debit card that you can use to pay for purchases in-store and online, and access ATMs for cash withdrawals.
Having a checking account while in college also allows you to pay recurring bills, such as cable and electric bills. And if you get a part-time job while at school, you can deposit your paychecks into the account – either by physically bringing it into a bank branch, taking a photo of the check with your smartphone and depositing it through a mobile app (if your account supports it), or through direct deposit if you’ve supplied your employer with your account number and routing number.
So what should you look for when opening a checking account? Here are some basic things to consider while shopping around for the right account:
- How much money will it take to open the account? This is commonly referred to as a minimum deposit. Most college students don’t have a lot of money laying around to open an account, but the good news is that many banks will let you start one up for a very low amount.
- Does your account automatically come with a debit card, or will you have to request one?
- Where can you use your debit card without incurring charges? Is the bank part of a surcharge-free ATM network, or can you only use the card at the bank’s brick and mortar locations without having to pay fees?
- Does the account come with free checks, or will you need to purchase them?
- Does the account have a monthly maintenance fee?
- Will you be able to access the account online and from mobile devices like your smartphone or tablet? Does the bank offer its own mobile app, and if so, does it support mobile check deposit?
- Does the account have a minimum daily balance requirement?
- Can you request email or text alerts to keep you up-to-speed on your balance? These can be very helpful with warning you if you’re close to overdrawing your account.
- Does the account come with (or offer) overdraft protection?
Many financial institutions – including BankFive – have checking accounts tailored exclusively to college students and their needs. You can learn more about BankFive’s Student Checking account here: http://www.bankfive.com/studentchecking.
And if your parents are okay with the idea, you might want to look into linking your new checking account to one of their bank accounts so that money can be quickly and easily transferred to you should you need it in a pinch or emergency.
And remember, once you have a checking account that meets your needs, be sure to monitor it on a regular basis for any signs of fraudulent activity. If you notice any suspicious transactions, report them immediately to your financial institution.