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7 best student checking accounts

Explore accounts for college students with low fees and money management tools.

The best student checking accounts have no monthly fees or minimum deposits and come with savings tools. While these accounts have traditionally been geared toward individuals aged 17 to 24 who are enrolled in school, many college students aged 18 and above qualify for regular checking accounts, offering even more appealing options to explore.

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We're big on editorial independence. That means our content, reviews and ratings are fair, accurate and trustworthy. We don't let advertisers or partners sway our opinions. Our financial experts put in the hard work, spending hours researching and analyzing hundreds of products based on data-driven methodologies to find the best accounts and providers for you. Explore our editorial guidelines to see how we work.

Best overall

Discover® Cashback Debit

4.8
★★★★★

Finder score

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The Discover® Cashback Debit account is solid all the way around, earning our best overall pick. There are no fees to maintain or open this account. There’s no opening deposit, overdraft, foreign transaction, monthly maintenance, inactivity, balance requirements or check reorder fees. It also earns 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in purchases per month — so you could earn up to $30 each month or $360 yearly. You’ll get access to a large network of over 60,000 ATMs, plus the ability to make peer-to-peer payments via Zelle and link other Discover accounts for overdraft protection. But like most online banks, you can’t make cash deposits with this account.
Earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month. See website for details.

Best for free checking

Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus

4.3
★★★★★

Finder score

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on Upgrade's secure site
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The Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus account is our winner for a no-hassle, free checking account for your college years and beyond. There are no monthly or overdraft fees, no opening deposit requirement, and fee-free access with 55,000 Allpoint ATMs nationwide. You also earn up to 2% cash back on select purchases by direct depositing at least $1,000 per month. Earn up to $500 annually with the 2% rate, and 1% cashback rewards are unlimited. If you don’t meet the direct deposit requirement, you can still earn 1% to 0.5% cash back on select purchases. Having this checking account also unlocks extra perks with the Upgrade's Performance Savings account, offering up to 5.07% APY if you meet deposit requirements.
Upgrade is a financial technology company, not a bank.  Rewards Checking services provided by Cross River Bank, Member FDIC.  Upgrade VISA ® Debit Cards issued by Cross River Bank, Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc.

Best for saving

NBKC Everything Account

4.6
★★★★★

Finder score

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NBKC Everything Account is best for students who want to passively earn on their checking balance — offering up to 1.5%% APY on all balances above $0.01. That APY is over 20 times higher than the national average for interest-bearing checking. Unlike many other competitors, NBKC doesn’t have any hidden or tricky requirements to earn that rate. Alongside that, there are no monthly fees, no opening deposit, free ATM access at MoneyPass ATMs, budgeting and savings tools and $12 in monthly ATM out-of-network reimbursements. But if you want branch access, look elsewhere, because NBKC only has four locations.

Best for cashback rewards

Varo

4.8
★★★★★

Finder score

Existing and new customers get a $25 referral bonus when signing up for a Varo Bank account. T&C apply.
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Varo frequently tops our lists for its great cashback program. Earn up to 6% cash back with popular merchants like Little Caesars, Petsmart, Nike and many more. You can earn up to $50 per month — but you’d need to spend $833.35 each month on qualifying brands to hit the max cashback limit. Though we don’t recommend overspending on your budget to get it, if you naturally earn $5 in cashback rewards, Varo automatically deposits it into your account. You also won’t have to worry about monthly or overdraft fees and can use Allpoint ATMs for free. As a bonus, if you get the Varo checking account, you can unlock Varo’s savings account, offering a high 5% APY on up to $5,000 if you meet deposit requirements. But like many other of our top picks, Varo is an exclusively online bank, so you won’t get branch access. However, you can deposit cash at Green Dot locations for a fee.

Best for ATM access

Axos Bank Essential Checking

5
★★★★★

Finder score

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Axos Bank is a top online bank and takes the win for its lack of ATM fees and unlimited domestic ATM reimbursements on its Essential Checking account. This account is ideal for college students who frequently need to withdraw cash, use ATMs and need a low maintenance account. Axos offers free ATM access at over 91,000 ATMs nationwide. Unlike many other online banks, Axos accepts ATM cash deposits for free. The Axos Essential Checking account comes with monthly or overdraft fees, no opening deposit and early direct deposit. On the downside, there are no physical branches, but it does offer 24/7 phone and chat support.

Best for branch access

Chase College Checking

3
★★★★★

Finder score

New Chase customers can get a $100 signup bonus when they complete 10 qualifying transactions within 60 days of account opening.
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Chase is one of the big four banks, with over 4,700 branch locations nationwide and over 16,000 ATMs. As the name implies, its Chase College Checking account was designed with college students in mind. While there’s a $6 monthly fee, you can avoid it if you’re 17 to 24 years old and show proof of college enrollment. Once you don’t qualify for the fee waiver, you can waive the $12 fee by setting up qualifying direct deposit or keeping an average balance of $5,000. On top of that, you may also qualify for a $100 signup bonus by making 10 qualifying transactions within 15 days of opening the account. But if you’re 17, you’ll need to head to a branch to open this account.

Best for high school students

Step Visa Card

4.7
★★★★★

Finder score

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Step is among one of the only free online banking options available for kids and teens, securing its spot as our best pick for high school students. Step’s standout feature is its credit-building opportunities. The Step card works like a debit card but is actually a secured credit card backed by the Step deposit account. High school students can only spend up to what’s in their deposit account, and there are no interest charges and annual, overdraft or late fees. The card’s repayments can be reported to the credit bureaus once teens turn 18 (up to two years retroactively), giving teens the ability to build a credit history early. Highschoolers who meet deposit requirements can also earn up to 5% in savings rewards. In addition, there are time-sensitive cashback rewards and investing options with parental supervision. However, Step doesn’t have a customer support phone number.

What is a student checking account?

Student checking accounts typically require you to be enrolled in school to qualify and are open to those aged 17 to 24. Student accounts tend to waive monthly maintenance fees while you’re finishing up your education. And once you’ve graduated, they convert into a regular checking account. But students aged 18 and above don’t have to stick to traditional student checking accounts, as they meet the age requirements for regular checking accounts.

Methodology: How we choose the best student accounts

Finder’s banking experts analyze over 85 accounts before selecting the best ones. Accounts must meet these minimum requirements:

  • $0 to $100, fee must be easy to waive
  • $0 opening deposit requirement
  • Attainable cashback rewards, if offered
  • No difficult requirements to earn APY if offered, such as:
    • No or low balance requirements
    • Reasonable direct deposit requirements
  • 0% foreign transaction fee for our best free student checking account

What about high school student bank accounts?

The best accounts for high school students are teen checking accounts. These accounts must be opened jointly with an adult and are for teens aged 13 to 17 years old. They tend to offer low fees and often come with financial literacy resources and parental controls.

Factors in choosing a student bank account

Consider these factors when choosing the ideal account for your college years:

  • Fees. Even small fees can eat away at your balance. Luckily, there are many free checking accounts available with no opening deposit requirements and no monthly maintenance, overdraft or ATM fees.
  • Converts after graduation. Some student accounts close once you’re no longer enrolled in school or you reach a certain age, usually 24. If you plan to stay with the same bank, confirm whether it converts to a regular account or stays the same after you graduate.
  • Close to campus. If you’re a full-time student, your free time may be limited, so consider how close your bank’s branches and ATMs are to campus.
  • Free cash at signup. Many bank accounts offer signup bonuses for new members; just make sure the account is a good deal long-term.
  • Rewards and perks. Compare perks like cashback rewards, overdraft protection, discounts on other banking products and whether the account earns interest.
  • Modern features. Most banks now offer mobile banking apps for on-the-go banking. Make sure the one you choose does, and ask about other perks like mobile check deposits, Apple or Google Pay compatibility, mobile balance notifications, fraud alerts, peer-to-peer transactions and Zelle integration.
A photo of Alexa Serrano Cruz, CAMS

Expert tip: Choose your first bank account wisely

About 48% of Americans open their first checking account with the same bank as their parents, according to Finder’s Consumer Confidence Index. While it makes sense that young adults are seeking financial guidance from their parents, it’s essential to weigh all your banking options carefully by comparing the fees, rates, features and ATM and branch accessibility. The bank that works best for your parents might not be the best option for you.

— Alexa Serrano Cruz, CAMS, Lead Editor, Personal Finance.

How to open a student bank account online

Most modern banks, credit unions and fintechs allow you to open a student bank account online. If you’re over 18, you can apply. You may need these documents:

  • Contact information
  • Residential address
  • Government-issued ID, like a passport or driver’s license
  • Student ID or letter from school to prove student status (depends on the account)
  • Social Security number

If you’re a student under 18 years old, you may need to head to a branch with a parent or guardian to open the account. Minors need a custodian to open bank accounts on their behalf.

Alternatives to student checking accounts

Whether student checking accounts just aren’t the right fit or you want to explore more options, here are some alternatives:

  • Money market accounts. An MMA is a deposit account that works like a checking and savings account hybrid. They are interest-bearing, and most come with checkwriting privileges and a debit card. But they’re likely to require an opening deposit and may have monthly fees.
  • Prepaid debit cards. A simple option for spending cash, prepaid debit cards can be used anywhere traditional debit and credit cards are accepted. However, you may face reload fees, monthly maintenance fees, inactivity fees and more — all of which make them a more expensive option than a student checking account.
  • High-yield savings account. These common deposit accounts are meant for stashing money away and earning interest passively. A savings account has transaction limits and isn’t meant for everyday spending. These accounts work well in addition to an existing checking account once you’ve accrued enough to put into your savings.
  • Compare more checking accounts for students

    Narrow down top checking accounts by fees, opening deposits and APYs. Select the Compare box on up to four providers to see benefits side by side.

    1 - 5 of 26
    Name Product Fee Minimum deposit to open Annual Percentage Yield (APY) Offer
    SoFi Checking and Savings
    Finder Score: 4.5 / 5: ★★★★★
    Bonus
    SoFi Checking and Savings
    $0 per month
    $0
    4.60% on balances of $0+
    0.50% on balances of $0+
    1.20% on balances of $0+
    Get up to $300 cash bonus with qualifying direct deposit. Terms apply. This offer is available until December 31, 2024.
    Primis Perks Checking
    Finder Score: 4.8 / 5: ★★★★★
    Bonus
    Primis Perks Checking
    $0 per month
    $1
    N/A
    Earn 50 cents for every debit card swipe except for ATM transactions
    Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus
    Finder Score: 4.3 / 5: ★★★★★
    Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus
    $0 per month
    $0
    N/A
    Cash Card by Cash App
    Finder Score: 4.4 / 5: ★★★★★
    Cash Card by Cash App
    $0 per month
    $0
    N/A
    Step Black Card
    Finder Score: 4.3 / 5: ★★★★★
    Step Black Card
    From $0 per month
    $0
    5.00% on balances of $0 to $1,000,000
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    Bottom line

    Student checking accounts tend to come with fewer fees than traditional accounts, because they’re designed with college students in mind. In most cases, banks waive the monthly maintenance fees for up to five years while you’re in school or up to a certain age. But there are also plenty of checking account options for students who are 18 years and older.

Written by

Bethany Hickey

Bethany Hickey is the banking editor and personal finance expert at Finder, specializing in banking, lending, insurance, and crypto. Bethany’s expertise in personal finance has garnered recognition from esteemed media outlets, such as Nasdaq, MSN, Yahoo Finance, GOBankingRates, SuperMoney, AOL and Newsweek. Her articles offer practical financial strategies to Americans, empowering them to make decisions that meet their financial goals. Her past work includes articles on generational spending and saving habits, lending, budgeting and managing debt. Before joining Finder, she was a content manager where she wrote hundreds of articles and news pieces on auto financing and credit repair for CarsDirect, Auto Credit Express and The Car Connection, among others. Bethany holds a BA in English from the University of Michigan-Flint, and was poetry editor for the university’s Qua Literary and Fine Arts Magazine. See full profile

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