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How to Find the Best Checking Account for Students

With so many financial institutions offering checking accounts, choosing one may be confusing. This Buzzle article will tell you how to find the best checking account for students.
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Tip to find the best checking account for students
Quick Tip
Avail for automatic email and SMS alerts if your balance drops beyond a certain account limit. This way, you can avoid penalty fees.

Students need to get a checking account to pay their bills and make payment for rent, food, etc. With so many offers of checking accounts from various banks, choosing the best checking account can be confusing for students. Most students are new at managing their finances, and often end up getting the wrong kind of accounts. There are a few who like to play it safe and prefer to go with their parents' banks, as transferring money is faster and convenient. However, don't just fall for a bank because it is giving you free gifts like iPods. You must check the services they offer and the fees they charge for the same. You may be surprised to find a better option that will prove to be far more financially beneficial for you. Here are a few useful tips to help you find the best checking account.

Compare Options

You must never settle for the first bank that approaches you for a checking account. You must conduct a comparative analysis of all the options and decide which one is best suited for you. You can visit findthebest.com to compare rates, and search for an appropriate option. You must look at the various services, features, and support offered by the banks, and their compatibility with your student lifestyle before deciding which option is suitable for you. You can also check online reviews of checking accounts to know about the recommendations of experts.

Minimum Balance

The good news is that many banks will allow you to get such accounts at very low prices. According to bankrate.com, some banks may insist that you pay $50 worth of initial opening balance and have no minimum balance requirement later on.

Monthly Fees

Many banks waive off the monthly service fees on checking accounts for students. This is to expand their customer base and keep them from moving to other competitors. Hence, you should inquire about the monthly fees levied on your account before you start an account with a bank.

Overdraft Fees

As students are in constant need for cash, it may so happen that your balance may drop drastically beyond the minimum requirement. Find a bank that does not charge you with any penalty fees for this or has fees that are relatively on the lower side. Many banks prefer not to charge fees for the first time if the balance drops beyond a certain limit; however, if your account is overdrawn, they will definitely charge a certain amount. This fee can be as high as $35. Such fees can often bite away a huge chunk of your money.

Connecting Accounts

If your account gets overdrawn owing to non-sufficient funds, you tend to attract a huge fine. To avoid this, some banks offer a facility where your checking account is connected to a backup account. If the balance in your checking account dips beyond a limit, it automatically transfers money from your backup account to avoid penalty fees.

Know What's Free and What's Not

Banks understand that students can become important permanent customers; hence, they offer many incentives and benefits to them. To attract as many student customers as they can, banks offer various free schemes to students like an interest-free overdraft facility, free debit card without any charges, etc. However, do remember that the bank may charge you for international transactions, out-of-network ATM usage, exceeding your overdraft limit, etc. You will also have to know about the other fees which will be charged by your banks. This may include online banking fees, transfer of funds between accounts, bill payment charges, etc. You must know exactly what is free and what is not before you get the checking account.

Proximity

According to a report in nerdwallet.com, an FDIC survey observed that 46% of respondents said that the location of their financial institution played an important role in selecting a checking account. Many students prefer to go for banks that have ATMs located on their campus so that they can conveniently withdraw money. However, this should not be a yardstick to measure the right checking account at all. There are many banks today that do not levy extra fees for using out-of-network ATMs and also prove beneficial for other offers that can help you save a lot of money in terms of fees. Also, they may offer better rates of interest and features like alerts when the balance goes low, online bill payments and transactions, etc. However, if you do find a brick and mortar bank which has good offers within the vicinity of your campus, go for it.

Mobile Banking

Students often live in one place during their course term and travel to other cities for their internships or part-time jobs. This means that they may not necessarily be close to a branch of their bank. Many students today prefer to use their smartphones for conducting bank transactions. Hence, they should opt for a checking account that will have easy electronic access and flexibility for processing transactions through mobile and Internet banking.

Transferring Money

In most cases, checking accounts do not offer an attractive rate of interest. Hence, students who want to set aside some money, should ideally transfer their funds to the savings accounts. Find a checking account that will execute your standing instructions and transfer a certain amount to your savings account. This will help get a better rate of interest.

Some Tips

• Don't opt for a general checking account; go for one created specially for students to gain maximum benefits.

• Refrain from handing over a post-dated check to someone, as you may not necessarily have the amount in your account at the time of encashment.

• Seek a bank that allows you to deposit checks through ATM and smartphones.

• As checking accounts are transactional accounts and highly liquid, it is important to find one that will offer a considerable amount of interest.

• Endorse a check only when you are ready to deposit it.

• Never share your pin numbers with others.

• Apart from banks, you can also get an account with your university credit unions.

Remember, if you are going for a checking account with an overdraft facility, you will be credit scored based on how you use your account. Hence, try not to use this facility regularly, or keep the account overdrawn for long. Overdrawing the account beyond limit will affect your credit score adversely. Apart from gifts, some banks may also offer free financial literacy classes, so do not forget to make most of them.
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Published: April 3, 2014
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