Best Free Student Checking Accounts for 2024

Banking

If you haven’t started your children or teens off with a kids checking account optimized for their needs, you’ll want to help your college student open a checking account before they begin school.

Opening a checking account for your child can teach them about money management and financial responsibility, along with providing them an easy way to make debit card purchases. It’s never too late to get started.

One advantage to helping your young adult open their first student checking account is they have more options than they might have when they were 16 or younger. Students over 18 can open a bank account with few restrictions.

But choosing a student checking account may give them access to higher interest rates and added features and benefits, along with fee-free checking, no monthly maintenance fees, and no minimum deposit to open an account.

12 Best Student Checking Accounts

Not surprisingly, many of the best student checking accounts come from banks that also offer some of the best checking accounts for any age. However, the products below – in most cases – are tailored for young adults from the ages of 18 to 24, with the features this age group desires most, including an intuitive mobile app and low or non-existent minimum deposit requirements.

1. Best for Working Students: Chime®

Chime® is not a bank. It’s a financial technology company and highly rated mobile app backed by Stride Bank, NA, and The Bancorp Bank. Many features make it perfect for working students. First, you can receive your paycheck up to two days2 earlier than you might at other banks with ACH deposit.

Plus, you can set up automatic transfers to your linked Chime Savings account, helping you to establish good financial habits early on. Simply set up Chime to transfer a percentage of your paycheck into your Savings Account every time you receive a direct deposit.

Like many of the best student bank accounts on this list, Chime has no monthly service fee, no ATM fee1 for in-network ATMs, and no minimum balance requirements.

2. Best for Students under 18: Capital One MONEY Teen

Most of the student bank accounts on our list exclude children under the age of 17 or 18. Capital One MONEY Teen checking is available to students ages 8 to 17 as joint accounts with a parent or legal guardian. It comes with all the benefits and security of a big bank, providing peace-of-mind. This includes access to Capital One branches and Capital One Cafes for in-person service. This account also serves as a great tool to teach your young adult the basics of banking.

Capital One MONEY Teen checking is a joint account with no monthly fee, no overdraft fees, and access to 70,000 ATMs with no fees. Plus, earn 0.10% on all balances, including those in checking.

You can link Capital One MONEY Teen checking to any other bank account through any bank or neobank, making it easy to transfer money to your teen while they are away at college. Plus, you can keep tabs on their spending with their linked account in the Capital One mobile app.

When they graduate, your teen can hold on to their MONEY account or transfer the funds into a top-rated Capital One 360 Checking account of their own.

3. Best Account Opening Bonus: Chase College Checking

Chase Bank has been handing out student account opening bonuses like they hand out lollipops at their branches lately. Students between the ages of 17 and 24 can get a $100 bonus when they open an account online or at a local branch (17-year-olds will need to visit a branch). You’ll just need to make 10 qualifying transactions within the first 60 days of opening the student bank account.

What’s a qualifying transaction? Virtually anything, according to the Chase website, including debit card purchases, online bill payments, Chase QuickDeposits, Zelle transfers, and ACH credits. Bank as you normally would, and you should easily earn that $100.

In addition to the generous sign-up bonus, Chase College Checking has no monthly fees for college students for up to five years, access to a 16,000 fee-free ATM network and 4,700 branches across the U.S., and zero liability protection for unauthorized debit card purchases.

Chase Overdraft Assist covers purchases that exceed your account balance. You’ll pay no overdraft fee if you’re overdrawn by $50 or less at the end of the next business day.

4. Best for Referrals to Earn Extra Cash: GO2bank

GO2bank, the digital bank associated with the top financial technology company Green Dot, offers an easy, straightforward money account with overdraft protection up to $200 with eligible direct deposits. The linked savings account pays a high 4.5% APY, with no fees for qualifying customers and no minimum balance requirement.

You can get regular ACH deposits from your job or side gigs up to two days earlier than most traditional banks. If you receive government benefits, such as Social Security, you can receive those deposits up to four days early.

Your GO2bank account will have a monthly service fee that costs $5 per month, unless you have a qualifying direct deposit that month. You will also pay fees for transfers from a linked debit card from another bank or fintech, mobile check deposits, and cash deposits.

If you are the type of person with friends who come to you for advice, you can earn $50 for each friend you refer to GO2bank who signs up with direct deposit. Your friend will also earn $50. You can use this offer for up to 30 friends, yielding $1,500 annually. This makes a GO2bank account great for social media influencers, high school or college students with a large group of friends.  

5. Best for Yield: Ally Interest Checking

Ally Bank is the first bank on our list not designed specifically for students, but the vast array of features in this interest bearing checking account makes it ideal for young adults.

Ally Bank offers an APY of 0.25% on checking account balances and 4.00% APY on balances in a linked Ally Bank savings account. Neither account has any monthly fees.

Ally offers several features to help those on a tight budget manage their money. You can organize your money into spending and saving buckets, which can help you see exactly where your money goes each month. Ally will also review your bank accounts and help you find opportunities to save, and shuttle that extra money into your high yield Ally savings account.

Customers who have deposited $100 or more into their Ally checking account, or $250 via direct deposit, gain access to Ally’s CoverDraft service after 30 days. This protection covers up to $100 or $250 in charges that would overwise overdraft your spending account. Some purchases, including Zelle transfers, or ATM withdrawals, may be declined if they would put your account into overdraft.

Ally has no monthly maintenance fee, no overdraft fees, no ATM fee for in-network ATM transactions and no minimum balance requirement.

6. Best for Full-Service Banking: Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Banking

Bank of America Advantage checking accounts offer options for people in various stages of their financial life. For students, it might be best to start with Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance banking, a checkless money account with no overdraft fees.

The account has no monthly fee for students under the age of 25 or customers under the age of 18. Preferred Rewards customers also receive free checking. There is a $25 minimum deposit required to open an account.

New Bank of America customers can earn a $100 account opening bonus when they open an account and set up direct deposits of $1,000 or more within 90 days.

7. Best for Comprehensive Money Management: PNC Virtual Wallet Student

Money Magazine named the PNC Virtual Wallet on its best banks for students list three years running. PNC Bank divides this mobile account into three separate accounts for everyday spending, “reserve,” or short-term savings, and “growth” for long-term savings.

The account has no monthly service fee for students for up to six years, along with all the benefits of a regular PNC Virtual Wallet. Additionally, students receive a courtesy refund of your first overdraft fee on your Spend account, one free incoming domestic or international wire transfer per statement period, and free paper statements if you opt in to receive them.

Once six years have passed or you are no longer a student, your account converts into a regular PNC Virtual Wallet, which may have associated monthly fees. Check the PNC website at that time to determine the fees and how you can waive them.

Your PNC Virtual Student Wallet pays a 0.01% APY on money in your Reserve account, and .02% on account balances up to $2,499 in your Growth account, with .03% APY on balances over $2,500. These may not be the best rates available, but the reputation of PNC Bank, along with the money management features in a Virtual Wallet Student account, make this an account worth considering for students just learning to budget.

8. Best for Establishing Savings Habits.: Wells Fargo Clear Access Banking

As one of the Big Four banks in the U.S., Wells Fargo offers a reliable and safe place to store your money, plus access to thousands of branches nationwide.

The Wells Fargo Clear Access banking account is great for teens and college students, since it’s available for account holders ages 13 to 24. Anyone under the age of 18 will need to open their account in a branch and anyone younger than 17 must have an adult aged 18+ as a joint account holder. The account has no monthly maintenance fee for anyone 24 or younger. A $25 minimum opening deposit is required.

Wells Fargo Clear Access banking is a simple, straightforward money account with no checks and personalized service at Wells Fargo branches. There are no overdraft fees with the account, but also no overdraft protection. Transactions that exceed the account or minimum balance amount will be declined, which helps put teens and young adults in charge of their money.

You can link your Clear Access bank account to a Way2Save Savings account and earn a 0.15% APY. You can establish good money habits by setting up automatic savings. Wells Fargo will transfer $1 from your Clear Access account into your checking account each time you use online bill pay or use your debit card for a one-time purchase. You can also transfer as little as $25 per month or $1 per day into your account to see your savings grow even faster.

9. Best for Cash Back: Discover Cashback Debit

The Discover Cashback Debit account may not be marketed to teens and students, by name. But, it’s enticing to anyone looking for a standard checking account with no monthly service fees and 1% cashback on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases per month. It’s highly unlikely for most college students to max out that free money (unless they are putting housing, tuition, and car expenses on their card).

Discover Cashback! debit card offers many of the benefits you’d expect from these top-rated money accounts, including early direct deposit, 60,000+ fee-free ATM network, and overdraft protection from your linked Discover Savings with no fees. Discover charges no fees for insufficient funds, bank checks, regular checks, or expedited delivery of a replacement debit card.

These features make it one of the most convenient accounts you can hold. Plus, you don’t have to worry about “aging out” of the account and facing fees for a non-student bank account. Your Discover Cashback Debit account will be free no matter your age. Link it to a Discover Savings Account to earn 4.0% APY with no minimum deposit requirement.

10. Best for Unlimited Out-of-Network ATM Fee Reimbursement – Axos Bank Rewards Checking

Another bank account not marketed to students but meeting all their needs is the Axos Bank Rewards Checking account. This account has no monthly fees. It also reimburses out-of-network ATM fees, which is great for students who travel domestically or who don’t have ATMs in their network on campus.

Pay no overdraft fee or non-sufficient funds fees with this account. Best of all, earn an APY of 0.40% on your checking balance if you receive monthly direct deposits of $1,500-plus. Young investors can ramp up their interest rate by 1% with an average daily balance of $2,500 in an Axos Invest Managed Portfolio Account, plus another 1% by holding $2,500 in a self-directed trading account. If you take out a loan through Axos, you can add another 0.60% to your APY.

Students can benefit from an Axos Bank account to help them transition into adulthood, especially with options for investing, low mortgage rates, car loans, and more. You can also earn a welcome bonus when you open an account and have direct deposits of at least $1,500 within a single calendar month during the first three months of account opening.

11. Best Credit Union: Alliant Credit Union Teen Checking

Alliant Credit Union offers a teen checking account for minors ages 13 to 17. The account is insured up to $250,000 per account holder by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). The adult account holder must be an Alliant Credit Union member. But it’s easy to join by depositing $5 into a saving account. Alliant Savings accounts earn an APY of 0.25%.

The teen checking account has no overdraft fees or non-sufficient funds fee. It also has no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements. Account holders gain access to 80,000+ fee free ATMs nationwide plus $20 per month in ATM fee reimbursements for out-of-network ATM use. This is an interest earning checking account which also pays 0.25% APY on all balances as long as you have at least one deposit, via ACH direct deposit, mobile check deposit, or transfer from another bank or credit union, each month.

12. Best for Young Shoppers: Varo Bank

Varo Bank is another account not necessarily marketed to students but definitely optimized for their needs. The Varo Bank debit card delivers up to 6% cash back, with money deposited into your Varo account as soon as you accrue $5 in rewards.

Like many of the best student accounts on this list, Varo has no monthly fee, no minimum balance requirements, and no overdraft fee. If you need money before payday, you can use Varo Advance, an interest-fee program that allows you to borrow up to $250 and pay it back within 30 days. You will not pay fees to borrow less than $20. Borrowing up to $250 comes with fees that can be as high as $15, depending on the amount of cash advance you need.

Varo Bank uses the Allpoint network of ATMs, with fee free access to 55,000+ ATMs nationwide. Using other bank ATMs could result in charges up to $3 from Varo and fees charged by the other banks, as well.

It pays to open a linked Varo Bank savings to take advantage of a high 3% APY. Account holders with direct deposits equal to $1,000 per month and a positive balance in their Varo checking and savings can earn up to 4% APY.

One of the best things about a Varo account is it can grow with you. You won’t pay additional fees as an adult out of college, so you can keep the same bank account you started with for your entire life if you want.

young female student

Methodology: How We Select the Best Student Checking Accounts

To find the best student checking accounts, we evaluated the monthly maintenance fees, ATM fees, minimum deposit requirements, features, benefits, banking services provided, along with customer service and mobile app access at several of the biggest and most well-known banks and credit unions.

ATM Network

Most banks have ATM networks or partner ATM networks of 20,000 or more ATMs nationwide where you can use your debit card with no ATM fees. You might be surprised to learn that even online banks and financial technology companies that are not a bank provide access to thousands of ATMs nationwide through partner programs.

Nationwide availability (physical locations or mobile access)

College students often split time between their college campus and the home where they grew up. Finding a bank with physical locations in the areas they live or an online bank that provides a mobile banking app with fee free mobile banking from anywhere is important.

Fees and minimum requirements

Bank fees no longer have to be a way of life for today’s young adults. We chose financial institutions with no monthly maintenance fees or easy ways to waive maintenance fees.

Benefits such as high APY, cash-back rewards, or other additional perks

Student checking accounts today are more than just “bare bones” places to store your cash. Many student bank accounts offer perks, benefits, and high-yield savings or an interest bearing checking account to provide added value.

Overdraft fees

Cash management mistakes happen, especially when young adults first start learning to budget and manage their finances. Many banks have no overdraft fees and some offer overdraft protection to help out in a pinch.

How to Choose the Best Bank for College Students

We’ve offered 12 solid options to help you choose the best student checking account. Before you open a student bank account, it’s a good idea to think about what you need in your primary checking account and a linked savings.

The list below makes it easy to review your must-haves and nice-to-haves when you choose your first bank account as a college student.

  • Best student checking account interest rates: If you’re looking to earn interest on your standard checking account, many banks offer this feature. Review annual percentage yield (APY) figures for your top choices. Remember, a higher savings interest rate might benefit you more, since money in your checking account tends to fluctuate based on paychecks, bills, and expenses. The best checking account may not pay interest, but can save you money in other ways.
  • Annual percentage yield (APY): Likewise, you can put money in your pocket with an account with linked savings offering a high annual percentage yield (APY).
  • Online and mobile banking: Look for a bank that offers robust online and mobile banking services. These platforms should allow you to manage your finances conveniently from your computer or smartphone. With features like mobile check deposit, you can easily and securely deposit checks by taking photos with your phone, making it a valuable tool for busy students.
  • No monthly maintenance fees: Many banks today make it easy to find a free checking account with no maintenance fees. If you have to pay a monthly maintenance fee, find out exactly what you’re getting for your money. Find out if the perks and benefits, such as a cash back debit card or reimbursement of ATM fees make the maintenance fees worthwhile.
  • Minimum deposit and minimum balance requirements: When you’re just getting started, cash may be tight. It’s important to find an account with no minimum deposit to open.
  • Banking services provided: Accounts should have customer service online, by phone or in branches, plus an easy-to-use mobile app and a debit card with no ATM fees.

Frequently Asked Questions

Read what people are asking about the best student checking accounts, including minimum deposit requirements and benefits of a student checking account.

What are the benefits of a student bank account?

A bank account tailored for students gives young adults a head start on their financial future and learning how to manage money. For students who work, they can receive direct deposits in their student account, pay bills online, and send money to friends and family using Zelle.

How to get a student checking account bonus?

Several student checking accounts, including Chase, provide sign-up bonuses. Make sure to read the fine print and complete the requirements, which may include setting up direct deposit or making a minimum opening deposit, to collect the bonus.

Can I open a student checking account without a deposit?

To open a student checking account without a minimum deposit requirement, simply look for a bank account, like Chime or Varo, that does not require one.

Are there any downsides to opening a student checking account?

When you open a student checking account, you’ll want to make sure you won’t pay monthly maintenance fees. Some student checking accounts convert to a regular account once the student graduates, and there may be fees associated with the regular account.

Is there an age limit on a student checking account?

Most student checking accounts are open to students from the age of 18 to 24 without a joint account holder. Customers under the age of 18 may be able to open an account with a joint owner.

Can minors open student checking accounts?

Accounts like Capital One Money Teen are available to children ages 8 and up with a joint account holder. Some other accounts require students to be 18 or older.

What happens to your student checking account when you graduate?

Many of the student bank accounts on this list won’t change when you graduate college. Others offer the option to convert your account to one of the bank’s regular checking products. A Chase College Checking Account has no monthly fees for your first five years in college, but if you graduate or exceed that time frame, you might pay a $6 monthly maintenance fee unless you meet other requirements.

Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services and debit card provided by The Bancorp Bank N.A. or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC. Credit Builder card issued by Stride Bank, N.A.

1. Out-of-network ATM withdrawal fees may apply with Chime except at MoneyPass ATMs in a 7-Eleven, or any Allpoint or Visa Plus Alliance ATM.

2. Early access to direct deposit funds depends on the timing of the submission of the payment file from the payer. Chime generally make these funds available on the day the payment file is received, which may be up to 2 days earlier than the scheduled payment date.

Dawn Allcot
Meet the author

Dawn Allot is a personal finance writer and content marketing expert specializing in finance, travel, real estate, and technology. In addition to her work at Crediful, Dawn regularly writes for Bankrate, GoBankingRates, and The Balance.