Article Summary:

  • Student checking accounts offer flexible banking tools for students.
  • Students at least 14 years old can open an account at many banks.
  • The benefits of student accounts may include low fees, debit cards, and money management tools.
  • A parent or guardian co-signer may be needed to open the student checking account.
  • Student accounts can be converted to traditional accounts when the student gets older or finishes school.

Students make and spend money just the way adults do, and they need a way to do so securely and with the latest money management tools. For students in high school and college, a student checking account may fit this need.

With today’s banks offering checking accounts specifically for students, there’s no reason for teens to wait until adulthood to master these financial tools.

Here’s what you should know about student accounts and what they provide for young consumers.

What Is a Student Checking Account?

A student checking account is similar to a traditional checking account, except it’s designed for students in their teens and 20s. These accounts have the same tools as traditional checking accounts—such as debit cards, checks, and online account access--but they may be more flexible or have lower fees for services.

Extra Student Account Features

Not all banks offer these extras, but students may appreciate these more innovative features:

  • Customizable debit card design with a student college or university theme.
  • Mobile wallet compatibility.
  • Extra time to resolve overdrafts on the account.
  • P2P mobile payment services.
  • Custom mobile alerts to update on spending, overdrafts, or payments received.

The Pros of Student Checking Accounts

The benefits of these accounts vary by bank but often include the following:

  • No monthly service or membership fees.
  • Free debit card with minimal or no usage fees.
  • Low or no minimum balance requirements.
  • Low or no initial deposit requirements.
  • Free budgeting tools both in the mobile app and online.
  • Educational resources geared toward students, including articles, videos, and webinars.

Student checking accounts may have the same perks as a free checking account but are geared toward those who may be using a bank account for the first time. Because they are designed for students, they can offer the additional support students need to be successful with finances and learn good money management habits.

The Cons of Student Checking Accounts

A student checking account has relatively few downsides for those who qualify for one. However, they do often require an adult co-signer (joint account holder)if the student is a minor.

Also, because student accounts are focused on being free and flexible, they may lack some features like high interest rates or investment options. Student accounts tend to be no-frills solutions to learning how to manage money and use an account wisely.

Who Qualifies for a Student Checking Account?

Many student accounts are designed to help students in high school or college. Since the age range of this group varies, each bank may have its own rules about who qualifies. How old do you have to be to open an account? Some banks may offer accounts to those who are at least14 years of age, which most high-school students would qualify for.

Those under 18 may be required to have an adult or guardian open the account with them. Older students might be able to open an account on their own. Once a student is no longer enrolled in school, they may not be eligible for this type of account, depending on the bank.

How to Choose the Right Student Checking Account

More and more banks and credit unions offer student accounts, but each approaches matters a bit differently. It can help to ask questions about the account and how it can be used. Most banks have this information on their website; you can also call and ask them directly.

Questions to ask include the following:

  • What are the monthly maintenance or service fees (if any)?
  • How much do I need to open the account?
  • How much do I need to keep in the account?
  • Do I earn interest on the money I deposit?
  • Does the account offer a debit card or checks?
  • What ATMs can I use without paying an additional fee?
  • Can I use any non-network ATMS fee-free? If so, how many transactions a month or year?
  • Are there physical bank locations, or is everything online?
  • What do I do if I need to speak to a person? How can I deposit cash?

How to Open an Account

Opening a student account works much like opening a regular account, with one exception: the co-signer. Younger students will need an adult or guardian willing to put their name on the account and be a part owner. The co-signer will be legally responsible for the account and what’s involved with maintaining one.

To open an account:

  • Choose the bank that fits your needs and find out if they can open accounts online or in person.
  • Read the guidelines to determine if you need an adult co-signer. You will need a co-signer on standard accounts if you’re a minor, and that person needs to fill out the application with you. 
  • Fill out the application with the bank rep or on their website. Include personal information such as name, phone, address, school information, and Social Security number or other tax identification.
  • Provide a photo ID or other government-issued ID.
  • If needed, provide proof of school enrollment.
  • Provide a deposit to open your account. (Some banks do not require a deposit at the time of account opening).

These steps vary by bank. You can call beforehand to ask about the process and avoid surprises on the account opening day.

Tips for Using a Student Checking Account Wisely

Student accounts, just like traditional accounts, work best when the account holder knows the rules and fees associated with the account. Upon opening the account, the student can read the account policies to understand things like the minimum balance required, any monthly service fees, or how ATMs can be used both in-network and out-of-network.

Any tools, such as checkbooks or debit cards, will also have specific usage policies. For example, a student should know if there is a limit to how much they can spend with their debit card each day or if checks are free with their account.

Use Online Tools to Monitor Spending

Once the student knows how the account works, they can better plan for wise money management. Keeping an accurate account balance may be the most useful thing they can do to prevent overspending and avoid overdraft fees. Bank software found online or through mobile apps often comes with planning tools. These help the student see their current balance and any transactions and may even allow them to earmark additional funds for money they want to spend.

Follow Secure Banking Practices

Student checking accounts have several tools available to help keep funds safe and help students spend securely. Debit cards come with the latest in technology, such as chips, to help make sure they are processed safely.

However, students must do their part to keep money secure. They can learn how to shop safely online, keep debit card PINs secret, and not share card information with others. Another useful skill is knowing how to check online account balances and look for suspicious transactions.

How Long Can You Use a Student Checking Account?

A student account is designed for consumers in their teens and may not be designed for adult accountholders. How each bank addresses a student“aging out” of the account will depend on that institution’s policies.

Some banks automatically transition the account to a standard checking account, and the student needs to take no further action when they become of age.

Other banks may ask the student to actively convert their account to a standard account or sign up for a new account under their own name. This may be more likely if the student account was set up with an adult as the primary account holder and no longer need to be a co-signer on the account.

Getting Started with a Student Account

Many adults find a checking account useful for tracking, managing, and saving their money.

Fortunately, waiting until adulthood to take full advantage of this tool is no longer necessary.

With a PNC Bank Virtual Wallet Student® account, students as young as 14 (with an adult co-signer) can apply and access the tools and features designed just for students.