College expenses and budgeting call for a more mature financial strategy than a piggy bank or stash of cash under your bed. If you had a bank account in high school, you may still need to open a new one if you are attending college out of state where branches of your local bank do not exist.
Often times, colleges have affiliations with specific banks. During orientation or move-in week, representatives may be on campus to assist students with opening accounts. This may seem like a convenient option, but before you take the plunge and open an account, consider these factors:
Your Specific Banking Needs and Services
If you’ve had a bank account before, you can refer to your old statements and previous banking behaviors to help you answer these questions. For example, is it important to you that your bank offer online banking, mobile banking, or text message alerts? (These can all be great budgeting tools for students.) Will you have a job and prefer direct deposit? Then, you better do your research and make sure your bank offers it.
Obviously the bank affiliated with the school will have branches and ATMs located on or close to campus, but also consider whether there are convenient locations near your hometown. Will you be able to easily access your money (and avoid ATM fees) when you are home for holidays and breaks? Also, if you are opening a joint account with your parents, will they be able to access your account to make deposits, etc.?
All banks have different fee structures. You want to do your research to ensure you will (hopefully) never have to pay fees. Typical fees include monthly account maintenance fees, overdraft fees, debit and ATM fees, and even fees for delivering paper statements.
Don’t Choose a Bank Because of Its Promos
Many banks offer a variety of promos to new members, especially students. They may offer account benefits such as free checking options or even more tangible offers such as a free t-shirt.
They may seem appealing, but it is best to consider your individual banking needs first.