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Best student checking accounts of September 2020

CNBC Select reviewed dozens of checking accounts from online banks, brick-and-mortar banks and credit unions to find the top choices for students.

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Opening a student checking account is a great way to establish some financial independence, but many banks charge maintenance fees that can cost you up to $15 a month if you don't meet certain requirements.

However, students enrolled in high school, college, vocational programs and other eligible educational studies can qualify to have the monthly fees waived.

CNBC Select analyzed and compared dozens of checking accounts offered by online and brick-and-mortar banks and credit unions that charge zero monthly maintenance fees for eligible students.

When ranking the best checking accounts for students, we focused on the following criteria:

  • No monthly maintenance fee for eligible students
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • Low initial deposit of $0 to $50
  • Available nationwide
  • Physical branch locations and/or online accessibility
  • Large ATM network
  • FDIC or NCUA insured up to $250,000

Accounts on our list had to meet all of the requirements above to be considered one of the best. In addition, all checking accounts mentioned on this list give account holders access to thousands of free ATMs and offer mobile check deposits. (See our methodology for more information on how we choose the best checking accounts.)

Best student checking accounts

Best for college students

Chase College Checking℠

Chase College Checking℠
Information about the Chase College Checking℠ Account has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the bank prior to publication. Chase is a Member FDIC.
  • Monthly maintenance fee

    $0 for college students 17 to 24

  • Minimum deposit to open

    $0

  • Minimum balance

    None

  • Annual Percentage Yield (APY)

    None

  • Free ATM network

    16,000 Chase ATMs

  • ATM fee reimbursement

    None

  • Overdraft fee

    $34

  • Mobile check deposit

    Yes

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Top-rated mobile app
  • No minimum deposit to open an account
  • New account holders can earn a $100 bonus, valid until 10/08/2020
  • No. 2 on J.D. Power's 2019 U.S. National Banking Satisfaction Study

Cons

  • $34 overdraft fee
  • No APY
  • No reimbursement for out-of-network ATM fees

Who's this for? College students 17 to 24 who show proof of student status at account opening can benefit from zero monthly service fees for up to five years with the Chase College Checking℠ Account. After the five-year period, the monthly fee is $6, which is waived if you make one direct deposit each month or maintain an average daily balance of at least $5,000.

Chase is known for offering new account holder bonuses and currently, new Chase College Checking℠ account customers can earn $100 after completing 10 qualifying transactions within 60 days of account opening. This offer expires October 8, 2020.

There's no deposit required to open this account, and you'll also pay no monthly maintenance fee on a Chase Savings℠ account linked to this account for overdraft protection.

Chase has 16,000 fee-free ATMs and nearly 4,900 branches across the U.S. Plus Chase ranks number two on J.D. Power's 2019 U.S. National Banking Satisfaction Study, which ranks bank customer experience across a variety of factors, including deposit accounts and convenience. Chase received good scores for providing innovative technology and high satisfaction with ATMs, plus the lowest incidence of problems.

Best for teens

Capital One MONEY Checking Account

Capital One MONEY Checking Account
Information about the Capital One MONEY Checking Account has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the bank prior to publication. Capital One is a Member FDIC.
  • Monthly maintenance fee

    $0 for ages 8 to 18

  • Minimum deposit to open

    $0

  • Minimum balance

    None

  • Annual Percentage Yield (APY)

    0.10%

  • Free ATM network

    39,000+ Capital One® and Allpoint® ATMs

  • ATM fee reimbursement

    None

  • Overdraft fee

    None

  • Mobile check deposit

    Yes

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Top-rated mobile app
  • No minimum deposit to open an account
  • 0.10% APY on all account balances
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Parents can set up text alerts and email notifications for account activity
  • No. 4 on J.D. Power’s 2019 U.S. National Banking Satisfaction Study

Cons

  • Must switch accounts at 18
  • No reimbursement for out-of-network ATM fees

Who's this for? Students who are under 18 can open the Capital One MONEY Checking Account as a joint account holder with their parent or legal guardian. This account is designed for teens, but any child 8 to 18 can be a joint account holder.

There is no minimum to open the MONEY account and you earn 0.10% APY on all balances. Parents or legal guardians that are joint account holders can set up text alerts and email notifications for card transactions and account activity to stay on top of their kid's spending. 

Once you turn 18, you can switch to another Capital One checking account, such as the Capital One 360 Checking® Account (which ranks number one on our list of the best no-fee checking accounts). The 360 Checking account has no monthly maintenance fees whatsoever, so there's no need to worry about meeting balance or deposit requirements. When you change accounts, the balance from your MONEY account will transfer, too.

Capital One has over 450 branch locations and provides access to over 39,000 fee-free Capital One® and Allpoint® ATMs. While there are no paper checks with this account, you can still deposit checks you receive.

Capital One ranks number four on J.D. Power's 2019 U.S. National Banking Satisfaction Study, receiving strong satisfaction scores for mobile banking and checking accounts.

Best for rewards

Discover Cashback Debit Account

Discover Cashback Debit Account
Information about the Discover Cashback Debit Account has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the bank prior to publication. Discover is a Member FDIC.
  • Monthly maintenance fee

    $0

  • Minimum deposit to open

    $0

  • Minimum balance

    None

  • Rewards

    1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month

  • Free ATM network

    60,000+ Allpoint® and MoneyPass® ATMs

  • ATM fee reimbursement

    None

  • Overdraft fee

    $0

  • Mobile check deposit

    Yes

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Top-rated mobile app
  • No minimum deposit to open an account
  • 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month
  • Opt-in to free overdraft protection
  • No overdraft fees

Cons

  • No reimbursement for out-of-network ATM fees

Who's this for? If you want to earn cash-back rewards on your debit card purchases, the Discover Cashback Debit Account has you covered. This checking account offers customers with 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month, acting similar to a credit card.

You can redeem cash back as a deposit into a Discover checking, savings or money market account or transfer it to a linked Discover credit card.

Since Discover is an online bank, there are no physical locations. However, Discover provides 100% U.S.-based customer service representatives that are available 24/7 and access to over 60,000 fee-free Allpoint and MoneyPass ATMs.

There is no minimum deposit required to open this account and overdraft protection is free. Plus this account has no monthly maintenance fees, regardless of your age and student status.

Best for saving

Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Banking® Account

Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Banking® Account
On Bank of America's secure site
  • Monthly maintenance fee

    $0 for eligible students under 24

  • Minimum deposit to open

    $25

  • Minimum balance

    None

  • Annual Percentage Yield (APY)

    None

  • Free ATM network

    16,000+ ATMs

  • ATM fee reimbursement

    None

  • Overdraft fee

    None

  • Mobile check deposit

    Yes

See our methodology, terms apply. Bank of America is a Member FDIC.

Pros

  • Top-rated mobile app
  • No overdraft fees
  • Savings program that rounds up debit card purchases and transfers the difference to your savings account

Cons

  • $25 minimum deposit to open an account
  • No APY
  • No reimbursement for out-of-network ATM fees

Who's this for? With the Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Banking® Account, you can enroll in Keep the Change®, which can help you save more with purchases you make with your debit card. This savings program rounds up debit card transactions to the nearest dollar and transfers the difference from your checking to your savings account, which is a simple way to save.

This account has no monthly maintenance fees if you're under 24 and enrolled in a high school, college, university or vocational program. Otherwise, the fee is $4.95 per month, unless you're enrolled in Preferred Rewards, Bank of America's program that allows users to benefit from increased interest earnings and rewards if you have a three-month average balance of $20,000 or more in Bank of America deposit and/or Merrill investment accounts.

Similar to the Capital One MONEY Checking Account, you won't receive paper checks, but you can still deposit checks you receive. This account has no overdraft fees and doesn't come with overdraft coverage. Instead, Bank of America will decline transactions exceeding your available checking account balance.

There is a $25 minimum deposit required to open this account. Consumers can visit over 4,200 Bank of America locations across the U.S. and access over 16,000 fee-free ATMs.

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Our methodology

To determine which checking accounts provide the best place to deposit your money for students, CNBC Select analyzed dozens of U.S. checking accounts offered by online and brick-and-mortar banks, including major credit unions. We narrowed down our rankings by only considering checking accounts that charge no monthly maintenance fees for students.

While the accounts we chose in this article consistently have no monthly maintenance fees for eligible students, we also compared each checking account on a range of features, including:

  • No minimum balance requirement
  • Low initial deposit of $0 to $50
  • Available nationwide
  • Physical branch locations and/or online accessibility
  • Large ATM network
  • Ease of use and account accessibility
  • Customer reviews, when available

All of the accounts included on this list are Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) insured up to $250,000. This insurance protects and reimburses you up to your balance and the legal limit in the event your bank or credit union fails.

The rates and fee structures for checking accounts are subject to change without notice and they often fluctuate in accordance with the prime rate.

Your earnings depend on any associated fees and the balance you have in your checking account. To open an account, some banks and institutions may require a deposit of new money, meaning you can't transfer money you already had in an account at that bank. However, the five accounts listed above currently don't require any deposit during account opening.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.