When it comes to managing college finances, one of the most important steps a college student can take is to open a bank account – but with all the banking options currently available, choosing a bank could seem a little overwhelming.
However, choosing a bank does not have to be a complicated process. In fact, following a few simple guidelines could help any student choose a bank that fits his or her individual financial needs.
Assessing your banking needs
In your search for a bank that fits, start with the basics – by asking yourself what type of banking services you'll need. If you've had a bank account before, referring to your old statements – and past banking behaviours – could help you answer this question. If you're new to banking, you might opt for some basic, convenient account features, such as an extensive ATM network for easy cash withdrawals, free checking accounts, simple mobile or online banking services, and/or overdraft protection. Knowing what you need from a bank is an important initial step in finding a bank that will work for you.
You have plenty of banking options – so it makes sense to shop around for a bank that fits your needs best. You might consider beginning this process online – perhaps via banking websites, customer review blogs, or comparison websites – and progressing to offline sources, such as banks themselves, or maybe even friends and family who have had firsthand experience with your banks of interest. In shopping around, compare features such as account balance requirements, ATM surcharges, and monthly fees. And don't forget about the fine print; a bank might offer free checking or savings accounts, but only if you agree to a minimum balance, direct deposit, or limited branch visits. If you're ever in doubt about any banking features when choosing a bank, be sure to ask a representative at a given bank before signing up for an account.
Don't get caught up in all the promos
Many banks advertise great offers, which can ultimately be very useful to customers. However, when opening a bank account as a college student – especially if it's your first account – be careful not to get pulled in by all the promotional account offers, as they could end up costing you. If you do happen to come across a promo that seems like a good fit, ask a lot of questions – such as whether the promo is tied to any fees or account requirements.
Following these few simple steps can help you narrow down your banking options, as well as choose a bank that caters to your financial needs as a college student.