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Bwog Finance: Best Bank Account For College Students

$$ money baby

Did you ever think Bwog was gonna give you money advice? Yeah…neither did we…but here we are! Enjoy the first in a series of Bwog Finance columns, where we advise you on how best to save/spend your $$$.

The “best” bank account depends on what you’re looking for. Is the best bank the one that doesn’t invest in fossil fuels (or other bad shit–note: this bank does not exist)? Or is it the one that offers you the best bang for your buck? We’re going to go with the latter.

Most savings accounts offer a measly interest rate of less than 1%, and most checking accounts offer none at all. On top of this, some bank accounts require a minimum monthly balance, or a minimum number of monthly deposits, or they charge a monthly fee. Here’s a lowdown of bank account options for Columbia student. They all offer online/mobile banking, as well as chip-enabled debit cards, and low or no minimum opening deposit.

Santander: The Student Value and Simply Right Checking accounts are both solid options. Santander has ATMs on campus, as well as a small office in Lerner. There’s no monthly fee for the Student Value account, nor for the Simply Right account, as long as you use it once a month. The downside is that neither of these accounts earn interest!

Charles Schwab: Schwab is an online bank, but they also have a few physical locations in NYC (and elsewhere in the world). Their High Yield Investor Checking Account lets you use any ATM in the city, and refunds any associated fees at the end of each month. It also doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees when you use it at an ATM in another country or to make a purchase abroad. The catch is that you must simultaneously open a joint brokerage account, but you don’t need to put any money in it! (If you do want to invest, down the line, though, Schwab has lots of helpful tools). The interest rate on this checking account is currently 0.15%.

ChaseOffers a College Checking Account, for which the fee is waived if you’re a college student. Total Checking is another potential option, but only if you have a high monthly average account balance, or at least $500 direct deposits each month. Convenient locations throughout city.

Citibank: Tbh Citibank offers the worst options. Their Simple Checking and Affordable Access accounts both charge a fee ($12 and $10, respectively) unless you maintain a balance of $1500 or make direct deposits and/or bill payments once a month. This is hard when you’re a college student. Neither of these options earn interest. The upshot is convenient locations near campus (including an ATM in Barnard Hall) and around the city. Though Citibank once offered a student account, we can’t find any current info about it!

Capital One 360 Checking Account: Another online bank, but again, they have some physical locations (have you ever seen those Capital One 360 cafés??). There are 39,000 Capital One/Allpoint ATMs in the world according to their website (including the ATMs at Tom’s and Duane Reade). If you have less than $49,999 in your account (which we’re guessing, you do), the interest rate on this is currently 0.20%.

Bank of America: The student account is a good option. It requires just $25 to open an account, and the monthly $12 fee is waived while you’re in school. There’s no interest on this one. However, if  you open a savings account with them, you can use your checking-linked debit card to participate in their Keep the Change program, which rounds up every debit purchase to the nearest dollar and adds the change to your savings account. A downside is the locations aren’t convenient. The closest is on 107th and Broadway.

What’s the takeaway? We recommend online banks, rather than the brick and mortar options (which all have the potential for fees!). My personal favorite is Charles Schwab. I have their High Yield Checking Account, and I can literally withdraw money at any ATM, anywhere in the world (from a seedy East Village bar to a random bank in Hong Kong), and not pay fees. The interest rate is also good, for a checking account. After using Schwab for a few months, I got rid of my Citibank account. And I’ve also turned on a bunch of my pals to Schwab. They should pay me, tbh (but don’t worry, they don’t). Finally, any time I’ve used their customer service, they’ve been incredibly helpful, even overnight-shipping me a new debit card when I had fraud on my card!

$$$ via Wikimedia Commons

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  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous What about TD?

    1. Sarah Dahl says:

      @Sarah Dahl Thanks for asking! TD’s Convenience Checking option is somewhat similar to the other brick-and-mortar banks: it’s no interest, and while the monthly fee is $15, you can waive it by maintaining a $100 daily balance. The Simple Checking account has a monthly fee of $5.99 that you can’t waive. Another downside: both of the accounts charge for checkbooks! There is a convenient TD location on 109th street and Broadway.

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