Banks and credit unions have created products and options strictly for college students. For the student, this makes it easier for them to begin their journey in financial planning. With books, living expenses, and partying eating away at their budget, utilizing the services of financial institutions is a way to manage it all. One way in particular is student checking accounts.

Checking accounts is a great way for a student to hold their money in a secure place. It is also a great place to learn the 1,2,3’s of banking. But before any student go out and open an account, learn the in’s and out’s of a having it. Here are some things to ponder before choosing a student checking account (via NewsOK):

Overdraft fees

Many banks automatically enroll you in an overdraft program when you sign up, which will cover you if you spend more than what’s in your checking account. But it’ll cost you in fees. That $3 cup of coffee during finals week could cost you 10 times as much if you’re not careful.

Generally, a bank responds to overdrafts by:

  • Covering your purchase, but charging an overdraft fee; the national average amount is $34 each time.
  • Drawing from a linked savings account to cover the purchase and charging an overdraft transfer fee — usually around $10.
  • Declining the purchase if you opted out of any sort of overdraft coverage or protection; all it costs you is a small bit of pride at the register.

Just because a checking account has your school’s name on it, that doesn’t mean it’s good. In fact, it might be a very bad choice.

If you opt out of overdraft coverage, still watch for other fees associated with insufficient funds. Let’s say you bounce a check. You could be charged a non-sufficient funds fee and a returned item fee.

Banks make tens of billions of dollars every year off of overdraft fees. The best and smartest option is to buy stuff only when you know your funds can cover it.

ATM fees

You want your checking account at a bank with plenty of ATMs conveniently located on campus, because ATM withdrawals at your bank’s machines are usually free. It’s a plus if the bank also reimburses out-of-network ATM fees or has a large ATM network, so you’ll have free access when you go on spring break or head home for the holidays.

Maintenance fees

Some banks or credit unions waive monthly maintenance fees and minimum balance requirements if you enroll in electronic statements, set up a direct deposit, or make a certain amount of debit card purchases each month.

Fees for paper checks

Checks might seem old-fashioned, but your landlord may accept rent payments only that way. If so, a student checking account that offers free or discounted checks would be nice.

Mobile & text banking

You do most everything else on your phone. Banking can be no different. Most banks and credit unions offer an app for your phone from which you can check your balances, pay bills, move money between accounts, and even deposit checks by taking and uploading a photo.

With some banks, you can send a text message to fetch nearby ATM locations, payment due dates, recent account activity, or balance information. And text alerts sent to your phone can help prevent overdraft charges.

Customer service

How you prefer to communicate will determine the type of service you need. A feature allowing you to instantly message a representative on a bank or credit union’s website or mobile app could be useful.

If you like knowing you can speak to someone face to face, whether it’s an emergency or you’re just confused about something, then a branch location near campus or your apartment is more important.

College-sponsored ACCOUNTS

Just because a checking account has your school’s name or logo on it, that doesn’t mean it’s good. In fact, it might be a very bad choice.

In many cases, your school has a business relationship with the bank, which is providing services in exchange for access to potential student customers. And although it’s possible the deal you can get on campus is great, more likely it’s no better — or is indeed worse — than what you could get elsewhere.

Shop around, and always read the fine print before opening any account.

Before opening an account, be sure to ask as many questions. Find out the age requirements for opening an account (on average is ages 17 to 24 for students). Many banks require individuals under the age of 18 to open an account with a parent or legal guardian. Also, find out if you need an ID, Social Security or any other type of proof.

Most importantly, find out your bank or credit union’s banking policies. Student accounts usually roll over into a standard checking account once graduation happens. If this is the case, this means that new banking fees and requirements may apply. So, be sure to ask about that.