2017 Guide: Which is the Best Banks for College Students | Chase, Wells Fargo, or Bank of America?


Choosing where to bank is an important decision for anyone and should be done with plenty of research. When it comes to young college students and their newly independent finances, choosing good banks for college students is extremely important.

If you are a college student or soon-to-be college student, or if you are a parent of one, this article will be your guide to the best banks for college students in 2017.

We will look at three popular banks specifically: Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America.

We will highlight each of these three banks for college students and what they offer students in particular. We will also answer common questions, including:

  • What does a college bank account offer that a regular account doesn’t?
  • What makes a good bank for college students?
  • What does a Chase college checking account offer vs. a Wells Fargo or Bank of America checking account?
  • Do any of the best banks for college students offer good credit card options?
  • What do online reviews say about these three banks for college students?


Student Bank Account Benefits 101

Why do college students even need to consider choosing one of the best banks for college students?

Aren’t all accounts the same? Not really. Banks offer specialized accounts for students (often options for both high school and college students) geared toward the unique and specific financial needs of students.

Here are some common features and benefits of student accounts among the good banks for college students. Not every college bank account will have each feature (and others could have more), but these are popular:

  • Lower/no bank fees
  • Lower/no minimum account balance
  • Free ATM usage or rebated ATM usage
  • Overdraft protection
  • Mobile benefits for ease
  • Various perks

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What Is the Best Bank for College Students?

Now it is time to look at three popular banks up close to see which is the best bank for college students: Chase, Wells Fargo, or Bank of America. All three of these are potential banks for college students looking to start their financial futures, but which one comes out on top for you and your needs?

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First, we will focus on each bank’s account options  (Chase college checking, Wells Fargo college checking, and Bank of America college account options). Here, you will be able to see all the important features and/or benefits of these accounts to begin figuring out which is the best bank for a college student.

Then we will take a peek at each bank’s student credit options. Since building a credit history is an important step in early adulthood, offering this feature plays a part in determining the best banks for college students.

Finally, to help us really understand which of our options are good banks for college students, we will take a look at bank reviews as well as student credit reviews.



Chase College Checking and More

Chase Bank is up first in the running for best bank for college students with their Chase College Checking program. On their website, they highlight these particular features for opening up a Chase college checking account:

  • Zero monthly service fee: For up to five years, as long as you are in college, you will have no monthly fee on your Chase college checking account. After graduation (or the five years havepassed), that fee goes up to $6, but it can be waived with direct deposit or a $5,000 average daily balance.
  • Many locations: 16,000 ATMs and over 5,000 branches give students flexibility whether they are at home, at school, or on a trip. The best bank for college students must have this location flexibility.
  • Debit card: Chase’s debit comes with a chip and will link back to your Chase college checking.
  • Mobility: Online banking, online bill pay, and the Chase mobile app are perks in the Chase College Checking program.


Chase Student Credit Options

Unlike our other two banks in the running for best bank for college students, Chase does not offer a specific student credit card. The only option they have particularly geared toward students is their Chase College Checking program.

However, Chase’s Freedom credit card was listed as one of the “Best Credit Cards for Young Adults” by Money Under 30. There is a caveat, though. This card was listed under best cards for young people with good credit, meaning it is not a great option for those who have not developed a credit history.

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Wells Fargo College Checking and More

As one of the options for the best bank for a college student, Wells Fargo is up next with their Wells Fargo College Checking Accounts. The following are the features and benefits they highlight on their website.

  • Monthly fee discount: The regular Wells Fargo monthly service fee is $10. If you are a student between the ages of 17 and 24, you get a $5 discount with Wells Fargo College Checking, making the service fee just $5 a month. This fee can be avoided each month as long as there were 10 debit chard purchases, a direct deposit of $500 or more, a $1,500 minimum daily balance, or a linked Wells Fargo campus card.
  • Many locations: 13,000 ATMs and over 6,000 branches give students flexible access to their Wells Fargo college checking account whether they are at home, at school, or on a trip.


Wells Fargo Student Credit Options

Factors that make up the best bank for a college student do not only have to do with saving your money in accounts; they also involve credit options. While it is less than ideal to rack up debt in college years, it is important to have the credit card option.

Wells Fargo has a Cash Back College Card that allows students to build up their credit history while still in college. This popular card offers multiple advantages:

  • $0 annual fee
  • 0% introductory annual percentage rate for the first 6 months
  • 3% cash rewards for gas, groceries, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months
  • 1% cash rewards on all other net purchases
  • Flexible options for redeeming rewards


Bank of America College Savings and More

Finally in our search for best banks for college students, we get to Bank of America. While their website offers Bank of America college account options and Bank of America college savings options, they do not have one specific college bank account for students. Instead, they offer these two benefits to students whenever they choose one of their accounts.

  • Zero monthly fee: Opening a Bank of America college account allows all students under the age of 23 to waive their monthly maintenance fees.
  • “Bank Your Way”: Convenient mobile apps and online banking options are available for the Bank of America college account options that may appeal to college students.


Bank of America Student Credit

Moving on from looking at Bank of America college savings and account options, let’s look at credit. Bank of America has three student credit card options, making it a good bank for college students who want to build some credit before they graduate. Their three options include:

  • Bank Americard Credit Card: Lowest annual percentage rate and no annual fee.
  • Bank Americard Cash Rewards Credit Card: 3% back on gas, 2% back on grocery stores or wholesale clubs, and 1% back on every other purchase for the first $2,500 spent each quarter. No annual fee.
  • Bank Americard Travel Rewards Credit Card: Earn 1.5 points for every single dollar you spend on all purchases with no expiration. No annual fee and no foreign transaction fee.

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Chase vs. Wells Fargo vs. Bank of America

Now that we have a thorough overview of what each college bank account from these three institutions offers students, let’s compare the three with the hope of discovering the best bank for college students. Here are the top three points to consider when deciding:

  • Chase and Bank of America offer $0 monthly fees. To college students strapped for cash, $5 a month can be significant. Banks for college students that allow them to bank essentially for free are offering a great benefit.
  • Wells Fargo and Bank of America offer credit card options. This allows students to open a Wells Fargo college checking account and a credit card, or it allows them to open a Bank of America college account option and a credit card. Those with Chase College Checking will not have a credit option.
  • Chase and Wells Fargo offer the most student-specific options. Wells Fargo and Chase college checking accounts are geared to college students. Bank of America offers a student monthly discount, but not a specific student account.

Bonus Point: It should be noted that the only bank offering student loans from our list is Wells Fargo. This could be a factor deciding the best banks for college students.

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Online Reviews of the Best Banks for College Students

One valuable tool for determining a good bank for college students is to take a look at online reviews. Here is what we have found that can help you in your decision. To start with, Go Bank Rating listed all three of our candidates for best bank for college students on their list.

Here are a few other things to consider when choosing the best banks for college students:

  • Credio: On Credio’s bank comparison tool, we can see the average user rating of each of these banks. While these are not solely based on which is the best bank for college students, we can see general user reviews. Out of 5 stars, Chase comes in first at 2.2, Bank of America comes in at 1.5, and Wells Fargo comes in last with 1.4.
  • Forbes: This write-up from Forbes on the best banks for college students lists Chase college checking as a great account. It also recommends Bank of America for waiving students’ fees. Wells Fargo, however, didn’t make the list.

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Which College Bank Account Is for You?

You have been presented with all the information; now, it is time to make your decision not only on what you believe is the best bank for college students, but also what is the best bank for YOU (or your child) as a college student. Your choice of good banks for college students depends upon your needs.

  • If you want no fees, choose Chase College checking or Bank of America.
  • If you want a good credit card at the same place you bank, choose Wells Fargo.
  • If you are looking for a good bank more than simply a good college bank account, choose Chase.

No matter your choice, know that all of these banks for college students do offer many ATM and branch locations throughout the country. You can be served no matter where you go to school.

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