Banking 101 for College Students

Whether you’ve just graduated from high school or have been in college for a few years, it’s crucial that you have a fail-safe method for managing your money. It’s never too late to take personal responsibility for your finances. Here are some simple, practical tips and options to get you started. Spend wisely!

  • Be honest with yourself when evaluating what kind of spender you are. Do you spend your money as soon as you make it? Did you save up every penny you made from high school and watch it like a hawk? This will help you to decide what kind of method will work best for you.
  • For the average saver/spender (most common): Open your own checking account with a debit card. You get to spend your own money independently, but it’s also a good way to keep yourself in check. Unlike a credit card, you can’t spend more money than what you’ve got in the bank.
  • For the money-conscious student, or if you still count on mom and dad: If you’re worried about overspending or still rely upon your parents for income, they can get you a prepaid debit card, load money onto the card for you, and also monitor how much money you’re spending online. Another option is to be a joint account holder on your parents’ account, where you can coordinate with them to put in money for you as you need it.
  • What about getting your own credit card, you ask? The 2009 Credit CARD Act has imposed a lot of new restrictions on young adults if you’re under the age of 21. Therefore, the more practical option is still to get a debit card. However, if you can prove your ability to cover payments, you’re a natural money-maker and are very responsible about your spending, a credit card may be something to consider.

Once you’ve decided what kind of account will work best for you, it’s time to shop around for the right bank. Look for banks or credit unions without monthly usages fees, no minimum balance requirement, and conveniently located ATMs (a must when you’re always out and about, and don’t want to rack up foreign charges). A couple of smart options:

  • Your college’s local credit union: Credit unions affiliated with your school commonly give students extra perks, such as opening a checking account for free, free checks, lower fees and better loan rates. They’re also made with the intention to be student-friendly and will always be close by. If you’re worried about a lack of ATMs once you leave campus, many credit unions compensate with online banking–the Arizona State Credit Union even offers mobile banking applications.
  • Bank of America’s Campus Edge Checking Account: No fees, a $25.00 initial deposit to open the account, and no minimum balance following that first deposit. BofA also has tons of branches and ATMs across the country, so you’re bound to find an ATM.
  • Still not sure? Go to www.bankrate.com to compare rates and fees; you can also choose the bank that is closest to your campus.

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