Student Checking Account

August 16, 2019 | Mission Fed

Checking Accounts: What College Students Need to Know

Few high schools offer a curriculum that includes finance or money management. This, unfortunately, means that the majority of incoming college freshmen are essentially thrown into the deep end of the pool and forced to learn how to manage their own money on the fly. What with tuition, school supplies, groceries, car payments and myriad other payments that need to be covered, this presents college students with a nerve-wracking challenge.

Having a checking account is a crucial step toward financial independence that can help you solve a multitude of money-related issues both on and off campus. Read on for everything you need to know about the importance of having a checking account, and what to look for when choosing the best option for you.

Debit Cards

With every new checking account comes your own personalized debit card, which is an indispensable tool for several reasons:

  • Everyday Transactions – Between buying books for classes, food and various items for the upkeep of your dorm room, you’ll rarely see a day go by that doesn’t involve at least a few transactions. Having a debit card ensures that you don’t have to keep running back to the ATM every time you need to buy something. Additionally, debit cards come in handy for transactions in which the price is so high (car repairs, etc.) that paying in cash would be impractical.
  • Quick Cash – Though most transactions you execute will be done via plastic, you’ll still come across plenty of cash-only scenarios. Plus, it’s always a smart idea to carry at least some cash on you for emergency situations, especially if you’re studying abroad. Debit cards make it possible to get cash in a quick pinch. You don’t even need to go to your credit union’s physical location. All you need is an ATM.

In addition to the many purposes they serve, debit cards also present other distinct advantages, such as:

  • Budgeting Practice – Many people, especially young students in charge of their own finances for the first time, make the crucial mistake of using their credit card as a crutch when they don’t have enough funds in their accounts to cover an expense. Having an “I’ll just put it on my credit card for now” mentality is one of the quickest paths to crippling debt. Because debit card purchases can’t exceed the amount of funds in your account, however, debit cards give you valuable practice in budgeting yourself and managing your finances while protecting you from racking up debt.
  • Paper Trail – Like credit cards, debit card transactions are all put on record. This makes it easy to track your past purchases and identify fraudulent purchases. And thankfully, debit cards are extremely easy to cancel and replace if identity theft does occur.


In addition to debit cards, every checking account is also accompanied by a checkbook.

Though consumer trends have evolved to heavily favor digital transactions, checks are far from being relics of the past. They still serve useful purposes, particularly for college students, such as:

  • Direct Deposit – College education is such an expensive investment that, unless your last name is something like Rockefeller or Knowles-Carter, you’re probably going to need a part-time job to support it. Your employer’s preference for paying you will most likely be by physical check or direct deposit, which proves the point of how essential it is to have a checking account in the first place. But also, in both instances, you’ll need to provide them with a voided check.
  • Rent – If your housing situation at school requires you to pay monthly rent, it’s highly likely that your landlord lives near you, perhaps even in your very building. In most cases, landlords prefer receiving handwritten checks from their tenants as opposed to electronic payments.

Online Purchases

Not every purchase you make as a college student will happen in person at a physical location. Today’s marketplace is rapidly shifting away from brick and mortar establishments toward the internet, which means you’ll have countless instances when an online purchase is your best, if not only option.

Having a checking account enables you to make these purchases easily from your computer using your debit card information.

Online and Mobile Banking

Banking is also gravitating evermore toward being conducted online, and it makes sense why this phenomenon is happening. Online banking and mobile banking bring the following convenience right to your fingertips:

  • Quickly viewing your account and transaction history to track your spending (and spot purchases you didn’t authorize).
  • Transferring money between accounts as needed.
  • Fast online transactions.
  • Simple, “set it and forget it” monthly autopay setup.
  • Receiving push notifications on your mobile phone when a bill’s due date is approaching.

A Safe Place to Keep Your Cash

Checking accounts are a virtual necessity based not only on their practicality, but also on the security they provide. Namely, they eliminate the several risks that come with holding onto your cash physically. When you stow away significant amounts of cash at home, it invites countless worst-case scenarios that tend to result in you losing your hard-earned money with little to no way of reclaiming it.

By opening a checking account, on the other hand, you can rest assured knowing that your money is not only safeguarded in a literal vault, but also fully insured in case you lose your debit card or the wrong person gets a hold of your debit card information.

So, Whom Should I Set Up a Checking Account With?

There are an endless number of financial institutions where you can open a checking account. Finding the right one for you boils down to two questions:

  • How do their services compare to those of their competitors?
  • How effectively can they accommodate you and your unique needs at your chosen school?

What Services Should I Look for?

For starters, it should go without saying that the financial institution you choose for your checking account needs should provide the following:

  • Outstanding customer support both online and over the phone.
  • Free debit card, checkbook and initial set of checks.
  • The option to link a savings account to your checking account.
  • Online and mobile app banking capabilities.

Additionally, you should keep an eye out for the maintenance fees that a given financial institution assesses. Some will charge you a monthly fee just for having a checking account with them in the first place. Others will hit you with a fee when your account falls below a certain balance. And over time, monthly charges like this put a huge dent in your savings.

Ideally, you want to open your checking account with a credit union that doesn’t charge a monthly maintenance fee and doesn’t care how much money is in your account, so long as that number is higher than $0.00.

Location, Location, Location

Competitive rates and customer service should be high on your list of priorities when choosing a financial institution. But the first question you should ask yourself is “Do they have accessible locations near my school?”

As previously stated, a significant part of life as a college student requires regular visits to the ATM. If your financial institution doesn’t have any ATM locations on or near your campus, you’re going to have to shell out $2-$3 in fees every time you withdraw money from a rival ATM.

This may not seem like a big deal in the moment. But like monthly maintenance fees, these empty charges can add up over time and your balance will suffer for it. Thus, it’s essential to make sure that the financial institution you choose has plenty of ATM’s either on campus or within walking distance of your school. It’s also beneficial for your financial institution to have at least one physical branch nearby in case of issues that online or mobile banking can’t solve.

Why a Checking Account with Mission Federal Credit Union Could be a Great Fit

If you’re heading to school in the Greater San Diego area, opening a checking account at Mission Federal Credit Union could be the perfect fit for you and your unique needs!

Here’s why:

  • Low Start-up Deposit – Setting up a checking account with Mission Federal is easy. All you need is a $25 deposit to get started.
  • No Monthly Fees with eStatements – Our Easy Checking Account option offers you the option of enrolling with eStatements, which eliminates the $2 monthly fee.
  • A Wide Network of ATM’s - As a member of the Co-Op ATM Network, the largest credit union-only ATM network in the nation, Mission Federal offers 30,000 surcharge-free ATM’s across the United States and Canada, 9,000 of which accept cash and check deposits. This includes 5,500 locations at 7-Eleven and another 500 at Walgreens.
  • Free Debit Card – When you open a checking account with Mission Federal, you’ll receive our signature Platinum Debit Card, which comes with zero monthly usage fees.
  • Online and Mobile Banking – As a valued Mission Federal customer, you’ll have 24/7 access to both online banking and mobile banking via our free mobile app. Our online banking services include online bill pay. The app includes the ability to make mobile check deposits as well as payments through Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay.
  • Outstanding Customer Service – Our dedicated customer service team can be reached by phone, email or webchat from 7am – 7pm on weekdays, and 8am – 4pm on Saturdays.
  • 24/7 Phone Banking – If you have a banking emergency that requires customer support but occurs outside of the timeframe when our customer service team is available, you’ll still have free, 24/7 access to our automated phone service.
  • Additional Perks – We offer free, unlimited check writing as well as free, optional eDocument services for further convenience and security.

Consider Adding Our Unique Student Savings Account Option!

Like our checking accounts, our savings accounts come with competitive rates that cater to the needs of college students.

Our savings accounts enable you to earn dividends on any balance, setting you on the right path toward your long-term savings goals. Additionally, linking a savings account to your checking account can help protect you from overdraft fees when your checking account lacks the funds to cover a necessary transaction.

All you need to get your savings account started is an initial deposit of $1. From there, you’ll enjoy all the same benefits you enjoy with our checking accounts, including no monthly fees and unlimited access to ATM’s and online/mobile banking.

How to Open a Checking Account

Opening a checking account with us is a straightforward, painless process. If you’re 18+ years old, all you have to do is schedule an appointment at one of our branches and, in addition to your $25 in cash (or $26 to add a savings account), bring the following documents with you:

  • Basic contact information
  • Driver’s license, or passport if you’re an international student
  • Your student ID
  • Any piece of mail that verifies your address
  • The basic information of a beneficiary

What if I’m Under 18?

If you’re 17 years old or younger, the process is still nearly identical. The only difference is that you must bring a parent or legal guardian with you to sign up as a joint owner of the account. You’ll provide your parent or legal guardian’s mailing address as opposed to your school address.

As long as a legal guardian is present with you and willing to be a joint owner on the account, you can start a checking account at any age, even if you’re not enrolled in college yet. You’d just need to bring a student ID issued to you by the school you currently attend.


Managing finances on your own for the first time in your life is daunting enough on its own. You don’t want to make your daily experience as a college student even more challenging by trying to go without a checking account.

For a hassle-free banking experience that comes with competitive rates and unrivaled customer service, count on Mission Federal Credit Union for all your checking and savings account needs!

The content provided consists of opinions and ideas and should be used for informational purposes only. Mission Federal Credit Union disclaims any liability for decisions you make based on the information provided. References to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name in this article does not constitute endorsement, control or warranty by Mission Federal Credit Union.


Phan, T. Money’s My Life. Best Student Checking Accounts for June 2019.

Lake, R. SmartAsset. Everything You Need to Know About Student Bank Accounts

Farrington, R. The College Investor. Best College Student Checking Accounts in 2019

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