Advice to College Students on Bank Promotions: Read the Fine Print

Average fees reported by colleges vary widely. Fees paid by students at Florida International University under an agreement with Wells Fargo averaged about $52 in the last school year, according to the school’s website. The University of Minnesota’s website says that fees averaged about $27 for those using a school-sponsored account offered by TCF Bank.

Some schools, like Stetson University, report that their sponsored accounts don’t have any fees.

Of course, many students — especially older students, or those whose parents introduced them to money-management skills early in their teenage years — already have an account when they arrive on campus. And in that case, the best option may be to keep using that account, said Chris Moon, consumer banking analyst with financial website ValuePenguin. Using the same bank as your parents makes it easy for them to transfer funds, if needed.

But if you’re going to a college far from home, it may be that the selection of A.T.M.s available with your existing account is less convenient. Or, you may not have had an account. When opening a new account makes sense, it’s wise to do some comparison shopping. Don’t rule out local credit unions, which may offer low-cost accounts, or online banks, which can be a cheap option if you don’t mind a lack of branches.

Look for an account with low or no monthly maintenance fee, and one that offers convenient access to free A.T.M.s, Mr. Moon said. Despite the spread of person-to-person payment options like Venmo, he said, “cash is still preferred in many situations.”

Big banks like Chase and Wells Fargo typically market “student” accounts that waive monthly maintenance fees while you’re in college. But bear in mind that once you graduate — or five years after the account was first opened — the bank will typically start charging you the fee, unless you meet other requirements to have it waived, like a direct…

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