Student Bank Accounts vs. Regular Bank Accounts: What’s the Difference?

College can be such an exciting milestone. Freedom is exhilarating; but on the flip side, it also comes with responsibilities. You’re now in charge of your finances. And as you step onto your campus, you’ll be bombarded with offers of student bank accounts from different financial institutions.

Should you open a student bank account? What are its advantages compared to a regular bank account in the U.S.?

Essentially, a student bank account is like a regular bank account in terms of function. It just offers perks that are tailored to meet the specific needs of students. Here’s an in-depth review of these specifics.

Typical Student Bank Account Features

Student Bank Accounts - a student smiling at the camera

No Minimum Balance

Financial institutions know that students are just starting out on their financial journey, so they’ll typically cut you some slack on certain aspects of banking. The minimum balance is one. Students often only need to make a minimum deposit of $25 or even less.

Some banks, like TD Bank, may even sweeten the deal by offering a $0 minimum deposit upon opening the account.

Regular bank account holders, on the other hand, usually have to maintain a minimum balance; otherwise, their monthly fees won’t get waived. TD Bank, for instance, requires you to maintain a minimum daily balance of $100.

Overdraft Protection, Activated

As they’re relatively new to managing their finances, students are still learning to make financial decisions. In general, financial institutions are often more forgiving to students in terms of overdraft loans. An overdraft occurs when you withdraw or use more money than what you have in your account.

Wells Fargo, for example, charges a $35 overdraft fee per item. But those with a student account don’t get charged this fee.

Lower Fees

Banks might charge a monthly fee if you don’t meet the minimum daily balance or don’t receive a certain number of direct deposits every month. Financial institutions know that students are hard-pressed to meet these requirements, so most banks waive these sorts of fees for students.

Chase, for instance, has a $12 monthly fee for their regular bank account holders. Students don’t pay this fee while they’re enrolled in college. After graduation, the service charge is $6 for as long as the account is active.

Banks may also charge an ATM fee if account holders use an ATM from a different network. Some banks waive this fee for students as well. For example, Truist Financial charges $3 for non-Truist ATM withdrawals. But they don’t charge this fee for the first two non-Truist ATM withdrawals every statement cycle for students.

Student Bank Accounts - a person on their phone

Student Bank Account Rewards

Banks tend to offer rewards or other perks that are particularly enticing to their target market. Thus, it only makes sense that student bank accounts often come with additional incentives designed for students.

Some banks, like Chase and TD Bank, offer account opening bonuses that range from $100 to $150. Other banks get more creative with offers of cashback on purchases that are relevant to college students.  For example, GO2bank offers 7% cashback on electronic gift card purchases.

And then there are banks that know how to execute the perfect way to market their products—referral marketing.

Financial institutions like SoFi know that students are the best advocate for their products to friends who are also in college. Thus, they’ve set up attractive referral systems that give students cash rewards if they can get their friends to open an account.

Further reading: 5 Top Language Apps for Learning English

Are International Students Eligible for a Student Bank Account?

Some banks in the U.S. require you to be a U.S. resident or citizen before you can open a regular bank account.

However, a non-U.S. citizen or resident can often find a way around this issue by submitting their Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) in place of a Social Security number (SSN).

International students can also easily open a student bank account. Most banks will need the following requirements instead:

  • Passport
  • Another photo ID like your student card or driver’s license
  • Proof of enrollment
  • Proof of residence and your residential address
  • Minimum deposit

Most financial institutions offer the same perks mentioned above to international students. However, some go beyond their usual student account benefits to help ease the transition process for international students. HSBC, for instance, provides a 30-day SIM card with unlimited international calls for free.

If opening an international student account is too much of a hassle, you might consider the Passbook app. 

Money transfer provider Remitly (that’s us!) now offers the Passbook app, which provides access to a free mobile account and Visa® debit card designed for immigrants living in the United States. No minimum deposits or fees, even when spending internationally. No SSN required, and no checks on credit history or immigration status.1

Why Might You Like Passbook?

  • No fees: No minimum balances or fees — not even for foreign transactions
  • Flexible deposits: Deposit cash to your Passbook account at 100K retail stores nationwide,2 including Walmart, 7-Eleven, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Kroger, and Safeway. Plus, deposit checks using your mobile phone 24/7.
  • Cash withdrawals: Get cash from 2 million ATMs worldwide, or cash back when spending at most major retailers, grocery stores, and drug stores.
  • Spend around the world: Personalize your Visa debit card with a country flag, and spend in the U.S. or internationally, with no foreign transaction fees. Use the app to disable your card whenever you want to avoid unwanted charges.
  • Send around the world: Get $2 cash back on Remitly international money transfers.3 Send to other U.S. Passbook account holders, in minutes and for free. 4
  • Early payday: Get your paycheck up to 2 days early when you set up direct deposit.5
  • Peace of mind: Sign up in minutes with a passport, Matrícula Consular, Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or SSN. Get worldwide access to funds and 24/7 customer support (Hablamos Español).

Is Passbook a Good Fit for You?

Passbook by Remitly is an ideal option if:

  • You live in the United States and need a way to sign up for an account without a Social Security Number;
  • You travel and want to spend internationally with no foreign transaction fees;
  • You send money internationally;
  • You need flexible ways to deposit and withdraw funds, by cash, check or direct deposit; and
  • You enjoy the convenience of managing your money from a digital mobile app

1 Approval if you meet identification criteria.
2 Retail service fee and limits apply.
3 When you pay with your Passbook Visa debit card. Terms apply.
4 Both sender and recipient must have a Passbook account.
5 Timing of direct deposit availability is dependent on certain conditions such as payer schedule.

The Passbook app is by Remitly, a financial technology company. Remitly is not a bank. Banking services are provided by Sunrise Banks N.A. The Passbook Visa® debit card is issued by Sunrise Banks N.A., Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. The card can be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.

Further reading: What Is the Difference Between a Checking and a Savings Account?

Student Bank Accounts - Two students talking

About Remitly

Remitly makes international money transfers faster, easier, more transparent, and more affordable. Since 2011, over 5 million people have used our secure mobile app to send money home with peace of mind.

Visit the homepage, download our app, or check out our Help Center to get started.