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Student Banking

Banking Basics: Shopping for a Checking Account

Think about how you'll use your checking account

Believe it or not, student checking isn't always free checking. As a student, you need to find the account type that's right for your particular needs.

When you have a checking account, you deposit money into that account now knowing that later you'll be writing checks, using the money for purchases with a debit card, making online payments and withdrawing money from time to time at an ATM.

Some other banks offer free checking, but what does "free" really mean? Be sure to read the fine print: Do you have to meet some other condition—like setting up a direct deposit or maintaining a minimum balance—in order to avoid monthly fees?

Here are some questions to consider as you shop for a checking account:

Monthly service fee: How much will the bank charge you to maintain your account? (At Bank of America, eligible students under 23 can get Bank of America Core Checking® with no monthly maintenance fees.footnote1 )

Debit card: Will your checking account come with a debit card, which you can use instead of checks to make purchases?

ATM charges: Is there a charge to withdraw money from your bank's ATM? (Bank of America doesn't charge checking customers to access our ATMs.) Is there a minimum number of withdrawals you can make before you are charged? Is there a charge if you withdraw money from another bank's ATM?

Free checks: Will the bank charge you for your checks? Will the bank give you one free book of checks then charge for checks after that?

Minimum balance: Is a minimum balance required for the type of checking account you are opening? What are the fees if your balance drops below the minimum?

Check limits: Will the bank impose a limit on how many checks you're able to write in a month? If so, what are the charges if you go over your check limit?

Overdraft protection: Does the bank offer overdraft protection with your checking account? How does it work and what is the cost?

Availability of funds: When you deposit a check into your account, will you have same-day access to the funds or will there be a waiting period before your money is available to you?

There may be certain services or conveniences you want (like bill payments and overdraft protection), but those services may have additional fees. Review the bank's fees and decide if that feature or service is something you definitely need.

Remember that most banks will not pay interest on a basic checking account.

Overdraft protection

A product feature that provides protection against overdrafts by linking a credit card, line of credit or a savings account to one or more eligible checking or Money Market Savings accounts. If the eligible checking or Money Market account is overdrawn, the linked account covers the fund deficit; transfers are usually made in certain dollar increments and charged to the credited account when the funds are transferred. Refer to the terms of your account for details.

Debit card

With your checking account, you can request a Bank of America debit card. Use it to make purchases at merchants worldwide, make deposits to your account at deposit ATMs, and withdraw cash at ATMs wherever you are. This enhanced ATM card deducts money from your designated deposit account when you use it to make a purchase or get cash.


A fee charged for borrowing money. Also refers to money that a financial institution may pay individuals for keeping their money in an account there (such as an interest-bearing savings account).

Checking that’s right for you

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