Heading off to college is exciting. Really exciting. You finally have freedom! You’re out on your own for the very first time, managing your studies, managing your social life and… managing your finances.
Despite being a big part of your newfound independence, personal finance is a subject you probably won’t find on your course schedule. If you didn’t take a personal finance class in high school and never had money lessons from your parents, you may not know how to manage a checking account as a college student.
“College students have very different needs for their checking account than their parents or other adults,” says Tommy Martin, CEO of Clear Path Financial Planning and a finance blogger at TommyMartin.com. If you live in a different city during the school year than you do during winter and summer breaks, for example, you may be after a bank for which location doesn’t matter.
Ok, so how do I manage my checking account in college, you ask? First, don’t get overwhelmed. Learning how to manage money while in college and getting a handle on checking account basics is simpler than you might think (oh, and the skills will serve you for years to come). Second, you can kick off your checking account education with these tips for managing a checking account in college:
1. Compare checking accounts before signing up
While your college life may center around your school campus, you should consider venturing off-campus to pick the right checking account for your lifestyle.
“Students typically sign up with a bank that’s on campus or close to campus,” says Sahil Vakil, a financial planner and president of MYRA Wealth in New Jersey. However, the nearest bank might not be the one that best fits your needs, he adds.
Instead of picking a bank based solely on proximity, consider all of your options, including banks with off-campus locations and online-only banks.
Martin agrees, saying that learning how to manage money while in college means considering all of your banking options rather than “automatically enrolling or choosing the official school bank just because it has the school logo on it.” There are other ways to show your school pride, after all.
2. Learn about checking account fees and rewards
Vakil and Martin both say a tip for managing a checking account in college is to consider an account’s fees before signing up. Costly fees can eat into your savings and spending money, which can be a blow for students who are not working full-time. When you are choosing a checking account in college, consider fees for:
Monthly maintenance (essentially keeping your account open)
Minimum balance (not maintaining one)
Online bill pay
Replacement debit cards
Martin says a checking account with no minimum balance requirement or minimum number of transactions could be a good fit for students. “It allows them to focus on their education” instead of worrying about incurring penalties, he says. “Even a $5 fee on a checking account with $60 in it can be devastating.”
Costly fees can eat into your savings and spending money, which can be a blow for students who are not working full-time.
Martin also suggests finding an account that has a large network of no-fee ATMs located across the country to better manage your checking account as a college student. “Especially if you’re going to a school in a different state, the local bank from home might wind up costing you a lot in terms of ATM fees,” he says. If your parents plan to wire you money, find an account that doesn’t charge incoming wire fees, Martin adds.
While fees should be a focus when you are learning how to manage money while in college, don’t forget about incentives. You may be able to find a checking account that actually helps you grow your balance by paying interest or offering a cash back rewards program.
“If you have to pay for books or supplies, at least you can get some cash back and use it for a free dinner,” Martin says. Discover Cashback Debit, for example, offers 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.1
3. Track your checking account balance
Luckily, you don’t need to take Banking 101 to figure out your funds, and tech makes tracking your balance and account activity easier than ever. Most banks let you log in to your account online (don’t get distracted in class!), and with a bank’s mobile app you can transfer money to friends, pay bills, deposit checks and check your balanceâall while you’re on the go.
Knowing your balance at all times is a tip for managing a checking account in college because it can help you avoid overdrafts and insufficient funds fees. It can also help you forecast your income and expenses to ensure you’ll have enough money to cover future costs. Surpriseâthat’s budgeting!
There’s no one-size-fits-all budgeting program or system, though. You can go old-school and track your budget on a printed-out budget sheet, or you can go tech-savvy with a budgeting and spending app. “What’s best for you is the one you’re actually going to use,” Martin says.
If you learn how to manage money while in college and make a practice of maintaining your budget, the habit will follow you after graduation.
âCollege students have very different needs for their checking account than their parents or other adults.â
4. Secure your account
One of Vakil’s tips for managing a checking account in college is to make sure your account stays secure. Create a unique account name and password that you use only for your checking account, and never share your credentials.
Vakil says you can also enable two-factor authentication if your bank offers it and you’re looking for another way to improve the management of your checking account as a college student. “This additional layer of protection safeguards your sensitive financial data and strengthens the security of your account by requiring two methods of verifying your identity.”
For example, if you log in to your account from a new device, you may be sent a text message with a code that you’ll need to enter to access your account.
5. Keep an eye out for debit card holds
No matter where you bank, a merchant may place a hold on funds in your checking account when you use your debit card. Generally, a hold is placed for travel-related purchasesâsuch as at rental car companies, hotels and gas stationsâand used by merchants to protect against fraud and errors.
“Holds on a debit card can make it tricky for you to manage your finances,” Vakil says. For example, “when you rent a car, the car rental company might put a $500 hold on your account. If the balance in your account was $550, now you can only use another $50.”
Being aware of holds can be particularly important if you are managing a checking account as a college student and tend to have a low account balance.
If a merchant will be placing a hold, it will generally post a sign to notify customers. The hold will typically be removed after the funds are transferred to the merchant from your financial institution, typically within three to four days.
Knowing when a hold will be placed, the amount of the hold and how much money you have in your checking account can help you manage your checking account as a college student by avoiding overdrafts and missed bill payments due to insufficient funds.
6. Don’t let one mistake throw you off track
If you can learn how to manage a checking account as a college student, and more generally, how to manage money while in college, you can lay the groundwork for a solid financial future. Checking account mistakes may occasionally happen (oops, I didn’t budget enough for that spring break trip), but don’t let them discourage you to the point of apathy. Instead, try to continually expand your knowledge and practice healthy financial habits.
1Â ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as VenmoÂ® and PayPal, who also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Venmo and PayPal are registered trademarks of PayPal, Inc.
The post 6 Tips for Successfully Managing a Checking Account in College appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
It’s a nonstop day. The usual. You’re at the grocery store, grabbing a few things for dinner (note to self: hit the ATM on the way out!), then a much-needed coffee at the drive-through (swipe that debit card), before you drop your tween at her first day of basketball practice (remember to bring your checkbook). Phew. And you’re only halfway done.
In the middle of it all, you certainly don’t want the nagging feeling that you can’t access your money at a moment’s notice, that you’re missing spending perks or that you’ll be hit with unnecessary fees. So a good question for you might be, “What’s the best checking account for busy families?”
How about a checking account that matches your lifestyle? Robert Farrington, founder of millennial personal finance site The College Investor and father of two, suggests that banking for busy parents should include an account that is âconducive to an on-the-move life.”
With everything on your plate, you may not realize that as your family’s needs change, the way you manage your money will likely need to change too. The good news is that many financial institutions offer bank accounts for busy families like yours, designed with features aimed at supporting your active lifestyle.
To select the checking account that best serves your needs, Farrington recommends first examining your current patterns. âNotice how you deposit money and how you spend it,” Farrington says. âLook at your banking trends and see where you’re being charged.”
Next, identify the unique features offered by each new checking account you are considering. To help you do that, here are four key things to look for as you narrow down your search:
1. Cash back rewards: More bang for your buck
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it costs about $12,980 a year to raise a child. Even if your kids get their share of hand-me-downs and you don’t buy them everything they want, you’re still spending a lot. The biggest costsâafter housing (29 percent of child-rearing costs)âare food (18 percent) and child care/education (16 percent). None of that even includes birthdays, holidays and so on…
If you’re trying to find the best checking account for busy families, consider that all those purchases could be a little less painful with a checking account that rewards spending, typically in the form of cash back or rewards points.
Ashley Patrick, founder of the blog Budgets Made Easy, loves the idea of a checking account that offers rewards. Patrick, whose blog tells the story of how she paid off $45,000 of debt in 17 months, recommends that budget-conscious families use debit cards for purchases. âIf those purchases were rewarded,” Patrick says, âthat money would multiply.”
Say hello to cash back on debit card purchases.
No monthly fees. No balance requirements. No, really.
Discover Bank, Member FDIC
If you’re using a checking account that rewards you for debit card purchases, some of those seemingly endless expenses can actually help you save a bit of extra cash. Discover Cashback Debit, for example, lets you earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.1 That means your monthly cash back earnings could yield $360 in total rewards each year. This feature of a bank account for busy families could pay for one night at your favorite family resort!
2. Easy account access: At home or on the run
You’re dropping off one kid, picking up the other, then have to get ready for a fundraiser. You are always on the go, so it’s time to find the best checking account for busy families that’s always right there with you. Patrick suggests opening a checking account with a bank that has a vast network of no-fee ATM locations. For example, Discover offers more than 60,000 no-fee ATMs around the U.S.
âI live out in the country, about 12 to 13 miles from town, so I need an ATM nearby,” Patrick says. âI usually go to town on Fridays or Mondays, get lunch for the kids, go to the store for groceries and get cash. Everything needs to be in one location.”
Besides getting money for day-to-day purchases, a conveniently located ATM is a must for depositing cash. Why make a special trip to visit your local branch when you can make deposits at an ATM that’s at or near a place you already frequent? Banking for busy parents is hard to imagine without this benefit.
âNotice how you deposit money and how you spend it. Look at your banking trends and see where you’re being charged.”
3. Online and mobile features: Save time in spades
In fact, you may not need a brick-and-mortar bank branch at all. Another option to consider is opening a checking account with an online bank.
The best bank account for busy families is one that offers maximum convenience. With an online checking account, all you need is a computer, tablet or smartphone to deposit a check (most online banks have a mobile app that allows you to take a photo of your check to deposit the funds). An online checking account also makes banking for busy parents effortless by allowing them to manage bills and bank statements from a deviceâeither while at home or out and about. Save the paper for your kids’ cute drawings that you tack up on the fridge.
Nermeen Ghneim, blogger at Savvy Dollar and mom of two, says the best checking account for busy families would offer a mobile app.
âI want to be able to access everything a bank can offer through my mobile device,” Ghneim says. âIt saves time, and it’s huge for a parent with a full-time job.”
Here are some of the other online and mobile features that are key if you’re looking for the best checking account for busy families:
Online transfers. Farrington says the ability to transfer money between accounts is especially important. Things come up unexpectedly and you may need to quickly transfer from savings to checking, or move those cash back rewards into a college fund for the kids. If you’re moving your cash back rewards into savings, you may even be able to make that happen automatically. For example, when you enroll in Discover’s Auto Redemption to Savings, we’ll automatically deposit your cash back into a Discover Online Savings Account every month.
Online bill payments. With everything else on your mind, you shouldn’t have to go through a stack of bills every month. The best checking account for busy families would allow you to set up automatic bill payments, so each month’s charges are automatically debited from your checking account.
Balance notifications. You should never be in the middle of a transaction and see those dreaded words: Insufficient Funds. Instead, you want to get a heads-up when your balance is close to zero, so there aren’t any surprises.
Debit card protection. While it’s important to be able to quickly and easily use your debit card, Ghneim says it’s just as important to be able to freeze it. Some banks offer a digital feature that enables you to switch your debit card on and off, so you can instantly freeze your debit card if it’s been misplaced or you want to curb spending.
Connecting to other digital applications. Nowadays, busy families rely on budgeting and spending apps to help manage their finances. A good bank account for busy families would be able to easily sync with those other tools online or via your mobile device so that you can efficiently manage your money and take advantage of the features of each app.
4. No-fee checking: A money-saving must-have
Farrington says that when selecting the best bank account for busy families, a no-fee checking account is a must-have, so it’s worth shopping around until you find one. For example, Discover Cashback Debit has no account-related fees.2 âYou shouldn’t have to pay a fee if you don’t keep a minimum balance,” Farrington says. âParents often don’t have the bandwidth to keep track of whether they’ve made a certain number of transactions.”
If you are getting hit with a checking account fee for any of the items below, you may want to consider a new checking account to make banking for busy parents easier:
In-network ATM withdrawals
Replacement debit card
Online bill pay
Stop payment order
Official bank check
If you’re exploring a new bank account for busy families, Ghneim advises to watch out for hidden costs. Even no-fee checking accounts will sometimes hit you with unexpected charges. âThere should be no hidden fees because if a family is living off a budget, it’s very stressful to incur unexpected fees,” Ghneim says. Farrington agrees: âThere are some things that might cost you money, like wire transfers, but you shouldn’t have to pay for most features these days.”
âThere should be no hidden fees because if a family is living off a budget, it’s very stressful to incur unexpected fees.â
Banking for busy parents just got easier
Above all, Farrington says you want to prioritize the features that are most relevant to your family’s needs and lifestyle. If you’re always on the go, you may care most about convenient, no-fee ATMs and mobile check deposits. If your schedule necessitates a lot of out-of-pocket spending, you may want to prioritize debit card cash back rewards.
Keep in mind that when it comes to establishing the best banking for busy parents, you have options. âThere are so many checking accounts being offered now,” Farrington says. As long as you’re aware of the features that are available, you can make an informed decision and choose the account that’s best for you and your family.
1 ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as VenmoÂ® and PayPal, which also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.
2 Outgoing wire transfers are subject to a service charge. You may be charged a fee by a non-Discover ATM if it is not part of the 60,000+ ATMs in our no-fee network.
The post Banking for Busy Parents: 4 Essential Checking Account Features appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.