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Should I Open a Checking Account Online for my College-Aged Child?

Written by Banks Editorial Team

Updated October 2, 2023​

3 min. read​

Should you open a checking account online for you college-aged kid? Learning about money management should start well before a child reaches college. While some banks do offer teen checking accounts, many teens are not working enough hours to warrant having a checking account. However, college age students today are more than likely to be working at least part-time jobs to help defray their expenses while away at college. This presents several challenges besides cashing checks including having ready access to cash. This is when it may be time to consider whether to open a checking account online.

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Most College Age Students Have Reached Age of Majority

While some banks restrict checking accounts for students to jointly held accounts with parents, a college aged student is most likely to have the ability to open a checking account online without having a parent be a joint owner. Even then, there may be valid reasons for mom and dad to consider opening a checking account for their college student including:

A student is not working – you should open a checking account online if your college-age child is not working and they depend on you for an allowance to pay their own bills. The fact you are on the account allows you to ensure the account is not overdrawn and can help avoid problems.

Concern about responsibility – we all know someone who is not financially responsible. When a parent is concerned their child may abuse a checking account, they may be better off to open a checking account online so they can monitor the account balance.

When an ATM card is a necessity – even when a student does not have bills to pay that might require them to have access to written checks, most college age students do need access to cash for various purposes including food, school supplies, and books. An online checking account may be the right answer to address their needs while limiting availability of writing checks. Most accounts do not allow a checking account to be overdrawn with an ATM card but a written check when there are insufficient funds can mean steep overdraft fees and other fees.

Possible Drawbacks of Online Checking Accounts

There are some important things to keep in mind about online checking accounts for a college age child. First, in many cases, your student may not have access to a branch office where they can deposit checks into their account. However, when you open a checking account online, they do have smartphone applications which allow the student to snap a photo of the check and make a deposit. Just make sure your college student knows what the holding periods are for checks before they depend on the funds in that account. Otherwise, they could face overdraft charges.

Another concern that some have when using a checking account online is the fees that might be associated with the account. Carefully review the fees associated with the account before opening. This could save you money if there are minimum balance requirements, unusual fees for writing checks, or if there are a maximum number of withdrawals which may be made to the account.

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Advantages of Checking Accounts Online

One of the best reasons you should consider opening a checking account online is that you can easily log into the account and review balances and transactions. This feature would allow you point out “poor” spending habits to your child and have a further discussion with them about responsibility and why saving for the future is important.

Many online checking accounts have “companion” savings accounts which will give your college student the benefit of being able to transfer money easily between checking and savings. Being able to see their savings growing on a regular basis can be a motivating factor in getting them to save more money.

When you are looking for the best online checking account options, check out the associated debit cards. Many of these cards have a cash back feature which can help defray some of the fees that might be associated with the account. However, make sure if there is a cash back feature that it does not come with specific strings attached such as minimum balances, etc.

Independence and Checking Accounts

College aged students are interesting in maintaining their independence and having a checking account allows them to build a solid financial foundation for the future. As a parent, you want to make sure your college age child is capable of making their own financial decisions, but you also want to be able to guide them in the event they are veering off course. This is one of the best reasons you should consider opening a checking account online.
When deciding what account is right for your college age child, make sure you read all the fine print associated with the account. Fees, minimum balances, and limitations on funds access could all be problematic if you are unaware of them at the outset.

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