Finding the Best Savings Accounts for Students
Student savings accounts are meant to help those in school grow their increasing income long-term and learn about financial responsibility. To ensure that you find the best savings account for the student in your life, we’ve laid out the top student savings accounts for prospective account holders looking for specific account benefits.
|PNC Bank Read More||0.01%||$25|| |
|Varo Bank Read More||0.81%||$0|| |
|Ally Bank Read More||0.60%||$0|| |
|Digital Federal Credit Union Read More||6.17%||$5|| |
|Navy Federal Credit Union Read More||0.25%||$5|| |
|Synchrony Read More||0.60%||$0|| |
|CIT Bank Read More||0.45%||$100|| |
|Discover Bank Read More||0.50%||$0|| |
|Affirm Read More||1.00%||$0|| |
|Bank of America Read More||0.01%||$100|| |
How We Determine the Best Savings Accounts for Students
SmartAsset analyzed almost 20 of the most popular student savings accounts on the market to find the best options. In scoring this study, our experts factored in banking features such as annual percentage yield (APY), minimum deposit size, monthly maintenance fees, online/mobile banking and financial education tools.
PNC Bank Virtual Wallet Student®
The PNC Bank Virtual Wallet Student® savings account offers an in-depth online experience that makes it easy for young adults to learn about money management. PNC’s online banking site for this account includes a calendar-based system that you can use to help keep your finances organized. You’ll even be able to categorize purchases as they’re made to see where you’re overspending. Parents can also choose to receive alerts when the account’s balance drops too low, and text banking is available.
All account holders get a PNC Bank Visa® debit card, which they can customize with card art for nearly 50 of the largest universities in the U.S. among other varying school-based perks. The PNC Bank website also has many free resources available for young adults to learn about financial management and responsible banking.
While this account is a fantastic choice for anyone new to banking, it’s not such a great option for interest-based growth. In fact, the account has just a 0.01% APY. You’ll need to deposit at least $25 to open an account, though there are no monthly fees to worry about. Virtual Wallet Student® accounts can remain active for up to six years, so long as you provide proof of being an active student.
Varo Savings Account
The Varo Savings Account isn’t technically a student account, but it offers many desirable benefits for everyone, including students. The account has a 0.81% APY, which is one of the better rates currently on the market. For this account, Varo does not require a minimum opening deposit, nor are there monthly maintenance fees. To earn the APY, all you need to do is maintain a $0.01 balance in your account. You can also gain access to a higher APY of 2.80% by meeting the following requirements:
- Make at least five qualifying Varo Bank Visa® Debit Card purchases
- Receive $1,000 or more in qualifying total direct deposits
- Do not exceed a daily savings balance of $10,000 for the calendar month
Varo’s services are entirely online, so you won’t have the ability to visit a branch to access a customer service representative. However, the bank’s mobile app has extremely high ratings on both the Android and Apple app stores. Through this platform, you’ll be able to access all the features that you might value in person, including mobile check deposits and automatic savings tools. If you have specific questions, though, you can still contact the bank by phone.
Setting up an account with Varo is relatively easy. You first need to open a Varo Bank checking account, a process that’s easily completed online. Once this step is done, you can then set up your high-yield savings account with Varo. To begin managing your account, simply download the Varo app.
Ally Bank Online Savings Account
At Ally Bank, you can get a solid 0.60% APY, with interest that compounds daily. An account that compounds every day allows you to earn interest on top of the interest you’ve already earned . As you’re earning interest, you will also avoid monthly fees, so your growing money doesn't take a hit in that way. Be wary of overspending with your Ally debit card, though, as there is a $25 overdraft fee and a $10 fee per transaction over the six you’re allowed per month.
One of the best rated apps in finance on both the Apple and Android stores, Ally boasts a wide range of benefits. You can set up scheduled bill payments, eCheck deposit and specific debit card controls to dictate where and when you can swipe the card. This account comes with the Zelle payment service, allowing you to send and receive money in a peer-to-peer fashion similar to Venmo.
The Ally Assist system embedded in this app can take care of many of the issues or questions you might have. If you’re on the go and need some cash, the ATM locator will help you find a fee-free ATM in your area.
Digital Federal Credit Union Primary Savings
The first $1,000 you deposit in a Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU) Primary Savings account will earn interest at a 6.17% APY. That works out to about a $62 bonus over your first year, just for letting the money sit in your account. Unfortunately, though, any money you deposit after that receives a below-average APY of 0.25%. Also, you need to deposit $5 at the time you open a Primary savings account, but there are no monthly fees.
Whether you’re at university in the U.S. or you’re studying abroad, you’ll likely be able to access a fee-free ATM through DCU’s sizable international network. Though this credit union only has a few of its own branches, account holders can do their banking through any of the over 5,000 locations where it offers shared banking. These are available in every state, so visit DCU’s website to find one near you.
DCU offers membership first and foremost to any immediate family of current members. However, you can become a member on your own by being a current or retired employee of an eligible company, being a member of an eligible organization or living, working, attending school or worshipping in an eligible community.
Navy Federal Credit Union Basic Savings
The Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) Basic Savings account is another option that isn’t necessarily student-centric. Instead, its benefits just line up well with what most students and their parents are seeking. Even for those without a lot of money to deposit, this account’s $5 minimum is hardly difficult to meet. Furthermore, there are no monthly maintenance fees and a 0.25% APY that, while not particularly high, is still above average.
Although NFCU is a credit union, it affords account holders access to around 32,000 fee-free ATMs throughout its proprietary ATM network and partnerships with the CO-OP Network® and CashPoints®. These ATM networks stretch all around the U.S. and Canada, so you shouldn’t be left in the lurch anywhere you might travel domestically or north of the border. If you need to make a deposit, you can do so at NFCU and CO-OP ATMs, though there may be a waiting period for processing.
Being an NFCU member gets you many perks. These range from special rates on mortgages and auto loans to discounts on certain retail purchases to exclusive banking offers. There are a few ways to become a member with NFCU:
- Be an active or former military or national guard member
- Be a Department of Defense officer candidate, reservist or civilian
- Be an immediate family member of a current member
Synchrony High Yield Savings
The Synchrony High Yield Savings account is a solid savings option for students, despite not having any particularly student-specific perks. With this account, you’ll earn a solid 0.60% APY on all balances with no minimum requirements. Although there are better APYs out there, Synchrony’s rate is still well above the national average.
You won't pay anything in monthly maintenance fees with this account, and you can open it with any amount of money. Synchrony doesn’t charge ATM withdrawal fees, though this account does come with up to $5 in domestic ATM fee reimbursements.
With the Synchrony High Yield Savings account, you’ll only be able to access your account digitally. Since the bank doesn’t have any physical locations, customers can contact a representative online or over the phone.
CIT Bank Savings Builder Account
The CIT Bank Savings Builder Account offers a high APY, but its attractiveness goes beyond just that. In order to earn its 0.45% APY, you’ll need to either maintain a $25,000 balance or make monthly $100 deposits. For many students, a balance as high as $25,000 is out of reach. However, socking away $100 a month is far more attainable and encourages saving if you have the money.
To become a Savings Builder Account holder, you must deposit at least $100 in your account at opening. After that, there are no account minimums or monthly maintenance fees.
When it comes to accessing your money, you can make free transfers to other bank accounts, initiate wire transfers or have the bank mail you a check for free. CIT Bank has a large online presence, so you can manage your account online, on your phone or by calling customer service.
Discover Online Savings Account
The Discover Bank Online Savings Account features a solid interest rate of 0.50%. Interest on this account compounds daily, meaning your money will grow at the fastest rate possible. Like most of Discover’s products, this account has no monthly fees and no minimum deposit, helping customers save and keep money in their pockets. You also won’t pay fees for bank checks, excessive withdrawals, insufficient funds and more.
Discover is a mobile- and online-only bank with no branch locations. If you’re comfortable banking online, this shouldn’t be an issue for you at all, given that the bank has a highly rated mobile app, user-friendly online dashboard and 24/7 customer service. Discover also gives account holders easy access to their account balances, transaction histories, transfers, mobile check deposit and even free credit score reports. All in all, this is a great checking account option for students who are comfortable banking online.
Affirm Savings Account
If you’re interested in the Affirm Savings Account, you’re likely focused on its fantastic 1.00% APY. There are no balance restrictions on this interest rate, so it applies to everything you deposit. This account is great for students, as it doesn’t require a minimum deposit and you won’t be on the hook for any monthly fees.
Affirm is a totally online company whose services are based around its mobile app. As a result, you should only open an account if you’re comfortable banking online or on your phone. It’s also a fairly new company, and it didn’t start in the banking industry. In fact, Affirm is, first and foremost, a shopping app that allows users to make online purchases at various stores and pay for them over time.
Affirm’s mobile app boasts a high rating on both the Apple and Android app stores. Through this medium, you’ll be able to make transfers, check your account balance and contact customer support.
Bank of America Advantage Savings
Traditionally good customer service might conjure up ideas of handshakes, warm hellos and attentive listening to your needs. Bank of America offers these in-person services across more than 4,000 branches in more than 30 states. If you can’t make it to a branch, though, you have a few other communication routes you can take. These offerings include a 24/7 automated customer service line and a mobile banking app that ranks near the top of the financial app market.
This top-tier customer service comes paired with a low 0.01% APY, though you can boost that rate to as high as 0.06% if you’re a part of the Preferred Rewards program. Be prepared to have at least $100 to deposit in order to open your Advantage Savings account.
Account holders must initially pay an $8 monthly fee. However, if you meet any of these prerequisites, Bank of America will waive the charge:
- Retain an average daily balance of no less than $500
- Pair your Bank of America Advantage Relationship Banking® account with this account
- Become a Preferred Rewards client
If you make eligible purchases with your debit card through the BankAmeriDeals® program, you will earn cash back credited right to your account. But the extra earnings don’t end there, as the Keep the Change® Savings Program rounds up your daily spending to the nearest dollar and adds it to your Advantage Savings account.