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April 2020’s Best Savings Accounts for Students

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We maintain strict editorial integrity in our writing and assessments. This post contains links from our advertisers, and we may receive compensation when you click these links. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone. | Advertiser Disclosure

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.

Bank APY Minimum Deposit Highlights
PNC Bank PNC Bank logo Read More 0.01% $25
  • Best Student Savings Account for Learning to Manage Money
  • No monthly maintenance fees
Varo Bank Varo Bank logo Read More 1.61% $0
  • Best Student Savings Account for Earning Interest
  • Very high APY
  • Minimum to earn APY $0.01
Ally Bank Ally Bank logo Read More 1.50% $0
  • Best Online/Mobile Experience
  • Forgiving fee structure
Digital Federal Credit Union Digital Federal Credit Union logo Read More 6.17% $5
  • Best Student Savings Account Bonus
  • High introductory APY
Navy Federal Credit Union Navy Federal Credit Union logo Read More 0.25% $5
  • Best Credit Union Student Account
  • Solid APY
Bank of America Bank of America logo Read More 0.03% $100
  • Best Customer Service
  • More than 4,000 branches nationwide

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.

Best Student Savings Account for Learning to Manage Money: PNC Bank Virtual Wallet Student®

PNC Bank

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.

Best Student Savings Account for Earning Interest: Varo Savings Account

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 base APY of 1.61%. But if you can manage to make five Varo debit card purchases a month and receive at least $1,000 in direct deposits a month, all while not exceeding a $50,000 balance, you’ll be eligible for a much higher 2.80% APY. For this account, Varo does not require a minimum opening balance, nor are there monthly maintenance fees.

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.

Best Online/Mobile Experience: Ally Bank Online Savings Account

Ally Online Savings Account

At Ally Bank, you can get a solid 1.50% 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.

Best Student Savings Account Bonus: Digital Federal Credit Union Primary Savings

Digital Federal Credit Union

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 $50 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 maintenance 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 sizeable international network. Though this credit union only has a few of its own branches, account holders can do their banking through any of the 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.

Best Credit Union Student Account: Navy Federal Credit Union Basic Savings

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 large, is still above average.

Although NFCU is a credit union, it affords account holders access to nearly 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

Best Customer Service: Bank of America Advantage Savings

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 33 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 0.03% 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 Checking® 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.

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