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October 2021’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
Affirm Affirm logo Read More 0.65% $0
  • Fantastic APY
  • Simple mobile app
Synchrony Synchrony logo Read More 0.50% $0
  • No minimum to open
  • Basic savings option
Ally Bank Ally Bank logo Read More 0.50% $0
  • Well-rated online banking platforms
  • Forgiving fee structure
Chime Chime logo Read More 0.50% $0
  • Simple, basic online bank
  • High APY
Discover Bank Discover Bank logo Read More 0.40% $0
  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Good APY
TIAA Bank TIAA Bank logo Read More 0.50% $25
  • Good APY
  • Physical and online presence
CIT Bank CIT Bank logo Read More 0.40% $100
  • Boasts features that encourage saving
  • No monthly fees
Varo Bank Varo Bank logo Read More 0.50% $0
  • Great APYs
  • Only a $0.01 minimum to earn APY
Navy Federal Credit Union Navy Federal Credit Union logo Read More 0.25% $5
  • Solid APY
  • No monthly fees
Digital Federal Credit Union Digital Federal Credit Union logo Read More 6.17% $5
  • High introductory APY
  • $5 minimum to open

How We Determine the Best Savings Accounts for Students

SmartAsset analyzed around 20 of the most popular savings accounts suitable for students 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.

Affirm Savings Account

Affirm Savings Account

If you’re interested in the Affirm Savings Account, you’re likely focused on its fantastic 0.65% 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 average rating of 4.8 stars out of 5 between the Apple and Android app stores. Through this medium, you’ll be able to make transfers, check your account balance and contact customer support.

Synchrony High Yield Savings

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 0.50% 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.

Ally Bank Online Savings Account

Ally Online Savings Account

At Ally Bank, you can get a solid 0.50% APY, with interest that compounds daily. An account like this one that compounds every day allows you to earn interest more quickly on top of the interest you’ve already earned. As you’re earning these returns, you will also avoid monthly fees, so your growing money won't take a hit in that way.

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.

Chime Savings Account

Chime Savings Account

Chime is an entirely online bank. Its services are extremely easy to use and simple, which are qualities that lend themselves to a strong experience for students new to online banking. You'll also have access to a savings APY of 0.50%, which is great by today's standards. You won't be on the hook for any monthly minimums or monthly fees, and you don't need a minimum to open an account. The only fee you'll be on the hook for is a $2.50 fee for out-of-network ATM withdrawals or over-the-counter transactions.

The main caveat when it comes to opening a Chime Savings Account is the fact that you'll need to first open a Chime Spending Account, the bank's version of a checking account. This account is easy to open and use as well, and it doesn't come with any monthly minimums or fees, so it's not a huge hurdle to have to jump over to open a Savings Account with the bank. To make things even better, the bank's mobile app is consitently very highly rated, so you're likely to have a good experience working with your account on a mobile device.

Discover Online Savings Account

Discover Online Savings Account

The Discover Bank Online Savings Account features a solid interest rate of 0.40%. 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.

TIAA Bank Basic Savings Account

TIAA Bank Basic Savings Account

The TIAA Bank Basic Savings Account is a solid option for students looking to open a savings account. It becomes a particularly attractive option for anyone that already banks with TIAA or lives in one of several areas around the country that has physical TIAA locations.

This account requires a low minimum of $25 to open. Once you meet this requirement, you'll earn an APY of 0.50% on all balances. You'll avoid the $5 monthly minimum fee by keeping at least $25 in the account.

Another great feature of this account is that TIAA will reimburse ATM fees for any account with an average daily balance of at least $5,000. For accounts with less than this, TIAA will reimburse up to $15 in monthly ATM fees. With TIAA, you'll be able to visit a physical bank location to conduct business, but you can also use the bank's highly-rated mobile app.

CIT Bank Savings Builder Account

CIT Savings Builder

The CIT Bank Savings Builder Account offers a high APY, but its attractiveness goes beyond just that. In order to earn its 0.40% 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 for the future.

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.

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 0.50% 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 3.00% 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 $5,000 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.

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 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

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 $62 bonus over your first year, just for letting the money sit in the account. Unfortunately, though, any money you deposit after that receives a mediocre 0.25% APY. 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.

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