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For college freshmen: Bank accounts 101 for financial newbies

College students may want to opt for mobile

College students may want to opt for mobile banking, sending money through a digital wallet. Photo Credit: Getty Images/wagnerokasaki

As college freshmen head off to campus, they will likely be greeted by companies offering them opportunities to get credit cards and open bank accounts. For some it will be the first time they make a financial decision like choosing a bank.

What’s the best advice for financial newbies?

Opening a checking account seems simple. But details matter, says Maria Brosnahan, market manager at Valley Bank in Rockville Centre. “It’s easiest to open a checking account from the bank with a strong presence on campus," she says. But checking accounts are not all the same, she adds. While a campus-based bank might be convenient, "it may not be your best option,” she says.

What should you consider before opening an account?

Fees

“Students often open a checking account with the bank on or close to campus because of ATM fees," says Brosnahan. "But the bank may hit them with other monthly fees, such as maintenance fees. Look at the details. Another local bank may offer an account specifically for college-aged adults with no monthly fees and may reimburse ATM fees,” adds Brosnahan.

Online and mobile banking

“Consider a bank with reliable online and mobile banking capability. It’ll be easy to deposit checks from grandma and grandpa with your phone, transfer money from account to account, and use alternative payment options,” she says.

Minimum balance requirements

Finding an account with no minimum balance requirement is important. Such a requirement will likely ding you with unwanted fees. If you can make the minimum, then take advantage of additional perks that come from such an account, like earning interest.

Lastly, says Michelle Smith, CEO of Source Financial Advisors in Manhattan, “Don’t feel pressured to open a credit card because you’re opening a bank account.”

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