best savings accounts for college students

Saving money in college is tough when you’re not employed or working part-time. But it’s not impossible to do, and it may be just the time to strike with rising interest rates.

A 2019 study shows less than half of college students save money from their paychecks. But that can’t be from a lack of places to save cash. We found eight of the best savings accounts for college students with no monthly fees, great savings rates, and mobile access.

Best Savings Accounts for College Students

1. SoFi Savings and Checking

sofi savings

Savings Account

Member FDIC

APY

4.60%

Min. balance for APY

$0

Our Rating: 4.7

★★★★

SoFi Savings and Checking knocks it out of the park with a high-yield savings account and up to $300 bonus. SoFi debit card ATM withdrawals are fee-free within the Allpoint network.

Pros


  • Up to $250 bonus
  • High APY
  • No monthly fee

Cons


  • JP Morgan Chase majority ownership
  • No branches

Monthly Fee

$0.00

FDIC Insurance

Up to $250,000

Min. Opening Balance

$0

For college students, SoFi provides everything you need and more. No monthly fees, no overdraft fees, a sign-up bonus, high APY, and a full financial suite if you need more than a savings account.

There’s very little not to like about SoFi Savings and Checking but the $300 bonus for signing up requires a $5,000 deposit. That can be high for students.

2. Ally Savings

ally savings

Savings Account

Member FDIC

APY

4.20%

Min. balance for APY

$0

Our Rating: 4.5

★★★★

Ally Bank savings account includes a debit card and competitive APY that all college students can take advantage of. No monthly fees, no minimum deposit requirement, and a full suite of other financial products.

Pros


  • $10/mo in ATM rebates
  • No monthly fees
  • No overdraft fees

Cons


  • No cash deposits
  • 10 withdrawal limit

Monthly Fee

$0.00

FDIC Insurance

Up to $250,000

Min. Opening Balance

$0

One of the original online-only brands, Ally keeps fees out of the equation while offering a strong APY with amazing features. The Ally app is one I’ve used a lot and it’s intuitive for teens and young adults.

The biggest downer to Ally Savings is that cash has to be deposited into a third-party account and then transferred to your Ally Savings account.

3. Cap One 360 Performance Savings

cap one savings

Savings Account

Member FDIC

APY

4.25%

Min. balance for APY

$0

Our Rating: 4.4

★★★★

Cap One Performance Savings includes a cash bonus opening offer with a strong APY and no monthly fees or costs. College students rejoice, find an in-person cafe location to ask any questions about your Performance Savings account.

Pros


Cons


  • No ATM debit card
  • $30 outbound wire

Monthly Fee

$0.00

FDIC Insurance

Up to $250,000

Min. Opening Balance

$0

With Cap One 360 Performance Savings, you’ll have the bonus opportunity, the APY, and the rare ability to speak with a banker in person. No monthly fees and no maintenance fees are an added plus.

If you want access to ATM withdrawals, you’ll have to open a tandem checking account.

4. Varo Savings

varo savings

Savings Account

Member FDIC

APY

5.00%

Min. balance for APY

$0

Our Rating: 4.4

★★★★

Varo is a no-fee savings account with a high APY, automatic roundups, and the ability to open additional accounts to help you get through college without worrying about your finances.

Pros


  • Excellent APY
  • No monthly fees
  • No minimum balance

Cons


  • Tiered APY on high deposits
  • Direct deposit is required for APY

Monthly Fee

$0.00

FDIC Insurance

Up to $250,000

Min. Opening Balance

$0

Varo savings requires no minimum deposit and charges no monthly fee, NSF fee, or overdraft fees. The high APY is great for new savers who have a regular source of income.

Varo is the first on our list to require a direct deposit to earn the 5.00% APY. Also, the first to cap the balance for high-interest.

5. Chime

chime savings

Savings Account

Member FDIC

APY

2.00%

Min. balance for APY

$0

Our Rating: 4.3

★★★★

Chime is a fintech company that offers savings accounts without any monthly maintenance fees or unexpected costs. It includes a Visa debit card with free in-network ATM withdrawals

Pros


  • Roundup savings
  • No monthly fees
  • Mobile app

Cons


  • Low APY compared to other banks
  • No branches

Monthly Fee

$0.00

FDIC Insurance

Up to $250,000

Min. Opening Balance

$0

Chime stands out because of its fee-free banking experience. No NSF fees, no monthly fees, no overdraft fees, and the ability to automate savings with the Chime Roundup feature.

The biggest negative to Chime is its current savings APY. In a high-rate environment, Chime’s interest rate could be better.

6. Discover® Bank Online Savings

discover savings

Savings Account

Member FDIC

APY

4.25%

Min. balance for APY

$0

Our Rating: 4.3

★★★★

Discover Online Savings has no monthly fees, no bank check fees, no NSF fees, and no payment returned fee. Young students who are prone to making a mistake here or there won’t have to worry about getting charged for one with Discover.

Pros


  • No NSF fees
  • No monthly fees
  • 24/7 US-based customer service

Cons


  • No ATM card
  • No branches

Monthly Fee

$0.00

FDIC Insurance

Up to $250,000

Min. Opening Balance

$0

In addition to a no-fee platform, the best feature of Discover Online savings is that it offers 100% US-based customer service, available all day every day.

Even though Discover does not offer an ATM card, you can open a Discover Cashback Debit account and receive one.

7. Barclays Online Savings

barclays savings

Savings Account

Member FDIC

APY

4.35%

Min. balance for APY

$0

Our Rating: 4.2

★★★★

Barclays Online Savings offers a solid 4.35% APY with no monthly fees. It’s easy to set up direct deposit and make P2P transfers if you need to reimburse a friend or classmate.

Pros


  • Competitive APY
  • No monthly fees
  • Savings assistant

Cons


  • No bonus opportunity
  • No branches

Monthly Fee

$0.00

FDIC Insurance

Up to $250,000

Min. Opening Balance

$0

Every feature of Barclays Online Savings is solid, including the APY and fee structure. Customer service is available via a toll-free number and students have access to a savings assistant to help create savings goals.

Barclays Online Savings does everything well but it does not dazzle with a standout feature.

8. Marcus Online Savings Account

marcus savings

Savings Account

Member FDIC

APY

4.40%

Min. balance for APY

$0

Our Rating: 4.2

★★★★

Marcus Online Savings by Goldman Sachs is a high-yield account with no fees. Marcus also offers investment opportunities and personal loans if you require more than just a savings vessel.

Pros


  • No minimum balance
  • Free wires
  • Marcus Insight assistant

Cons


  • No mobile check deposit
  • No ATM network

Monthly Fee

$0.00

FDIC Insurance

Up to $250,000

Min. Opening Balance

$0

While unusual for a college student, Marcus is the only bank on our list to offer free incoming and outgoing wire transfers. This paired with a high savings APY makes it a uniquely attractive savings account.

There’s no ATM network with Marcus, so your savings account will need a third-party account to receive cash and make cash deposits.

How to Monitor Your Savings Account

The easiest way to keep tabs on your savings account is by using the mobile app, which all of the options we’ve shown you today have. Savings accounts don’t necessarily require a lot of activity on your part, especially if you set up direct deposits or roundups. It can also be helpful to set up automated alerts for your savings account, which will send you a text, email, or push notification when certain things happen to your account. For example, you can get alerts when you get a direct deposit, or when your balance drops below a certain amount. 

Paper or electronic statements can help you monitor the transactions on your account, which can help you analyze your saving habits; however, for convenience, you will probably want to opt for the mobile app. 

Why College Students Should Open a Savings Account

Even if you’re not working, it’s a good idea to open a savings account as a student for several reasons. First, it can be beneficial in the future to have a longstanding relationship with a bank or a credit union, which you establish by having open accounts over several years. A lengthy relationship with a bank may help you access capital or other financial products in the future. 

Second, even contributing a little bit can make a big difference in your financial future, largely due to a tool called compound interest, which is the interest you earn on a principal balance in addition to your interest earned. It means the more you save, the more you earn. Because of this snowball effect, starting your savings early, even if it’s not much, can make thousands of dollars of difference. 

Say, for example, at age twenty, you begin saving with an initial investment of $100. Throughout school and the rest of your career, you are able to contribute $25 per month to your savings account with an APY of 0.11% (the national average a the time of this writing). By the time you are sixty years old, you will have saved nearly $13,000. Conversely, if you save the same amount starting at age thirty, by the age of sixty, you’ll have less than $10,000. These are conservative numbers – a small initial investment and a manageable monthly contribution. But those ten years make a few thousand dollars worth of difference. No one expects college students to put away hundreds of dollars every month, but building small habits makes more of a difference than you may think.

What To Look For in a Savings Account

There are a few features to look for in a savings account, most of which are featured in all of our recommendations above. No fees are a huge plus, especially as a student when you may not have a steady and consistent stream of money coming in. You don’t want to be charged for using or accessing your own money. For the same reasons, you don’t want an account that requires you to have a high minimum deposit or maintain a high minimum balance. For obvious reasons, you want to look for the highest APY you can find – the higher the APY, the more interest you earn on your money, and the faster your interest compounds. 

Lastly, consider accessibility and ease. While you shouldn’t be aiming to make a lot of withdrawals or transactions from your savings account, you don’t want to have to jump through hoops to access your own money. Look for well-rated mobile apps and accounts that give you access to a good amount of convenient ATMs. It’s also not a bad idea to open a savings account where you hold your checking account to help you keep things organized. 

What Do You Need to Open a Savings Account?

To open a savings account on your own, you need to be at least eighteen years old, though your parent or guardian can help you open an account when you’re younger, and you may be grandfathered in when you turn eighteen.

You also need some form of identification, such as a driver’s license or state ID, birth certificate, social security card, or passport. You will also need to show proof of your address in the form of a driver’s license or state ID, lease agreement, utility bill, credit card, or bank statement (if you already have another bank account). If you are a student and opening a student account, you will likely need proof of acceptance at your school or a school ID. 

None of the accounts we have discussed above require a minimum deposit to open; however, it’s a good idea to open an account when you have at least a few dollars to put in. You’ll at least be earning some interest, and some accounts will require you to eventually deposit to prevent your account from closing. 

Final Thoughts 

Starting to save, even in college, is not impossible, and it’s a good move if you can do it. The 5-10 years you may gain from starting in your early twenties can make thousands of dollars worth of difference by the time you are ready to retire.

It can seem intimidating at first and feel pointless if you’re not able to contribute hundreds every month, but putting away what you can will help you build habits for when you do have a little more money. Start your research with our recommendations, but ultimately, make the decision that’s best for you. 

Author

  • Michael Pruser

    Michael is a graduate of the University of Miami with a degree in Mathematics. He's worked in the personal finance realm for more than 15 years, writing for Lending Tree, Business Insider, and many others. If you can't find him speaking at a financial conference, he's likely creating data-driven algorithms for fun.

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