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How To Choose A College Checking Account & Debit Card

Learn more about why college students should have a checking account & debit card and what they should look for in one.

Going to college is an exciting time in any young person’s life. New friendships will be made, interesting adventures and experiences await, and many things will be learned in the classrooms.

Before moving into dorms and attending their first classes, however, students must make sure they have everything they will need to succeed. One of the most important things that college students should consider in their preparations is a college checking account and debit card.

What Are College Checking Accounts?

College checking accounts – also known as student checking accounts – operate the same as regular checking accounts. Students can make deposits, write checks, and make purchases with debit cards. The primary difference is that college checking accounts usually have fewer fees. Some are completely free.

There are several reasons why students should consider opening a college checking account before beginning their academic journeys. For many students, college is the first time they’ve ever lived away from home. Having quick access to money can be an important safety net for unexpected situations.

It teaches financial responsibility

Having a college checking account is a great way for students to learn how to manage their money. It teaches the importance of using budgets to prevent overspending. And if a student has either a part-time job off-campus or is part of a work-study program, he or she can learn first-hand about the importance of saving money.

Easy access to money

Students have expenses other than tuition and housing they should plan for. Having easy access to money is necessary to buy the things they need. Just a few things students may need money for include:

  • Groceries and living expenses
  • Taxis and rideshares
  • Travel
  • Concerts and events
  • Extra meals and snacks
  • School supplies
  • Incidentals


Using a debit card for large purchases instead of carrying cash is an important safety consideration. Debit cards are also commonly accepted and are convenient to take on school trips and vacations.

If a debit card is lost or stolen, the account holder can contact their credit union to have the card canceled and a new one issued. Fraud prevention is another important benefit of using debit cards. Students are protected if their card information is used to make fraudulent purchases.

In case of an emergency

Sometimes things happen that students couldn’t have foreseen or planned for. In the event of an emergency, a student needs quick access to cash to help him or her get through the situation.

Many students across the nation experienced a sudden interruption of their lives, for example, with the emergence of a global pandemic in 2020. Many schools closed to prevent the spread of the virus, and students had to make unexpected travel plans to return home. If an emergency occurs, a checking account with a debit card can prevent a bad situation from turning into something far worse.

What To Look For In A College Checking Account

If you are college-bound or you are the parent of a new college student, there are some things you should look for before applying to open a new college checking account. The best account will be the one that offers the most benefits with the fewest fees.

FDIC or NCUA insured

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is an agency of the U.S. Government that insures accounts at banks and savings institutions. The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) is another U.S. Government agency that insures accounts at credit unions. Both agencies insure account holders for up to $250,000.

Before opening a college checking account, make sure the financial institution is insured. If you aren’t sure, just ask. All banks and credit unions are required to display conspicuous signage indicating they are insured by either the FDIC or NCUA, respectively.

No balance minimums

The best college checking accounts are those that don’t have any minimum balance requirements. This allows you to open an account with a modest deposit and not have to worry about incurring fees if your account balance falls below a certain amount.

No monthly maintenance fees

College students should spend their time focused on their studies and earning good grades, and not worrying about monthly maintenance fees slowly depleting their checking accounts. The best college checking accounts will be free for students.

Local branches and ATMs

If you ever have a question about your college checking account, it’s nice to be able to talk to someone in person without having to travel far. A credit union with a branch on your school’s campus is ideal. On-campus branches enable students to conveniently and safely walk to their local branch in-between classes to make deposits, withdraw cash from the ATM, or ask questions.

24/7 online banking

Online banking allows students to continually monitor their accounts. If you aren’t sure of your current balance, for example, you can quickly check it using an app on your smartphone. This can help to prevent overdrafts or other problems.

Supports your school

A credit union that supports your school’s mission and contributes financially to academics, sports, and activities has a strong interest in the success of its students. A credit union may donate to your school, for example, when you make a purchase with your debit card. It’s a great way to support your school that doesn’t require any effort.

Open A College Checking Account Today

Opening a new college checking account with Listerhill Credit Union is quick and easy - plus it can come with a debit card that supports the University of North Alabama with every swipe.. Click below to learn more about Listerhill’s Keystone Debit Card and how it can help you support UNA.

Learn More About The UNA Keystone Debit Card

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • How am I eligible for membership at Listerhill if I don't live near a branch?

    You can become eligible for membership at Listerhill anywhere in Alabama if you join the Alabama Consumer Council or the Athens State Alumni Association. In Tennessee, you can also become eligible for membership if you join the Athens State Alumni Association. This membership is initiated at no cost to you and doesn't require any setup on your part outside of the normal application process to become a member of Listerhill.

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  • The Great Giveback Official Rules

    1. Eligibility: No purchase or obligation necessary to participate and win. All participants must be 19 years of age or older at time of contest participation. Employees of Listerhill Credit Union are not eligible to register for the contest.

    2. How To Enter the Contest: All Listerhill members who have consumer loans in good standing, (subject to limitations below) are automatically entered. Anyone who takes out a new loan with Listerhill Credit Union, or refinances a loan from another lender with Listerhill Credit Union (subject to limitations below) will automatically be entered to win. Limit of one entry per loan.

    NO PURCHASE NECESSARY: To enter the contest without a loan, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Listerhill Credit Union, P.O. Box 566, Sheffield, AL 35660, Attn: Great Giveback Contest Entry. Limit one entry per person. Written entries must be received no later than July 3, 2021.

    Listerhill Credit Union will not be responsible for incomplete, lost, late, misdirected or illegible entries or for failure to receive entries. All entries become property of Listerhill Credit Union and none will be returned. Any questions regarding the number of entries submitted shall be determined by Listerhill Credit Union in its sole discretion, and Listerhill Credit Union reserves the right to disqualify any entries by persons determined to be tampering with, violating, or abusing any aspect of the contest.

    3. Contest Entry Requirements: In the event the Credit Union, in its sole discretion, determines that any Entry contains content that does not comply with these Official Rules or does not otherwise comply with regulatory guidelines, Credit Union reserves the right to disqualify the entry.

    4. Determining the Winner: A Credit Union employee will select at random four (4) $500 winners (one per day July 12-15) and one Grand Prize Winner from all entries received on July 16, 2021. You do not have to be present to win.

    5. Prizes: $500 Cash Prize: the Credit Union will award four (4) members with $500 cash each. Grand Prize: The Credit Union will pay up to $25,000 toward your loan with Listerhill Credit Union, or combination of loans. No loan payments will be made to loans with any other lender. No cash equivalent provided, and the total prize amount may be less depending on the outstanding amount of loan balance(s) with Listerhill Credit Union. In no event will the prize awarded exceed the total amount of the winner’s outstanding balance of qualifying loans with Listerhill Credit Union. Federal, state and local taxes are the sole responsibility of the winner. IRS regulations require the Credit Union file a 1099 on behalf of the winner.

    A Credit Union employee will call the prize winners and the prize winners will be called up to five times during regular business hours at number provided on entry form and will leave no messages. Failure to reach winner during these calls may result in disqualification of winner, forfeiture of his or her interest in all prizes, and selection of a substitute winner drawn from the drum. Winner will be required to schedule a time, at least 48 hours in advance, to visit Listerhill Credit Union, located at 4790 2nd Street, Muscle Shoals AL, 35661 in person, during regular business hours within seven (7) days of being notified to claim prizes by providing proof of eligibility for prize won and completing and signing an affidavit of eligibility and a liability and publicity release. Failure of any Winner to timely contact the Credit Union, visit the above Credit Union office in person and sign and return any required affidavit and release, or to claim a prize or comply with any term or condition of these Official Rules, will result in drawing Winner's disqualification and the forfeiture of his or her interest in the prize. Winners may waive their right to receive prizes. Prizes are non-assignable and nontransferable. No substitutions allowed by winner.

    6. To be eligible to win, all loans must be in good standing (not more than 30 days past due at the time of drawing. Eligible loans are limited to auto loans (no indirect dealer loans), personal loans (no loans secured by real property, such as mortgages, 2nd mortgages, and Home Equity Lines of Credit) and recreation loans made to consumer borrowers (not business or commercial loans).

    6. Participation. By participating, entrants agree to be bound by these Official Rules and the decisions of the Contest. Except where prohibited, acceptance of any prize constitutes winner's consent to the publication of his or her name, biographical information and likeness in any media for any commercial or promotional purpose, without limitation the Internet, or further compensation. Prizes not won and claimed by eligible winners in accordance with these Official Rules will not be awarded and will remain the property of the Credit Union.