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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 do I redeem my Merchandise Rewards?

    The easiest way to redeem your Merchandise Rewards is to log into Listerhill’s Online Banking and click the “Get Info” link to the right of your credit card information. This will take you to our credit card servicing site within the same window. Select “Rewards” on the upper right side within the screen (below FICO Score) and on the next screen, click on the CURewards logo. This will automatically sign you in to be able to redeem your Merchandise Rewards points!

  • What are the benefits of becoming a SEG partner organization?

    1. Completely free program and zero liability to your company.

    2. Easy to implement – requires no additional staffing or resource allocation.

    3. Builds employee loyalty and helps your organization stand out in a competitive employment market.

    4. Encourages financially stable employees through free on-site financial workshops.

    5. Initial on-site employee orientation; re-orientations and free financial seminars available. Once signed up, our SEG partner organizations are offered a free 30-40 minute on-site orientation to educate employees about the benefits of belonging to the Listerhill Credit Union financial cooperative. This informative and helpful session gives your employees a chance to ask questions and learn about the many benefits, products and services that membership provides them. Once on board, we also offer [INSERT PROGRAM NAME HERE] partner organizations free Lunch n’ Learn seminars for employees. Topics include creating a budget, paying for college, debt management and how to buy a home.

    6. Credit union support at benefit fairs and open enrollment.

    7. Same-day account opening – we can immediately assist your employees who would like to open an account during our visit.

    8. Free informational materials – We provide all materials at no charge, including brochures and financial wellness educational workbooks

    9. Free participation in employee benefits fairs, new employee orientation meetings and other organizational events.

    10. No hassle partnership – we do all the work!

  • How do your employees benefit from being a SEG?

    1. Lifetime credit union membership

    2. Competitive rates on a wide range of savings products like:

    • Share Savings
    • Money Market
    • Certificates
    • IRAs
    • My Goal Savings
    • Explorer Rewards

    3. A wide range of loan products like:

    • Auto loans
    • Personal loans
    • Recreational loans

    4. Competitive loan and savings rates.

    5. 24/7 account access with Smart ATMs, Online and Mobile Banking, or by telephone with Automated Access. The choice is yours.

    6. eStatements

    7. Overdraft protection

    8. Up to 3 overdraft refunds per year on us.

    9. First box of checks free when you open your new checking account.

    10. Free Visa debit card with rewards or a UNA Keystone Debit Card to show your #lionpride and give back to the University.

    11. Checking accounts with no minimum balance required.

    12. Interest-earning checking accounts

    13. Free Online Banking with features like:

    • Free Online Bill Pay
    • PopMoney
    • Notify Me Alerts
    • Personal Finance Manager

    14. 24/7 Access to Smart ATMS with features like:

    • Make a deposit
    • Get exact change
    • Make loan payments
    • Speak with a real, local representative

    15. Access to 5,000 CO-OP Shared Branches nationwide for easy access to your money wherever you go.

    16. Visa Platinum Cash Back card with 1% cash back on everything you buy.

    17. Visa Platinum Merchandise Rewards

    18. A full-service mortgage lending department and your mortgage stays with Listerhill for the life of the loan.

    19. A full-service financial planning department that gives you personalized, local service.

    20. Access to financial wellness education courses and information.

  • How does the Maintenance Fee contribute to Listerhill's sustainability?

    In the past, we charged a $10 Relationship Fee to help cover the cost of servicing members' accounts. We felt we could serve you better by removing this fee and establishing a lower fee based on your investment in the cooperative. Encouraging our members to save and borrow with us is key to Listerhill's sustainability, plus it creates value that it ultimately returned back to our member owners (like you!)

  • How can I avoid the new Maintenance Fee?

    You can avoid the new $5 Maintenance Fee entirely when you meet just one of the following requirements:

    • You or someone in your household has had a current loan or mortgage within the last 12 months.   

    • You or someone in your household has an open credit card    

    • You or someone in your household has an aggregate average daily balance of $1,000 in your accounts  

    • You or someone in your household has a relationship with our Listerhill Financial Services department   

    • You have paid at least $125 in NSF, Transfer, or Courtesy Pay fees for the month   

    • You are under the age of 25   

    • Your account is less than 90 days old   

    • You have paid a Return Mail Fee or an Inactive Account Fee for the month