Student chequing accounts
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Natasha Macmillan, Business Unit Director - Everyday Banking
Kids get a pretty good deal when it comes to banking. Like youth, students can also get special discounts on bank accounts when they are attending a post-secondary institution, and long past the age of 19. Keep reading to find out more.
What are student bank accounts?
Student chequing accounts are bank accounts designed to help post-secondary students save money on fees, for as long as they’re in school. While each bank has its own specific requirements to open a student account, you will always need to be enrolled (usually full-time) in a post-secondary program at a recognized educational institution such as a university, community college, or CEGEP, to open an account. You must also be within a defined age range, typically 18-25 years old, though this can vary.
What are the advantages of student chequing accounts?
On top of the fact that student chequing accounts typically come with no or low monthly fees, some of their other advantages include:
- Unlimited or numerous debit transactions per month
- Low (or no) minimum initial deposit or balance requirements
- A specified number of free email money transfers
- Rebates toward the annual fee of certain credit cards
What is needed to apply for a student chequing account?
As with all bank accounts, two pieces of ID are required to apply for a student bank account in Canada. In addition, the bank will usually ask you for proof of enrollment in a full-time post-secondary program. In some cases, the account will only stay open for four years – the length of many college and university programs. If you remain enrolled for longer than that, you will then need to re-apply, again with proof of enrollment, in order to keep the account.
How to choose the best student chequing account
Depending on how you intend to use the account, different options may be more enticing. Here are some questions to ask yourself, before you decide which account to open:
- Do you need unlimited transactions, or are you ok with the limited number included, such as 30 transactions per month?
- If having unlimited transactions means paying a monthly fee, is the fee worth it? Compare that monthly fee vs. the transactional fees for other accounts.
- How important is ATM access to you? Does the financial institution you’re considering have ATMs close to your house and/or campus? Or will you be doing mostly online banking?
- Check out sign-up offers. Most banks feature incentives to get you signed up for their accounts. These can vary from cash bonuses to gift cards, so take a look at each account's offerings. That being said, going with a particular bank because of its sign-up bonus can make you stuck with a provider you're not entirely happy with.
What happens when you’re no longer a student
When you submit your final exam and graduate from your program, your bank will, in most cases, automatically switch you over to a chequing account. If you read the fine print on your bank’s website, you should find some language that says they will open an account consistent with your past transaction history.
What this means is that if you were constantly making debit transactions or email money transfers, the bank will open an account geared towards that activity. For instance, they might choose one that has unlimited debit transactions.
The obvious risk in this situation is that you get put in an account that has substantial fees you would like to avoid. One way to get around this potential issue is to tell the bank the specific account you would like, in advance of your student account automatically being closed.
When student accounts aren’t the best deal
You might be a student, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a student chequing account is the best fit for you. The “best” chequing account is the one that best meets your needs. For example, if you’re looking for unlimited transactions on a student budget, you might want to open a no-fee chequing account, which has unlimited transactions and no monthly fee. However, because no fee chequing accounts are offered by smaller lenders and credit unions, you may have limited access to ATMs. If you use your debit card at ATMs not associated with your lender, you will be “dinged” with transaction fees. No-fee chequing accounts also tend to be no-frills and usually don’t offer features such as e-transfers or overdraft protection.
If you’re a student looking to open a chequing account, think realistically about your habits, the types of transactions you’ll be making, and how often you’ll do it.