How Students Benefit From University-Bank Partnerships

College ID cards linked to checking accounts make banking easier for students.

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Nico Leyva
Nico Leyva
Banking in college can be a stressful activity for young adults. Many face their first real-world responsibilities now that they're not living with mom and dad, and part of the maturing process is learning how to manage their finances. Students have to learn how to track their spending, maintain a budget, monitor student loan funds and try to save a bit for the future. That's a lot to remember.

One way students can get a strong start is by opening a student checking account. These accounts are often better than standard checking accounts in that they are designed with students in mind. A recent NerdWallet study showed that student checking accounts at 10 of the largest banks could save students more than $110 each year. That extra cash comes from saving on ATM and monthly service fees.

Meanwhile, a new trend is emerging in the banking world that could further reduce the stress of money management for students by bringing the bank to school. Several universities have partnered with banks or credit unions to provide student checking accounts that are linked to student ID cards. As soon as you get your school ID, you can go to the partnering bank or credit union and connect it to an account.

The advantages.The biggest benefit these partnerships offer is a direct connection between students' banking and university needs. The card works as both your ID and your banking card (that's one less plastic card for students to worry about). For example, students at Arizona State University can get a Pitchfork ID MasterCard and access fitness centers, meal plans, sports events and academic advising. The ID is also a Midfirst Bank check card, accepted at any MasterCard location and ATM nationwide.

Some of these partnerships offer free gifts or technological benefits. University of Minnesota students receive free checking through TCF Bank with their university card. They also get a free University of Minnesota sweatshirt with their first $50 deposit.

The downsides. These are usually exclusive partnerships for the universities, so students don't have the opportunity to compare different banking options. For example, University of Central Florida students can only get a free UCF student checking account from Fairwinds Credit Union if they link their UCF student ID card to the account.

And accounts aren't always free. The Wells Fargo College Checking Account $3 monthly service fee is only waived when the account is linked to a partnering university's student ID card.

Before signing up. It's important to consider whether or not the bank or credit union has ATMs available on campus, since having a branch on campus is a valuable resource. Many student accounts convert to regular checking accounts at a certain age, so students should know how long the account is available to them. Finally, if banking on the go is a concern, students should choose a bank or credit union with a mobile website or app.

Nico Leyva writes for NerdWallet, a personal finance website dedicated to helping consumers make better banking decisions and find the best checking account.