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Savings and chequing accounts for students

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As a student, you almost certainly need to have a bank account. Whether it’s paying bills, depositing earnings summer or part-time job, or cashing cheques, a bank account will come in handy throughout the year. You probably already have an account. But if not, banks offer specialized chequing and savings accounts geared to students.

The basics

Before we take a look at bank accounts that are designed for students, a quick recap of savings and chequing accounts might be helpful. Savings and chequing accounts may seem similar, but there are some important differences. Depending on your circumstances, you might opt for one or the other, or even both.

Savings accounts

As the name implies, savings accounts are meant for putting money away. They’re a way to take money you’ve earned or been given, and park it away for a later time when you might need it. It could be for major purchases, to repay student debt or even to take that vacation when school is finished. When you deposit your money with a bank in a savings account, the bank pays you interest because it uses your funds for things like loans (your money is still always available to you, however).

Chequing accounts

Unlike savings accounts, chequing accounts aren’t for putting money away. They’re used for transactions. Typical transactions include ATM withdrawals, debit card payments, and e-transfers. These are on top of the obvious, namely the writing of cheques for things like bills. In short, chequing accounts are meant for the sort of everyday banking people do.

Student savings accounts

Banks offer special savings accounts for students with features designed to win your business. Here are some notable aspects that often come with student savings accounts:

  • A certain number of free debit transactions
  • No monthly fee
  • Free transfers

Interest

Student savings accounts do pay interest, of course. However, rates aren’t very high right now due to low overall interest rates. It’s common to earn between 0.05% and 0.25% if your balance is less than $5,000. That said, it’s more than you’ll make from a chequing account, which does not usually pay any interest at all.

High-interest savings accounts

If interest is what you’re looking for as a student saver, you might be better off looking at a (non-student) high-interest savings account. These accounts, which sometimes come with no minimum balance required, pay substantially greater interest rates than typical savings accounts (student or otherwise). For example, according to RateHub.ca, the best high-interest savings accounts currently pay between 1.05% and 2.25%.

Student chequing accounts

Banks also offer chequing accounts geared for students. These accounts usually have some features not available to non-students. For example, you might encounter the following with a student chequing account:

  • No monthly fee
  • No minimum balance
  • Free deposits
  • A large number of included debit transactions (for example, withdrawals, debit card transactions, etc.)

What account should you get?

As a student, you’ll probably want at least a chequing account. That’s because you’ll likely have ongoing bills to pay (rent, utilities, etc.) as well as the need to make debit card purchases when buying things like groceries. With a chequing account, a certain number of these transactions will be included at no extra cost to you.

If you’re starting to earn money that’s not needed for day-to-day expenses, you may also want to consider a savings account. Just remember not to get in the habit of using a savings account for making regular debit transactions. Some banks charge very high fees ($5 is not uncommon) for each debit transaction that’s not included in your savings account package. And as always, the more the bank earns in fees, the less you’ll have for yourself.

RateHub.ca is an independent website that compares Canadian mortgage rates, credit cards, deposit rates and insurance. Its goal is to empower Canadians to search smarter and save money.