Rather than just signing up with the bank with the on-campus table, go online and compare 3-5 credit unions and banks against each other. Look for the banks that will hold your money at the lowest cost. In general, credit unions have lower fees than big national banks. Findabetterbank.com is a helpful site for comparison shopping.
Read the fine print and avoid fees
Before you sign up for an account, get the schedule of fees and other charges, including ATM fees, debit card monthly fees and insufficient funds charges so you know what to expect. If the bank doesn’t provide this information, we suggest banking elsewhere.
Avoid ATM fees
Find out how many ATMs for your bank are available on or near campus. This way you can avoid paying an ATM fee every time you need cash.
Avoid overdraft “coverage”
Overdraft coverage enables banks to automatically lend you money if you over-draft your account—while charging you a hefty fee. It’s better to manage your bank balance yourself. This way, if you accidentally overdraft, your card will be declined, but you won’t get slapped with any fees.
If you encounter a problem, tell a consumer watchdog
Alert OSPIRG’s Consumer Advocate if you experience a problem with your bank at [email protected]. Also notify the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB compiles a database of consumer complaints and may be able to help you take action. Find them at http://www.consumerfinance.gov/.