Best High-Yield Savings Accounts for College Students

Saving money while you’re in college might sound like an impossible task. Especially, if you’re balancing limited income with school and other activities. But saving what you can now — even $50 extra dollars a month — in the right high-yield savings account today can set you up for success after graduation

While there are loads of college checking accounts, there aren’t as many savings accounts solely designed for students. But since there are many free savings accounts, don’t limit your search to offerings with a “college” label. If you’re at least 18 years old, you’re likely eligible for a high-yield savings account, which most online-only banks offer. 

Here are our top picks for the best high-yield savings accounts for college students that can serve you well while you’re still in school and when you’re ready to start your career.

Best high-yield savings account for college students

BMO Alto Online Savings Account

  • No minimum deposit or balance requirement 
  • Unlimited transfers and withdrawals
  • No cash or check deposits 
  • No branch or ATM deposit access 

Depending on where you go to school, you might have seen a BMO Harris bank branch. However, the Alto savings account is an online-only option. It currently has a competitive 4.50% APY that’s on par with a number of the best savings rates right now. 

While some banks limit you to six withdrawals or transfers per month for savings accounts, and charge you an excessive transfer fee each time you go over this threshold, BMO’s Alto account doesn’t. There aren’t any other fees to worry about, either. However, you won’t be able to deposit checks, cash or handle deposits at an ATM or BMO branch. You’ll need to arrange transfers from another account, instead. But BMO allows unlimited withdrawals and transfers.

Capital One 360 Performance Savings Account

  • No fees
  • Ability to set up multiple savings goals
  • Access to the Money & Life program
  • Physical branch access

Capital One’s 360 Performance Savings checks all the essential boxes – no fees, minimum balance requirements and a generous 4.15% APY. Plus, if you prefer in-person assistance with managing your money on campus or at home, Capital One has branches and cafes nationwide.  

Capital One sets itself apart with a mentoring program called Money & Life. You can get up to three free 60-minute coaching sessions, along with access to self-guided education to refine your personal finance skills. While these aren’t solely reserved for students, the program can make a huge difference in your financial journey. Other features we like include the automatic savings plan to schedule recurring transfers to reach your goal, mobile check deposit and the ability to manage multiple accounts via the mobile app.

Discover Online Savings Account

  • No fees
  • No minimum balance or deposit requirement
  • Overdraft protection when linking your checking and savings account
  • No cash deposits

Another widely recognized name in the credit card industry, Discover is also worth considering. The bank’s online savings account is a no-frills account with no fees attached. You’ll earn a 4.15% APY, and if you have a Discover checking account, you can set up overdraft protection to avoid overdraft fees on your everyday spending. The account does not come with an ATM card, but cash deposits are not available. You can deposit funds via direct deposit, online transfers or mailing a check or depositing it via the app.

Ally Savings Account

  • No fees
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • Saving buckets for working toward financial goals

Ally is one of the most recognized names among online-only banks — with good reason. The bank offers a 4.00% APY, and has several convenient app features. You can use Ally’s saving buckets to divide your money across several savings goals — like that spring break fund, car repair emergency stash and books for the semester. And you can round your transactions to the nearest dollar to add the spare change to your savings account. Lastly, we like Ally’s Surprise Savings tool which analyzes your linked checking accounts to identify opportunities to move more to your savings account.

PNC Virtual Wallet Student

  • No monthly fees or minimum balance requirements for six years from account opening date
  • Robust suite of budgeting tools
  • May qualify for a $100 bonus
  • Banking access available online and at a nearby branch 

PNC’s Virtual Wallet Student account is a combination of checking and savings accounts with an additional reserve account for short-term planning. The account  has a range of helpful tools for saving, spending and tracking where your dollars are going. The bank regularly offers a $100 sign-up bonus for new student customers in certain locations who make 10 debit card transactions within the first 60 days. This account is free for the first six years after you open an account, but does require a $25 minimum deposit. After six years, the monthly maintenance fee goes up to $7, but can be waived if you meet certain requirements.

We like that this account is free and comes with the ability to set savings goals and low-cash mode notifications. But it doesn’t earn interest. However, the PNC Virtual Wallet Student account may be a good fit if you want to keep both of your accounts under the same roof. And you’ll have online and branch access to your money.

SoFi Student Checking and Saving Account

  • No fees
  • No minimum balance
  • $10 sign-up bonus when you deposit $10 within the first five days of account opening
  • Both a checking and savings account option 

SoFi is an online-only bank that with a good savings APY. This account doesn’t have fees and is geared toward college students. When you open the account, it will also create a checking account for you — so if you’re not looking to move your checking, you might consider a different high-yield savings option. But it’s checking account is one of the best around, if you don’t mind online banking. You’ll earn 4.20% APY on your savings and 1.20% on checking balances as long as you have direct deposit set up — a rare offer for a free checking account. No minimum direct deposit amount is required.

We also like that SoFi offers a convenient round-up option to automatically move remaining cash from a purchase into your savings account. And you can make cash deposits at Green Dot retailers.

The difference between a high-yield savings account and a savings account for college students

High-yield savings accounts are designed to deliver higher returns on your money than traditional savings accounts. But in some cases, they come with extra hurdles you’ll need to clear, such as hitting a minimum balance threshold. Savings accounts for college students, on the other hand, typically don’t have as many requirements. They’re designed to be an entry point for young adults who are not earning much cash. With that in mind, they typically don’t charge fees.

However, you don’t have to limit your search to student savings accounts to get these same benefits. Many of the best high-yield savings accounts don’t charge fees or have any opening deposit requirements.

What should college students look for in a savings account?

If you’re trying to get into the routine of saving while still in school, here’s what to look for when choosing the perfect place to park your savings: 

  • No minimum balance or direct deposit requirement: You may not have steady income right now. And even if you are making extra cash, it may not be enough to meet some savings account balance requirements. With that in mind, make sure the savings account doesn’t have any balance requirements to eliminate this stress. 
  • No fees: Don’t pay to stash your cash. In college, you shouldn’t have to worry about forking over a monthly fee just to park your money. And the fees can eat away at any interest you earn. 
  • Tech tools: It’s 2023, and your bank or credit union experience should deliver all the typical bells and whistles digitally. Most banks offer a website and mobile app to manage your account. Make sure that the account offers convenient online and mobile tools that will make your life easy.
  • Interest: There are many banks and credit unions paying impressive APYs for deposits right now. The interest you earn is like free money. Before opening an account, compare interest rates to get the best return but keep financial literacy top of mind.

The bottom line

No matter what you’re interested in learning while you’re in college, you’ll need to master one essential skill for success after you graduate: how to save. Start searching for the right fit for your finances and open one today.

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