From textbooks to ramen and everything in between, college students make a lot of purchases during the semester. If you’re heading to campus this fall, you may be wondering how to manage and get the most out of your checking account. Below are a few simple tips that will help your finances excel and keep your studies (and fun) centerstage.
Need-to-know checking account tips for students
1. Check your balance and transaction history
Do you have a ballpark estimate of how much money is in your checking account? If not, you should start making a habit of regularly checking your account – especially if you don’t have a large balance (you’re not alone – most students have $51-$500 in their account).1 If you aren’t keeping track of your balance, you may unknowingly overspend. Or worse, you could overdraw your account and get dinged with a fee. Use Online Banking or your financial institution’s mobile app so you can check your balance whether you’re in the dorm or on the way to class.
Another crucial aspect of money management is keeping tabs on your transaction history. The easiest way to do this is through online or mobile banking. Both options allow you to access your transaction history securely from a device. Notice a pattern of eating out too much? Consider making more “home cooked” meals in your dorm to reduce food costs. Reviewing this information can also help you spot fraudulent charges. Just be sure to report any of these immediately to potentially minimize their impact.
2. Use card controls
Work smarter, not harder with Debit Card Controls. Use this online or mobile banking tool to set spend limits, restrict international or online purchases, and much more. Your debit card can only be used in ways you authorize, helping you commit to wise spending habits and curb fraudulent activity from others.
3. Lean on technology
You likely use a smartphone, laptop, or tablet every day. And with online or mobile banking, the devices you love become a part of your Money Management strategy. From mobile check deposit to online or mobile banking, your money is truly at your fingertips. Forget your wallet in the dorm? No problem. Digital wallets like Apple Pay®, Google Pay™, and Samsung Pay™ remove the need to even have your debit or credit card physically present. Instead of giving your card details or personal information to a merchant, digital wallets only send a single-use code. This way, your information is safe even in the event of a data breach. Plus, the pin, fingerprint, or facial recognition software on your device is used to authenticate purchases and offer additional protection.
4. Rebound from mistakes
No one is born with an intrinsic knowledge of finances. While you’ve likely picked up a few things leading up to today, no one expects you to be an expert in money management the second you step foot on campus. Mistakes happen! Overspend on a Spring Break trip? Adapt your budget to get back on track. Overdraw your checking account? Find an overdraft solution2 that’s right for you and keep an eye on your balance moving forward.
5. Use your resources
At school, resources like the library can help you succeed in a class. You can use the printer, post up at a table to study, and surf the web. Similarly, the best Credit Union will have complimentary resources geared at Improving the Quality of Your Financial Life. This may be webinars on spending, budgeting tools like Money Management, or financial counselors to offer you guidance.
The last thing you should have to worry about in college is fees throwing your budget off track. Luckily, GECU offers a free checking account option that’s easy to love: Simply Free Checking.3 Once open, you can take advantage of programs like Round-Up,4 which rounds your debit card purchases up to the nearest dollar and deposits the difference into your GECU savings account. Interested in becoming a Credit Union member? You’re eligible for membership if you live, work, or worship in select Ohio, Kentucky, or Indiana counties (yes, this includes future Bearcats and Musketeers!).