How to Set Up Your Finances for College

College StudentAs you go off to college, you’re probably taking care of a lot of details-where you’ll live, the things you’ll bring, the classes you’ll take. But have you thought about your financial details? As you get set up in this new stage of life, don’t forget to pay attention to your college finances.

Banking for College Students

If you don’t have one already, now is the time to get a bank account. Many banks offer free checking and even special perks for college students. Shop around to find a checking account that requires no minimum balance, has low fees, and plenty of ATMs and branches in your home area as well as the region where you’ll be going to school. You may find it helpful to sign up for your checking account at the bank where your parents have their accounts-some banks will reward your loyalty with extras like reward programs or waived requirements.

Editor’s note: I echo Jena’s comments here and would just add one thing. In addition to a checking account, find a good online savings account where you can automate and separate your short-term savings efforts. You’re never too young to start saving.

A Credit Card for College Students?

Consider whether or not you need a credit card. Some students like to sign up for cards in order to take advantage of rewards programs, or to have a reliable source of funds in case of an emergency. Credit cards are also useful if your parents are taking care of your expenses, as they can easily monitor and pay for your transactions. Of course, if you’re going to sign up for a credit card, be sure to do your research first. Don’t run to the first table in the student center that offers you a free T-shirt. Editor’s note: a wise reader pointed out that the CARD Act has actually put an end to free t-shirt offers.

Take the time to compare college student credit card offers to find the card with the best interest rate, fees, and perks like reward programs or special discounts.

Automate Your Finances

Automate as much as you can. You’re a busy college student now, and your time is better spending on getting work done and having fun than babysitting your bank account. And being so busy, it’s easy to forget to cash a check or take care of an important bill, so automation can help you stay on top of your finances. Set up direct deposit with your employer or automatic transfers from your parents. Take advantage of bill pay programs, or contact your accounts to set up automatic withdrawals for each payment so that it all happens hands free while you’re off doing other things.

College is an exciting time with lots of fun and new experiences. Get your finances set up right early on so that you can enjoy the freedom of a stress free financial life in college.

This guest post is contributed by Jena Ellis, who writes on the topics of Online Certificate Programs. She welcomes your questions and comments at her email Id:

Photo by db photographs

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  1. @Jenna – Good find. Thank for that. I’ll add it in.

  2. @PT – Quick Google search:
    Credit card issuers are no longer able to give away premiums (e.g., beach towels, t-shirts, teddy bears, baseball caps, iPods or other tangible items) on or near college campuses or at events sponsored by or related to a college in order to get college students to apply for a credit card. They can still set up tables on campus (only where permitted by the college) and put up take-one posters, but they won’t be able to use give-aways to convince college students to apply for credit cards they don’t need.

  3. @Jenna – Not sure about the shwag. But I know the colleges must now disclose when they work with the cc companies. Not sure what that will do.

  4. Isn’t it illegal with the new Credit Card Act to hand out freebies at colleges now?