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Thursday, August 23, 2012

University Credit Unions Can Be Good Choice for Student Banking


″Students heading to college generally prefer a bank that's convenient to campus and doesn't charge a lot of fees. A new report from the Web site Nerdwallet.com suggests that university credit unions, when available, are often a better deal for students than big banks.

The site looked at about 80 universities and found that most of the time,  student accounts at university credit unions offered lower fees, better access and more perks than big banks. (The report focused on options with brick-and-mortar branches, rather than online-only banks or other nontraditional banking outlets, on the theory that many students may be new to money management and that they - or their parents - prefer to have teller assistance available if needed, said Stephanie Wei, a vice president at Nerdwallet).

Free student checking is alive and well, at both banks and credit unions. But credit unions charge less for out-of-network A.T.M. transac tions, and many offer a specific number of free out-of-network transactions per month, Nerdwallet found.

University credit unions, which typically serve students as well as university employees, also tend to be located where students can easily reach them. University credit unions had branches on campus more often than banks and offered more surcharge-free A.T.M.'s near campus. (Nearly three-fourths of university credit unions in Nerdwallet's report had branches on campus, compared with just over half of banks).

And the credit unions tended to offer more perks - like financial literacy classes, or even gift certificates for students who maintain good grades.

To help students compare options, Nerdwallet has designed a helpful tool that lets you see what options are available near your school. Say you're heading to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “UMassFive College Credit Union” beats Bank of America “with lower fees and better accessibility a nd perks,” the tool informs you, before adding details of on-campus A.T.M.'s and other features.

Off to the Georgia Institute of Technology? It's a bit of a closer match, in a competition with Wells Fargo, but the tool says the credit union still wins: “Georgia United Credit Union wins this match by offering truly free checking with low fees.”

Do you or your child bank with a university credit union? Are you a satisfied customer?