In College and Starting Out

In college and just starting out as young adults, read along as these bloggers face a new stage and increased responsibility.

What is Free Going to Cost You?

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During the first month of school at American University there were people wearing royal blue polo shirts with clipboards walking around campus.

They approached you trying to get you to sign up for a bank account with a very well known and large banking institution. 

This bank is one of the biggest banks in the DC region, and they offer college students "free" checking and savings accounts, which is why they are all over our campus.  They advertise themselves as the biggest bank with the most locations in the district, where it is always easy to access your money.

All you have to do is sign up and your bank is located right on campus; they even have ATM machines in all of the dorms. You also get a Visa debit card. The card lets you take money out of ATMs and use it for debit transactions to make purchases at stores. 

Sounds good right? Well, after reading the fine print you learn that this "free" account is not so "free" after all. The "Blue Shirts" forgot to mention all of the fees that come with these accounts:

  • You pay a dollar every time you use an ATM machine. It doesn't matter whether you are depositing money or taking it out. That can get very pricy.
  • The fees for a debit card transaction are through the roof. You are charged $2.50 every time you make a purchase using their debit card.
  • Oh and don't forget, there is a $50 minimum that you must keep in your account. If at any point you drop below this amount, you are charged $40. If you overdraw your account, they charge you $40 per item.

So in summary, if you overdraw you account with 3 debit card transactions in the same day, get ready to cough up $120. The Blue Shirts do not mention any of this while you sign up for your "free" account. This information is available in the brochure/disclosures (in about 8 point font that you have to squint to read).

 So, here is my advice. Make sure you learn all of the details when signing up for things. There are tons of vendors that hang out on college campuses preying on unsuspecting college students.  All of these offers always seems like a good idea upfront, but read the fine print.  If it seems too be good to be true - it probably is!

If you are generally interested in opening up a bank account or finding a credit/debit card, shop around.  The internet is perfect for comparison shopping. This way, you are not tricked into paying fees. While this may seem like common sense, I cannot tell you how many of my friends are laying out extra money for the fees that the big bank is charging them, because they did not know all of the details when they signed up. 

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Ariel Levin

Ariel Levin is a contributing writer for In College & Starting Out. She will be attending American University in Washington DC in the fall of 2010.  She knows being in a city like Washington will pose challenges and financial temptations. She will share her experiences as a college freshman who is just starting out and learning to manage her money on her own. Compensated CareOne Blogger.

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