College students face a variety of options on campus for accessing financial products. As regulations around the marketing of private student loans and school-branded credit cards have tightened in recent years, financial firms have increasingly marketed campus banking products to colleges, universities, and their students. Financial aid refund disbursement services, student ID cards linked to bank accounts or prepaid cards, and student checking and savings accounts are now common across U.S. campuses. While these products can be convenient for students and cost-effective for colleges and universities, certain campus banking products have come under scrutiny for their controversial fees and policies. Banking agreements between schools and financial firms may result in arrangements that expose students to aggressive marketing tactics, high or unusual fees, and restricted choices for managing their money.
Consumer Reports reviewed campus banking product offerings from nine financial firms, to compare their terms and calculate their average costs. We found that while some campus banking products offered simple, low-cost fee structures and convenient access to funds, others came with high or multiple usage fees that added up to significant annual costs for those who use their cards frequently.