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Bank accounts Updated: 01 Aug 2018

To be joint or individual. That is the question when it comes to college student checking accounts

Each year around August a new round of freshman begin to descend on colleges across the country, armed with everything needed for their first shot at independence. Of all the tools in their arsenal, a checking account might be one of the most important.

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For parents, the question of whether the account should be joint or individual is one that pits the notion that individual accounts provide more independence against the fact that joint accounts allow for oversight of spending and budgeting habits of their students. While there is no right answer, parents would do good to consider the following points:

How familiar their young people are with budgets and saving.

If the student has not been tasked with being held accountable for budgeting and saving of money in the past, parents may want to have more insight into the student’s spending - and saving - habits, particularly if there has been an agreement on how much the student will receive for a given period of time.

The level of access they want to the student’s account.

When young people have an individual account, banks are held to the same privacy policy as they would be with any other account holder. This means if the account is in the student’s name only, no information or access will be granted to anybody else. If parents want to see what is happening with their student’s account, it should be a joint account.

How responsible their student is.

College students are still young, so mistakes are likely to be made. Even so, it’s best to determine what type of money management skills the young person has so they don’t find themselves overdrawn, or constantly asking for money.

How regularly - if at all - they’ll want to contribute to the student’s account.

These days, with many money transfer services available, it’s relatively easy to transfer money from person to person and account to account. Even so, with a joint account a parent can set up recurring transfers, say from their own payroll direct deposit, that will make sending/receiving money and budgeting easier for both parent and student.

If they are willing to be on the hook for any overspending on the part of the student.

Co-signers on joint accounts are liable for the money in the account, meaning that if the student overdraws his/her account, the parent is accountable for it too. On the other hand, if the parent is tracking the account alongside the student, the chances that the account will become overdrawn are reduced.

For more on money management for students, read BBVA Compass MoneyFit’s Money Management Skills and Your College Student.