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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Editorial: Banking unaffordable for students

Published: February 11, 2011
Section: Editorials

As Brandeis students, we have quite a bit on our minds. That’s why it’s so easy to overlook the recent increase in student banking fees.

In the aftermath of new federal banking regulations, some local banks have decided to raise fees on students. Bank of America no longer offers a student checking account to new customers, charging students on a fee-schedule applicable to all customers. Citizens’ Bank, on the other hand, does offer a student account, but unless you keep a strict minimum balance or make a specified number of transactions each month, a monthly fee applies. This begs the question: who actually counts the number of debit card transactions they make?

Students are unlike other banking customers. Even a student who works can only do so part-time, and as such, we just can’t afford these fees.

And, with limited access to banks at Brandeis, it isn’t easy to switch banks when fees become unreasonable.

Some banks, such as Sovereign Bank and TD Bank have not changed their rules, continuing to offer free student checking accounts, but we fear that fees are inevitable. Plus, with laughable deposit rates especially for the average student who can’t afford to keep that much money in an account, banking with these banks remains unpalatable.

To make matters worse, ATMs on campus continue to charge fees to students who do not belong to the specified bank. This is wrong, and makes access to cash more difficult. As a condition for banks to keep ATMs on campus, Brandeis ought to require that ATM services be offered free of charge.

Until banks recognize the error of alienating their largest group of future customers, students have options. Call your bank at the first sign of a charge and complain. Threaten to close your account, and if the bank does not listen to your concerns, do so. Switch to accounts with no fees, such as those offered from online banks or local banks from your area. And when it comes to using local ATMs, find a bank that will refund ATM fees charged by other banks. One such local bank is TD Bank, which also offers a free student account.

Time constraints may make active participation in your banking difficult, and that’s why banking practices are unfair. But until policies change, remember this: all you have to lose is money.