College students need cash and, just as important, someplace to put those dollars. So this time of year as school begins, many students will be in search of the best checking and savings accounts.

Here are a few things to consider.

Look broadly. You don't have to limit yourself to the bank on campus. Many financial institutions now offer remote check deposit and free ATM networks, so you can broaden your search to include online banks, credit unions and community banks.

"Some of the obstacles that existed three or five years ago to banking remotely are less prevalent today," said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for

And there's good reason to shop around. According to Bankrate, 72 percent of the 50 largest credit unions still offer free checking accounts. Banks, meanwhile, often require direct deposit or a minimum balance to avoid a monthly maintenance charge or other fees.

Student checking accounts are the exception, but you qualify for one only as long as you are a student. Once you turn 22 or 23, the student status typically goes away.

Where to start your search? Use websites that help you find and compare banks, such as Bankrate, GoBankingRates and NerdWallet.

To find credit unions, go to You have to become a member of a credit union in order to bank at one, and membership can depend on where you live, go to school or work, among other things.

Consider your banking needs. As you compare banks, think about what you need from a checking or savings account. For most students, maintaining a hefty minimum balance when you're working only part time or don't have a job is a challenge.

"Avoid anything that charges you for having too low of a monthly minimum balance," said Nico Leyva, partner relations manager for banking at NerdWallet.

Then, consider your banking needs and habits. Will you have access to fee-free ATMs at school, as well as when you travel home during school breaks? Will you receive paper checks and a debit card? Do you want to be able to go to a branch?

"A lot of studies show that students want to have access to a person in case of an emergency," said Leyva. "If you are worried about that and not 100 percent OK with talking to someone online or by phone, that's something to consider."

Look at maps of ATM and branch locations on a bank's website. See if the institution belongs to a network of fee-free ATMs or will reimburse ATM fees up to a limit, say $10 per month. Many banks and credit unions do.

Avoid overdrafts. You can't overdraw your checking account unless you sign up for overdraft protection, which allows you to pull money from your account even if you don't have sufficient funds. But the protection carries a steep price tag. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the average overdraft fee is $34.

Instead, make sure your bank lets you sign up for e-mail or texts that alert you when your balance is running low. Or see if you can have money automatically transferred from your savings to checking account if you overdraw. A fee may apply, but it's usually much smaller than an overdraft charge.

Carolyn Bigda writes for the Chicago Tribune.