SunTrust targets students with new checking fee

Pencils with ABC blocks

Now that financial reform has curtailed banks from peddling products and services on college campuses, SunTrust has found a new way to pick student pockets: a $4 student checking fee.

Beginning next March, SunTrust will charge a $4 monthly maintenance fee to student checking account holders who fail to do one of the following:

1. Make one direct payroll deposit of at least $100 per month.
2. Maintain a $300 daily collected balance.
3. Maintain a $300 balance in their parent or guardian's linked account.

SunTrust, which has nearly 1,700 branches in seven Southwest states and Washington, D.C., currently charges no monthly fees and has no minimum balance requirements on its student checking accounts.

It certainly doesn't take a college grad to recognize this as a compelling reason to seek another bank.

And it gets worse.

SunTrust also announced a new $5 monthly fee for the privilege of using its debit card.

So what if a debit transaction costs the bank virtually nothing compared to the heavy lifting of a physical check.

Look at how much more convenient it is to not have to lug around that checkbook! Now isn't that worth a little $5 monthly tip, freshman?

In a word: no.

Both of these fees are SunTrust's way of seeing if you're still awake or would miss $9 a month.

Another view is that SunTrust can't be bothered to service the measly banking needs of cash-strapped students or their tuition-broke parents.

SunTrust certainly isn't alone in sticking up students. Here's a look at the student checking fees at other banks:

Bank of America: $8.95 per month, waived if you use online banking exclusively.

Chase: $6 per month, waived for first five years you own the account or with automatic deposit.

Wells Fargo: $5, waived with linked savings account.

Fortunately, for every bank that has bumped student fees, there's one that still has pity on the college student. Community banks and credit unions also may offer great student accounts.

If the choice is limited to big bank brands in your college town, you can still get find a full-featured student account with no monthly service fees and little or no minimum deposit at Citibank, Fifth Third Bank, TD Bank and U.S. Bank.

We'll see if that lasts through the football season.

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