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Banking Options Abound For Incoming Students

By Frank Dabek
NewsEditor

Of the myriad decisions facing freshmen as they arrive on campus, the choice of a bank may not seem as important as compared to choosing classes, choosing a place to live, and otherwise surviving rush.

While most of the available banking options feature similar offerings, including debit and credit cards, overdraft protection, and phone or on-line banking significant differences exist in the fees charged by the banks, their treatment of ATMs not owned by the bank, and in their convenience to campus.

Many freshmen may take advantage of a Massachusetts law known as the 18/65 law which requires banks to provide free checking to those 18 or younger.

Representatives from many banks will be advertising their services in the Student Center over the next week; however, due to licensing agreements BankBoston is the only bank authorized to actually open accounts in the Student Center.

BankBoston

If one speaks of banking alternatives in Boston, he is talking of alternatives to BankBoston. Created by the merger of BayBank and Bank Boston, this is the most visible banking option around campus with a branch office in the student center.

BankBoston representative Eridnia Peralta recommends the bank's "student value" package which includes a checking and companion savings package. The package includes overdraft protection, a debit card, and for those over 18 a credit card.

The package incurs no monthly fees for the first year and for each month there after a $6 fee per month. If a customer completes all transactions in a given month from an ATM, the monthly fee is reduced to $3. BankBoston charges a $1 fee to use a non BankBoston ATM. Peralta said that students can expect to "find a [BankBoston]ATM almost everywhere they go"

Cambridge Trust

One of the Davids going against the Goliath BankBoston, Cambridge Trust stresses its no fee approach to banking. Marketing Assistant Heather Kispert said that the bank's "ATM Convenience" account offers savings and checking accounts with no minimum balance and no monthly fee for as long as the account is active.

"The key word is all the time'," Kispert said, making the distinction between BankBoston's limited fee free period.

This account allows a user to write only 8 checks per billing cycle. Each additional check written carries a fee of $3. Each use of a out of network ATM carries a $1 fee.

For a $500 minimum balance (which will be waived if a paycheck is directly deposited to the account) a customer can upgrade to a "personal checking" account which allows an unlimited number of checks per cycle.

Cambridge Trust also offers a line of credit reserve including automatic payments from a savings account.

As a promotion for new students, the bank is offering two months of free access to it's online banking and a free copy of Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary in hardcover or on CD-ROM.

The nearest Cambridge Trust branch is in Kendall Square near the Coop or in University Park. Both branches are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and the University Park branch is open 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Citizen's Bank

Citizen's Bank, the third largest bank in the northeast, is another alternative to BankBoston. According to Customer Sales Representative Michael Torrielli, the bank offers the standard checking/savings package with a fixed rate credit card and an available debit card. The monthly fee for this account is $2.50, and each use of an out of network ATM incurs a charge of $1.75.

Citizen's also offers a form of overdraft protection which "links savings and checking accounts."

The nearest branch of Citizen's Bank is in the new Star Market at University Park. An ATM at the same location is accessible 24 hours a day.

Fleet Bank

The largest bank in Boston after BankBoston, Fleet offers a basic checking package with a $2.50 fee per month. Eight debits (either checks or ATMs) are free each month. Each transaction after the eight results in a $1 fee.

Another Fleet option, dubbed "Self Service Checking" requires that all banking be done via ATMs or electronically. This option has a $7.00 per month fee (reduced to $5.00 with direct deposit of a paycheck) and gives the user 20 free checks and unlimited ATM use. Each check after the 20 incurs a $0.50 charge.

The nearest Fleet ATM is located in the infinite corridor, the nearest branch is located in Central Square on Massachusetts Avenue.

USTrust

USTrust offers similar services to Cambridge Trust. USTrust accounts are "basically free" according to a sales representative.

There is no minimum balance required for the recommended package and no limit is placed on the number of transactions or ATM uses.

The nearest USTrust branches are located near One Kendall Square and in Central Square on Massachusetts Avenue.

Douglas E. Heimburger contributed to the reporting of this story