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Bank Options for the Savvy Student

By Jon Sheffi and

Laura McGrath Moulton


This article is the first in a series intended to introduce freshmen to life in Boston and at the Institute. Future installments will deal with other necessities of life at MIT, including long distance telephone services, dining options, and purchasing textbooks.

The greater Boston area is home to a number of banking options. Although students are likely to be exposed first to Fleet Bank, which has an exclusive right to open new accounts in the Student Center, several other financial establishments exist nearby, including Cambridge Trust, Citizens Bank, Sovereign Bank New England, and Wainwright Bank.

Cambridge Trust

Cambridge Trust Company is smaller than Fleet, with offices in University Park and Kendall Square. They offer an ATM Convenience account with no minimum balance or monthly fee. Students can apply for overdraft protection.

Customers can write up to eight checks per monthly cycle with no charge. Each additional check is $3.00. Unlimited ATM, point of sale, and debit transactions are allowed. Customers over eighteen can obtain MasterCard credit cards.

Cambridge Trust is also part of the SUM network, a consortium of smaller banks throughout lower New England. Customers of banks belonging to the SUM network incur no charges while using SUM ATMs. However, the ATMs on main campus belong to Fleet, which does not belong to SUM.

Cambridge Trust allows exclusively web-based online banking at $5.00 per month plus $0.40 per bill paid. The bank offers two months of free online banking.

Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank’s closest branch to campus is on Sidney Street. Citizens Bank offers several checking and savings account options.

Combined Checking and Saving are linked accounts. Customers must keep $3500 in the combined accounts or $750 in checking and $250 in savings respectively to avoid monthly charges of $14.00 for the checking account and $3.00 for the savings account.

Basic Checking and Savings accounts are also linked. Basic Checking has a monthly fee of $3.00 and a limit of twelve withdrawals per month, with a charge of $2.00 per transaction beyond twelve. Basic Savings has a monthly fee of $1.00 which can be waived by maintaining a $100 balance. Customers are limited to six withdrawals per month.

Citizens is online and customers can use web-based banking for free.

Sovereign Bank New England

Sovereign Bank New England arrived in the Boston area during the past year after it purchased Fleet and BankBoston branches as a mandated condition of their merger. The Sovereign branch closest to MIT is located at 515 Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square. In Boston, Sovereign has many branches including two on Beacon Street and one in Kenmore Square.

Sovereign offers several checking account options, including Basic Checking and Access Checking. Basic Checking carries a monthly charge of $2.50 as well as $0.75 charges for each debit transaction above ten per month. Access Checking is geared toward customers who use electronic banking. It carries a monthly charge of $6.75 ($4.75 with direct deposit). There is a charge of $0.50 for each teller transaction as well as for each check beyond twenty per month.

Basic Statement Savings charges $1.00 per month if the minimum daily balance drops below $250. Regular Statement Savings charges $3.50 per month if the minimum daily balance drops below $400.

Network fees may be charged for transactions at non-Sovereign ATMs.

Wainwright Bank

Wainwright Bank is a local bank with a branch located near the Kendall Square T stop. According to its website, the bank “resolves to be a leading socially responsible bank.”

Basic Checking requires no minimum balance but charges $1.00 per check over five per month. Value Checking waives the $3.00 monthly fee and the $0.25 per check fee if a $500 minimum balance is maintained or if direct deposit is used.

Basic Savings waives the $1.00 monthly fee if a minimum balance of $10.00 is maintained. Statement Savings waives the $2.50 monthly fee if a minimum balance of $250 is maintained. Statement Savings offers a slightly higher interest rate than Basic Savings, currently at three percent.

Wainwright Bank does not charge fees for use of non-Wainwright ATMs. Wainwright is also part of the SUM network.

Fleet Bank

Fleet has branches in the Stratton Student Center and on Main Street near the Coop. Many students choose to enroll in Fleet's self-service checking account at $5.00 per month, or $3.00 per month if direct deposit of paychecks is used.

Self-service checking provides twenty checks per month with a $0.50 fee for each additional check and unlimited usage of ATM and debit cards. Fleet also offers Visa credit cards. There is a $2.00 fee for each deposit, withdrawal, or account inquiry made in person or over the phone to a service representative at a Fleet branch or using Fleet telephone banking. A $50 initial deposit is required to open the account.

A fee of $4.00 monthly for the Regular Savings accounts can be waived if the balance is greater than $500.

Fleet customers can use both web-based and software banking for free, unless bills are paid through the Internet, in which case the fee is $4.50 per month. The web interface, however, must be requested.

The information presented in the article was gathered from marketing representatives of the respective banks and online research.