What colleges and banks don't tell students bothers regulators, who are urging schools to be more open about their deals with banks.
They caution that information about overdraft fees and minimum balances, among other issues, sometimes is unclear, and students rarely find out how much banks pay colleges for doing business on campus.
The practice of marketing credit cards on campus -- one that critics said set up a dangerous debt scenario for some students -- ground to a halt with the CARD Act of 2009, which barred credit card companies from marketing products on campuses and required companies issuing credit cards to those younger than 21 to obtain a written application demonstrating the customer had income to make payments or a co-signer who could do so.
Today, favored banks typically set up tables during orientation, offering free checking, debit cards with school logos and programs that allow students to link college ID cards to their accounts and use them as debit or ATM cards.
Students can bank where they choose. But those who don't sign up at registration might get literature from the banks later, under terms of agreements that require schools to provide the banks with student lists.
Phillipie Motley, 18, a University of
"But after two weeks, I decided to sign up. It was fast, and it was the easiest way to do (banking)," Motley said, as he left the PNC branch at Nordenberg Hall.
Motley likes that he could link the account to his student ID. But he concedes he has no idea what the bank pays the college.
Most student accounts are small, but they amount to big business.
"Making these agreements available for all financial products shows schools' and companies' commitment to transparency, helping students and their families understand basic information about these products before you sign up," said
"Consumers tend to stay where they've started. Later, (students) may be customers for mortgages, brokerage accounts or money management," Sukits said.
"You can use social media and see the online footprint of students. Their social activities are very intermingled with their banking behavior," Kekre said. "These banks are slowly figuring out how bricks-and-mortar banks will have to change, going forward."
Although banks are reluctant to release information on college contracts, there's little question they value these customers.
"It is our policy not to disclose proprietary contracts, but Huntington's program with Ohio State is one of the most innovative in the country," said bank spokesman
Students who opt to bank with PNC can sign up for free online and mobile banking with no minimum balance. A calendar warns them when accounts run low and even includes dates of major school events.
But students prone to overdrafts should consider the cost. A study by the
He declined to discuss other specifics, citing contract requirements.
PNC's multi-year contracts with
Neither Penn State nor PNC would release details of their contract, but university spokeswoman
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