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Given the confused campus card marketplace, students often have a hard time finding the right card and end up with an account littered with fees and inconveniences. Here is a list of Do's and Don'ts to enable students to navigate the marketplace and be aware of the tricks and traps of these cards.
DO Shop around
Every good consumer knows that in order to get the biggest bang for your buck—or in this case, the best bank for your buck—you have to weigh all of your options. Don’t just sign up for the campus banking option without shopping around first.
DON’T Get an account if you haven’t read and understood the fine print
Before you open an account, you should ask for and read information about the account—banks will usually not be upfront about everything, and not knowing could cost you.
DO Find out the access you will have to your money
Before you sign up for a checking account, do some research and find out how many ATMs for your bank are available on campus. You don’t want to end up having to pay a fee every time you need cash.
DON’T Opt in to overdraft “coverage”
Overdraft coverage enables banks to do automatic over-drafting when you have no money in your account and charge you a hefty fee. It’s better to let your card be declined at point-of-sale and at ATMs.
DO Read the fine print
Banks may insert additional or surprising fees into the small print that could cost you, such as a fee for not using your account or a major fee for using other ATMs.
DON’T Overdraft your account
There is usually a large fee for over-drafting—$34 on average! If you are forced to overdraw your account, then only make one withdrawal, since you will incur a fee per transaction. Return your balance to positive as soon as possible otherwise you could be charged recurring daily overdraft fee as high as $30.
DO Complain to your campus administration if you encounter a problem with a campus debit card
The campus administration has negotiated a contract with a campus debit card provider and has the ultimate authority to re-negotiate the contract.
DON’T Hesitate to tell an off campus watchdog if you encounter a problem
The US Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General collects complaints from anyone suspecting fraud, waste or abuse involving federal student aid funds. You can reach them at 1-800-MISUSED. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will also take your complaint or hear your story online or over the phone. Find them at consumerfinance.gov.
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