Eight ways to prepare your finances for college

Parents sitting with their college age student

You may be prepared for college, but is your money? Make sure with these steps.

In your final years of high school, you’re likely doing a lot to get ready for college: making campus visits, taking the SATs, and even picking out dorm décor. But if your idea of college financial prep is just relocating your piggy bank to your dorm room, you should consider upgrading your fiscal practices.

Here are eight things you can do while in high school to make sure you and your money are prepared for the transition to college.

Set up a teen checking account. There’s no need to wait until freshman year of college: Teens age 13 to 17 can open a checking account with an adult co-owner (hi, Mom and Dad). Having a checking account can allow you to deposit your own money and start actively using a debit card: You can use your card to get cash at ATMs or to make purchases on your own

Set up account alerts. While you’re getting used to managing your account, set up account alerts to notify you if your balance goes below a certain threshold. This may help you avoid an overdraft on your account, which can occur when you spend more than you have in your account (and can result in fees!).1

Download and use your bank’s mobile app. Once you have your checking account set up, download your bank’s mobile app and log in. It’s good to get in the habit of checking your account balance regularly, so you can monitor where your money is going and to look for unauthorized, suspicious activity. Speaking of which…

Know how to report fraud. With any luck, it won’t happen to you, but you should know how to properly respond to and report fraud (e.g., purchases on your card that you did not make) just in case. If you suspect fraud, contact us immediately. All it typically takes is a phone call to your bank. With Wells Fargo, if you misplace your debit card but don’t suspect it’s been stolen, you can easily turn your debit card off and then turn it back on when you find it.2 Just Sign on to Wells Fargo Online® or log into your Wells Fargo Mobile® app to access “Turn Card On or Off.”3

Make sure your parents can transfer money into your checking account. Remember that authorized co-owner? They can transfer money to you as needed — like for your monthly cell phone bill or to pay for books for the new semester. Just know they have access to your account and can see your card activity — so you actually need to use the money they give you the way they want you to!

Know how to use Zelle®. Zelle is a super-convenient feature for college students: It allows you to send and request money in minutes with people you know and trust using the Wells Fargo Mobile app. Need your friends to reimburse you for buying everyone pizza? Request money using Zelle. Owe money to your sister for a concert ticket? Send it via Zelle. All you need to know is your friends’ email address or U.S. mobile phone number.4

Be aware of your credit. Credit is important as you think about life after college — from getting a job to renting your own apartment. While you may be too young to have a credit history or credit score, it’s still important to make sure you know what credit is. And if you need to start building credit …

Think about getting a credit card in college. In the future, you may want a credit card. Having a credit card is one way to establish credit, but getting a credit card shouldn’t be taken lightly: Unlike a debit card, where you’re spending money you have in your checking account, credit cards allow you to borrow money from the credit card issuer up to a certain limit, and then they bill you. As you can see, you can easily overspend and not have the ability to pay back what you owe.

Learn more about accounts for college students and how to pay for essentials when you’re away at school. Go now.

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