Banking on Students

By Stacy A. Anderson
Special to
Friday, June 2, 2006; 12:26 PM

Brittani Riddle, a sophomore radio production major at Howard University, visits a Web site periodically throughout the day -- once in the morning on her personal laptop at home; another time on her sidekick while sitting through a dull afternoon poetry class; and again on her laptop after making purchases from a Giant grocery store.

Riddle is not visiting the social network Facebook or Web mail. The focus of her obsession is the Bank of America Web site, where she checks the fluctuating balance of her CampusEdge account throughout the day.

"It saves me the trouble of having to go to the bank. I can see what's going on with my account before I make a purchase," she said. "Since I don't live at home any more, I don't get my statements, and it's easier for me to see them online."

Riddle's is the most plugged-in generation in history, and its affinity for the online world extends to money matters -- in particular Internet banking.

"I have only spoken to a bank teller twice in my life," said George Washington University graduate student Danielle Duffy. "I do all my banking, transferring, withdrawing and depositing via the Internet or ATMs. I only use my checkbook for my rent -- but even my apartment complex has begun an online rent-paying system."

Several experts say banks have always targeted college students but are pushing harder in recent years with more innovative features geared toward the younger generation.

John Burnett, an associate editor for, an online banking network that received 2 million user "hits" in one day for the first time in March, said bank efforts to capture college student customers have changed drastically over the years.

"Back when I was in college, banks typically went after college students with credit card deals, where as now the interest is in checking accounts," said Burnett, who handled operations, regulatory and legal compliance at Cape Cod Banks and Trust for more than 30 years.

"The focus has shifted completely to a depositing relationship with college students. ... [Banks] don't have to put up as much to attract students. They don't need as much of a staff and branching network."

Point and Click

According to a survey released in April by Reston, Va.-based ComScore Networks, the number of consumers who use online banking has increased by 27 percent since last year. It's no surprise that a large number of this percentage include college students, since most student accounts feature free online banking and free bill pay.

A 2005 survey on financial literacy programs by the Customer Bank Association found that 86 percent of banks surveyed target the general student population and 41 percent use the Internet for college student financial education.

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