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Students take ‘charge’ of banking

By Leah Marshall, For The Miami Student

College is an opportunity for first-year students to gain financial independence from their parents, whether that be paying for their education, taking out loans or simply opening their first bank account.

Miranda Strait, a personal banker at the Fifth Third branch in Oxford, said the bank focuses on Miami students - particularly on helping students set up bank accounts.

"We are geared more toward the student," Strait said. "Ninety percent of our customer base is students."

For some students, though, starting their first bank account is old news. First-year Lindsey States is paying for her education on her own.

"I was able to go to my parents and tell them that I wanted to pay for my own education," States said.

She took on two jobs and started saving. She decided it was important to her that she got on her own feet as quickly as possible.

In a survey, Citigroup and Seventeen Magazine discovered States is in the minority as just 18 percent of students pay their own way through school. A significant amount of others rely on financial aid, scholarships or their parents' incomes.

About half the college-age banking clients are still attached to their parents' bank accounts, Strait said. States has her own bank account and prefers the responsibility.

"I think it is very important to slowly start taking on my own bills so that I am better prepared to go out into the real world after I graduate," States said.

When it comes to preparedness, Strait cannot emphasize how important it is to be financially responsible.

"You see a lot of lost credit cards - lost and stolen credit cards, where their information was exposed and then they had fraud in the account and then there's a lot of maintenance involved in returning those funds," Strait said.

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While only about 30 percent of students are opening their very first accounts, many are being introduced to credit cards.

Credit card debt is fastest growing among people aged 18 to 24, as shown in an American Debt Organization study.

Strait noted most students she deals with are given debit cards, opposed to credit cards. Debit cards draw money directly from the account, and cannot be used if the account balance is insufficient.

"Just be aware of those account balances and be aware of overdrafts," Strait said.

Overdrawing the account is another common problem with college students, she said.

Overdrafts and other banking mistakes are easily avoidable now with all of the mobile banking tools available to students. Every bank located in Oxford has a mobile banking app that allows students to check their balances from smart phones.

Regardless of whether college students are paying for their own education or just opening their first bank account, being fiscally responsible is an important aspect of being a college student, Strait said.

"Just be diligent in checking, knowing what's going on in your account, checking your balances, taking advantage of all the resources that banks have now," she said.