Penny Pinching

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By Jeff Lagerquist

With the first month of school now over, many Ryerson students are coming to terms with the reality of financial responsibility for the first time. But even money-smart students may not be aware of all their options — particularly when it comes to saving their hard-earned cash.

After all, it’s not always enough to live between paycheques. Instead, student bank accounts are often the best way to keep cash flow under control, and penny-pinching to a minimum.

Such accounts are similar to those offered to regular clients, and are available to anyone pursuing a full-time post secondary education. However, students pay no monthly fees, and have more free transactions than a mid-range account.

In fact, the number of monthly transactions offered and access to local ATMs are important factors when choosing a financial institution, especially considering the way students manage their money.

“Students tend to carry very little cash — in most cases around $20,” said Graham Flanagan, a Scotiabank branch manager and professor at the University of Toronto, Guelph and George Brown College. “Most hit the ATMs about three times a week.”

17-year-old Alex Young banks with TD Canada Trust, and pays no fees because of her age. The first year undeclared science student said she uses her debit card about “twice a day, or at least 60 times a month.”

Meanwhile, fourth year of business management Filip Oliver, 23, makes around 30 transactions every month from two accounts and a Visa card. He pays TD Canada Trust $20 per month for the privilege.

“I have some students that don’t even know how much they’re paying for school,” said Laura Grisolia, a third-year accounting major who represents the business management program on the Ryerson Commerce Society board of directors. Grisolia is also a facilitator this semester for BUS 100, an introductory business course.

The excessive card swiping demonstrated by younger students is often coupled with a culture of blissful ignorance around matters of finance. She emphasizes the need for students to be proactive with their banking, and discuss their finances with an advisor instead. Some branches have tax-free savings accounts that are available once a client turns 18, for example.

But if banking with the “big five” isn’t for you, a credit union may be more your style. Credit unions offer all the same services as a conventional bank, but are owned and controlled equally by members, and not by the largest shareholders.

In fact, Ryerson has had its own credit union on campus for over 30 years, Alterna Savings in POD 158. But even then, Edward McDonald, manager of the Ryerson branch, admits that the number of student clients is low. “We’re the best kept secret on campus,” he said.

Whether it’s a conventional bank or a credit union that best suits your needs, one thing is clear — financial institutions want your business and they are willing to get creative in order to get a student’s attention.

Facebook and Twitter are two of the latest mediums financial institutions are using to engage the student demographic.

For example, the TD Canada Trust Money Lounge on Facebook encourages students to discuss the financial side of going to school, but not without a healthy dose of contests and giveaways — including concerts featuring such acts as Metric and OK Go.

But incentives aside, its clear that students need to pay more attention to their financial situations than they might think. That means making your bank work for you, and managing your money for when you may need it most.

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