College Finances 101: Millennial Money Management

By Kristyn Zylka

College is usually the first time that students start to manage money.  Tuition, text books, food, personal supplies, dorm room décor and other expenses can add up quickly.  While many students may take on a part time job or a paid internship in order to subsidize the many costs related to their college education, not everyone is prepared for the challenge.  Many students make mistakes that have long term financial consequences.  Therefore, it is essential to begin establishing good budgeting habits early on, in order to avoid the many pitfalls that can derail one’s future.  Picking the right bank is usually a good place to start.

According to a study from Think Finance[i],  millennials are using a mix of traditional and alternative financial services to manage their money, based on their financial needs.

  • 92% of millennials use a bank
  • 45% of millennials have used some form of alternative financial product or service — such as, a prepaid debit card, money transfer service, check cashing, pawn shop, payday loan, etc.[ii]

When it comes to banking, millennials definitely have their own set of service “must haves” including:

  • Personalized Banking
  • Real Time Data
  • Convenience
  • Minimum Fees

Personalized Banking

For the generation that epitomizes the “digital age of personalization”, it is obvious why millennials are seeking banks that offer services such as customized financial alerts.  It fits seamlessly into their lifestyle and gives them a greater sense of financial control.  Banking apps on their mobile phones put individual account money management in the palm of their hands.

Real Time Data

Millennials usually check their balance multiple times throughout the day.  This is why it is essential that their banks provide real time, accurate, financial information, in order to keep their millennial customers happy.  Any source of frustration or delay could seriously jeopardize customer loyalty and retention rates.


Millennials know that technological access to their bank can make their financial lives easier.

56% of millennials prefer handling their banking needs through their bank’s website.

59% of millennials believe online access to accounts is important in their choosing a bank

55% of millennials look for convenient bank branch locations

55% of millennials want 24/7 access to money through their bank.

Recently, usage of mobile apps for managing finances has increased substantially, with 29% of millennials reporting that they currently use a mobile app to help manage their money.[iii]


Fees are a big issue for college students who are on a limited budget.  The majority of millennials (83%) report that fees are the most important factor for them when choosing a bank.   69% look for specific policies such as “no surprise fees,”  “low fees,” or “easy to understand fees”.  Forty three percent (43%) point to “no overdraft fees”


As industry leaders in Millennial Marketing, BNCM wanted to get the real “Beat on the Street”,  so we reached out to one of our students, Senior, Oscar Chiluisa, a Biology major at New Jersey City University, to talk with him about his experiences with money management at college, and to ask him what is the best advice he’s been given about budgeting his finances.


Was your first year of college the first time you started managing your money?

No, I actually opened my own bank account during my senior year of high school when I started my first job.

Who advised you on money management, and what was the best advice?

Since I am a first generation American, originally I relied on advice from my older brother. But, eventually, I learned mostly on my own by reading articles and asking others.

How do you manage your finances at college?

I actually have two bank accounts.  Since I am currently working two jobs, I don’t want to lose any money on unnecessary fees, for things like withdrawals.  Those can really add up.  I use my ATM card multiple times during the day, sometimes for small, convenient purchases.  That’s why easy access is a big thing for me.  I wanted a bank that had lots of ATM’s around my school, and even one on campus.  I always use my ATM card.   I hardly ever carry around cash.  I think I’ve only written one check, in my entire life!  I do my banking online, and I also use my bank’s mobile app to check my balances.  I don’t want to incur overdraft fees, so I picked a bank that offered overdraft protection, which is a great service, especially for college students.  For depositing money, at one of my jobs, I am able to use direct deposit. At my second job, I get a check, which I am able to deposit directly at the bank or securely at one of my bank’s ATM machines.

What are your greatest challenges with money management away from home?

I think one of the biggest challenges is making a budget and sticking to it.  I’ve found that there are so many opportunities to make spontaneous purchases that can make you want to go off your budget. Sometimes friends will suggest a product or a place to eat, and it’s tempting to spend based on those suggestions.  You have to keep your budget in mind, all the time.

About Oscar

Money Management

Oscar (nickname “Ock”) is a Senior at New Jersey City University where he is majoring in biology.  He is active on campus as Chapter President, Recruitment Chair, Community Service Chair and Library Pledge Educator for Psi Sigma Phi Multicultural Fraternity, Inc.  He is a member of the Biology Club, and is certified in First Aid and CPR/AED.  He also holds a SORA certification.  When Oscar is not busy studying, working at the University Bookstore, or participating in school activities, you might find him running in one of the area’s local races.  He has participated in the Lincoln Tunnel Challenge 5K, the Glow in the Dark 5K, and The City Challenge Obstacle Race, to name a few.  His hobbies include basketball, football, billiards, chess, dominoes, bowling, reading and watching movies.  He enjoys all types of music genres, ranging from classical to rock and rap. And he loves to find any excuse to get into a suit and get dressed up for a special occasion.


[i] “The Latest Thinking.” Think Finance [press]www,      

[ii] Malcolm, Hadley. “USA TODAY.” USATODAY.COM. N.p., May-June 2012. Web.

[iii] “Millennials Desperate for a Better Banking Experience.” The Financial Brand Marketing Insights for Banks Credit Unions. N.p., 17 Oct. 2013


Get Started

Create experiences that drive brand awareness and acquire new customers for your brand.

Partner With Us