Montana State University

Office of Financial Education

177 Strand Union Building
P.O. Box 174180
Bozeman MT 59717-4180

Tel: 406-994-4388
Fax: 406-994-5488


Savings Account

A savings account allows a person to deposit money in a bank account and earn interest on the cash held in the account. Placing money into savings should be the first thing you do when earning income. Money placed in a savings account is less accessible than cash in your pocket and can help you spend your money wisely. The money in your savings account may be used for emergencies or planned expenses (such as college costs).

Experts say that working adults should put at least 10% of their monthly gross income into a savings account.

The chart below shows how your savings can grow with regular monthly deposits. The amount of interest earned varies depending on the financial institution.

MESA - MSU Matched Education Savings Account Program

Are you saving for College?

The Montana State University (MSU) Matched Education Savings Account (MESA) program is helping eligible hardworking students with limited incomes save for college expenses. For every $1 saved, the MSU MESA program matches it with $3. Save up to $500 and you will be eligible for the maximum match of $1,500!

You May Be Eligible If...

  • You are a member of a household with annual income under a certain level. For example, a household of one has income equal to or less than $22,340. Add $7,920 for each additional household member.
  • You have earned income.
  • You are a Montana student enrolled full-time at MSU.

Participants are asked to commit to...

  • Make monthly savings deposits of at least $25 and save at least 6 months.
  • Participate in personal finance/money management training and post- secondary planning.
  • Maintain regular contact with program representatives.
For more information and an application click here.

Checking Account

A checking account allows a person to deposit money in a bank account and withdraw it at any time to buy things and pay bills. A checking account is a convenient way to keep money secure, and can help you control spending. The bank can issue you checks, a debit card, and/or an ATM card.

  • Checks - Paper checks are used to make purchases or pay bills.
  • ATM (Automated Teller Machine) Card - ATM cards allow you to access and withdraw cash from your bank account using an ATM when the bank is closed.
  • Debit Card - Debit cards can be used in place of a check or an ATM card. You can use it to make purchases at a store or online, as well as to draw cash out of an ATM. Debit cards are not credit cards, but often have a credit card logo (such as Visa or MasterCard) on them. The funds come directly out of your checking account.

Types of Checking Accounts

Some banks charge fees on their checking accounts. Educate yourself on different banking institutions and types of accounts and choose the one that is best for you. Common types of accounts include:

Flat-Fee: Monthly fee charged regardless of balance.
Per-Check: Usually a small monthly fee and per check fee. This would be a cost effective plan for individuals who write few checks.
Interest bearing account: Interest is paid if you maintain a minimum daily balance during the month.
Free checking account: No monthly service charges or per-item fees regardless of the balance or activity. Some banks will advertise a free checking account, then charge you fees. Read the fine print carefully.
Joint checking account: A checking account you hold with another person.

Balancing Checking Account

It is very important to know how much money you have in your account at all times. This will keep you from spending more than you have and will alert you to any unauthorized transactions in your account. Most banks offer online banking which makes balancing your checking account much easier.

What should you do if your account is out of balance?

  • Check your math.
  • Check your statement of account for items you may not have entered into your checkbook register.
  • Recheck the entries in your checking account register. Did you transpose numbers? Did you record the wrong amount?
  • Call your bank.