Mercantile Bank said Monday that it will offer checking accounts designed for budget-minded, technology-savvy college students.

The account, called Student Finance 101, is aimed at full-time students who want a low-fee basic checking account, ATM service, and free on-line banking.

The account has no minimum balance, unlimited Mercantile ATM transactions, and five free checking transactions per month. Its $1-per-month service fee is waived during the summer.

John Elmore, Mercantile's head of consumer banking, said the account is designed to teach college students smart fiscal management. Unlike a credit card, Mercantile's debit card would not allow students to overspend and carry a balance.

"They can make purchases from a retailer, but can't run up huge credit card debt," he said.

Mr. Elmore said Mercantile hopes the college checking account is the beginning of a long business relationship between the bank and its younger customers.

"College kids are our future small-business customers and mortgage holders," he said. "We hope to grow with them."

-- Laura Pavlenko Lutton

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