OK, so you're low on funds and you know that studio art class you just enrolled in is going to have a whopping supplies fee. What can you do? You could ask a family member for some money. Students often find themselves in similar situations. In fact, some students are fortunate to receive money regularly from their parents. Rather than having to drive to campus to deliver the cash, though, mom and dad have options.
They can mail a check -- but if you're in a pinch, that can take time. A faster option is to open a joint banking account with your parents, allowing you and your parents to have access to the account. The upside of this arrangement is that your parents can easily monitor the account and add more money when needed. The downside is that your parents can easily monitor the account -- meaning they'll see exactly where all that money is going. So if you say you're going to spend that extra $100 on a chemistry text, then your next $100 purchase better not be a concert ticket instead.
Online banking can be a less intrusive solution -- many banks allow transfers between accounts at the same bank, even between different people. So if your parents have accounts at Bank A, and your checking account is also at Bank A, a transfer can be done online, with little delay. Once again, though, read the fine print beforehand to determine how your bank handles transfers within the bank as well as transfers between different banks.
A more recent option is the pre-paid debit card. The pre-paid card industry touts the convenience of the cards, as well as their freedom from traditional bank fees (like the dreaded overdraft) but these cards come with fees of their own. A study by the Network Branded Prepaid Card Association puts the cost of the cards at between $200 and $300 per year (about $100 less if you have direct deposit), and they only work if the creditor you're trying to pay accepts plastic [source: NBPCA].