In a world with a growing suite of financial products and services, parents are trying to help their children master the fundamentals while guiding them to make wise choices with money as they grow.
Opening a checking account for kids can be a valuable first interaction with the banking world and a chance to initiate conversations about how to spend money, interact with financial institutions, and appropriately weigh financial decisions. You may also want to link your child’s checking account to a savings account.
By understanding the typical features of checking accounts for kids, you can make a choice about how to open an account, where to open it, and ways to avoid fees or unexpected restrictions. At the same time, certain safeguards may give you peace of mind as your child begins using money on their own. The balance between protection and independence can shift depending on how old your child is when opening the account.
Here’s what you need to know about checking accounts for kids so you can determine which is the best fit for your family.
- Checking accounts for kids often come with a simple no-fee structure and a joint owner who is one of the child’s parents or guardians.
- Checking accounts for kids have varying levels of parental controls and account monitoring features.
- The minimum age requirements for traditional checking accounts can vary between 12 and 17, while debit card-only accounts are typically more accessible for younger children.
- If you want to minimize unexpected fees, prepaid debit cards are an alternative to a checking account, where parents can control how much money a child has available without risking overdraft fees.
What Is a Checking Account?
Checking accounts, at their most basic, are accounts at a bank or other financial institution that hold money earmarked for everyday purchases. It is typical to make deposits in a checking account after you’ve been paid or have received a monetary gift, and to write checks or make cash withdrawals to cover an expense.
Most checking accounts often have a debit card option, allowing a card-swipe transaction that works like a check, automatically removing that much money from your account balance. Banks and other financial institutions can impose fees on checking accounts for things like falling below a required minimum account balance, overdrafting the account, or for general monthly service.
How Checking Accounts for Kids Work
The main distinction with a checking account for kids is that a parent or guardian typically needs to be a joint owner of the account until the child turns 18. Many institutions offer a checking account that has a simple, clear structure to minimize risk, and there are particular age requirements for these accounts.
For example, Credit Union West offers an account called It’s My Money Youth Checking for ages 12-17, which offers no minimum balance, online and mobile banking, and an automatic change-over to a regular checking account when the owner of the account turns 18, assuming they meet qualifications.
Most checking accounts allow customers to review transactions and balances in real time, rather than in once-monthly statements only. This factor is a major consideration with children who are just learning how to make wise financial choices, Eddie Behringer, CEO and co-founder of Copper Banking, told The Balance via email.
“The single most important part of getting a checking account for a teen is visibility,” says Behringer. “Being able to see where money is coming from and where it’s going is a huge unlock for parents and teens. This helps them plan for the future, create budgets to make their money last, and set achievable goals.”
Should I Open a Checking Account for My Child?
Opening a checking account for your child can open the door to life lessons. If you choose to open a checking account at a local branch of a credit union or bank, you can use it as a hands-on learning experience. Many banks and credit unions are happy to give children and teenagers a quick tour of the branch so they can have a better grasp of what goes on there.
Having a checking account is also an opportunity to practice life skills like budgeting, reconciling purchases with online or physical bank statements, and deciding how much money to spend without the tangible quality of cash reining you in.
Starting the habit of direct-depositing gifts and allowances and empowering your child to swipe a debit card to spend their money can save the hassle of keeping cash on hand.
If your child is not yet ready to fully grasp money management, a checking account might be a lesson better implemented when they get their first job or are motivated to save up money for a larger purchase. It’s certainly something to consider as they get into their teen years.
“The right question for a parent to be asking themselves is ‘Am I doing everything I can to prepare my teen for becoming financially independent?’” says Behringer. “Money shouldn’t be a topic that is off-limits within the household. The ability to manage money is critical for long-term financial success and happiness.”
How To Pick a Checking Account for Kids
The main things to consider in a checking account for kids are the level of parental controls available, how robust the online/mobile banking options are, what fees are associated with the account, and how old your child must be to begin using it. Another important consideration as they near age 18 is what will happen to the account at that time: Will it remain open, or can they easily convert it to a different kind of checking account?
Here are a few examples of checking accounts for kids with various offerings and features.
Specifically For Teens: Copper Banking
Copper Banking offers a banking and debit card account aimed specifically at teenagers to help them send and receive money easily, learn about finances, and track their own spending. It has parental monitoring, but the branding of the product may appeal to teens more than going to Mom or Dad’s bank and getting set up with an account. “The ability to check their account before a purchase helps teens make good decisions in real-time,” says Behringer.
Copper streamlines the logistics of administering allowance and getting a teen paid via direct deposit. They are able to use their debit card wherever Mastercard is accepted, and won’t need to maintain a minimum balance, worry about overdraft fees, or pay a fee to use one of 55,000 Allpoint ATM locations.
Credit Union With High-Yield Checking: Connexus Credit Union Teen Checking
Your local credit union may offer a checking account for teens that has some form of interest available on the balance. Connexus is a good example that, at the time of writing, was offering 2% APY on the first $1,000 of a teen account’s balance.
While many kids' and teen checking accounts don’t have extensive fees, not all of them offer interest, so you may find one that does a nice incentive to get started with banking. This account is available for children ages 10-17.
Large Bank With Parental Controls: Chase First Banking
If you already bank with Chase, they have a fee-free program that allows you to manage both a debit card for a child ages 6-17 and your own checking account using their mobile and online banking options. You’re able to set debit card limits by transaction, determine how much your child can withdraw from an ATM, and receive alerts so you can keep track of their spending.
The account also lets you assign and pay for chores, automate allowances, and set savings goals.
App-Based Family Financial Education Account/Debit Card: FamZoo
FamZoo offers the functionality of a prepaid debit card with family-focused guardrails via its app-based program. In addition to accessing a variety of financial education features, each family member can use the card to make purchases, and parents have the ability to automate allowances, offer parent-paid interest on savings, and set penalties for missed chores.
Because FamZoo isn’t a traditional checking account, a transaction will be denied if there is ever a danger of overdraft. One monthly fee for a family to use the system starts at $5.99 (lower fees are offered with the pay-in-advance option).
How To Open a Checking Account for a Kid
To get started opening a checking account for a kid, you’ll need some basic identification. If you’re already banking with a financial institution or organization, you may be able to use your child’s name, identification number (SSN/ITIN), and student ID. If not, you’ll also need relevant information about yourself, which may include your name, your own SSN/ITIN, and your driver’s license or other state-issued ID. You may also be asked to provide a bill with your name and address on it. Once you’ve begun the process of opening the account, you’ll need a source of funds to add an initial deposit to the account.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the best age for kids to open their first checking account?
A guiding principle for when to open your kid's first checking account would be to note when they are interested in learning about money and banking. If this happens early, say at ages 6-9, you may want a checking account with robust parental controls and restrictions. Older teens may request a checking account very similar to a typical adult checking account, just with a parental joint owner.
Should my child have a debit card?
If your child has a debit card, they may have the ability to create overdraft fees or to make unwise purchases. If either of these is a concern for you, think carefully about whether they are ready for a debit card yet. You may want to choose an account that offers parental monitoring and the ability to set spending limits so your child can learn to use their debit card wisely—under your careful watch.