Guide to Opening a Certificate of Deposit (CD) Account for Your Child

By Caroline Banton · June 17, 2022 · 8 minute read

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Guide to Opening a Certificate of Deposit (CD) Account for Your Child

A certificate of deposit (CD), or time deposit, can be a good option as a savings vehicle for a child. They allow you to deposit money for a specific term (e.g. a few months to a few years), and pay a fixed rate of interest.

CDs are relatively safe investments; they are federally insured for up to $250,000, and can offer minimal but steady growth for a period of years. They also offer parents the chance to explain the value of compound interest to their child.

Any adult can open a custodial account for a child who will assume management of the account when they reach adulthood. There are some pros and cons you should know before opening a CD account for a child, including how CDs compare to other investment vehicles for your child.

Understanding Certificate of Deposits

A certificate of deposit savings option is a bank product much like a savings account. The CD or account holder deposits the funds and agrees not to withdraw the money for a period of time, in effect, loaning the money to the bank. The bank pays the CD holder interest on the amount based on the total amount deposited and the maturity date of the CD (the term). Meanwhile, the bank invests the funds to make a return elsewhere.

You can open a CD with a bank or a credit union; this can be done in person or online. Most CDs are federally insured up to $250,000, no matter where the account is held.

If the account holder decides to withdraw the funds before the end of the term, they are typically charged an early withdrawal penalty, often forfeiting a portion of the interest. For example, if you deposit $1,000 in a 2-year CD, and you want to withdraw the funds after one year, you would only be entitled to the amount of interest earned up until that point, minus any fees or penalties.

CDs are considered a conservative investment, but the interest earned on a CD is minimal because they are low risk. When opening a CD account for a child, it’s important to consider whether the peace of mind and a lower return is what you’re after, or whether you’d like an investment that offers more growth (but possibly more risk).

Can a Child Have a Certificate of Deposit?

All things considered however, a CD for kids is a good choice because it can be a solid start to an investment plan for your child, and a way to help explain the dynamics of saving and what it means to earn interest on your principal deposit.

That said, minors cannot hold CDs. An adult must acquire a CD for the child and then transfer it when the child reaches adulthood. Depending on how much time you have, the custodial adult can also consider CD laddering, which is a technique where you hold several CDs with separate maturity dates to create steady returns.

Another point to remember about a CD for kids is that funds held in CDs and other savings accounts can affect a child’s eligibility for future financial aid. This is an important consideration, which could affect how much a family might pay for college tuition.

Who Would Own the CD?

A minor cannot apply for a CD, but they do own it. That means that the account cannot be given to anyone else.

An adult, usually a parent or legal guardian, can open a custodial account for a minor under the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA). A custodial account allows one person to deposit funds into an account for another. The account can be transferred to the child once they reach adulthood. The age of adulthood is not federally mandated. However, in most states, it is age 18.

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How to Give a Certificate of Deposit to a Minor

Here’s how to set up a CD for a minor child, and transfer the account to them when they reach adulthood.

Select the Bank Where You Want to Purchase the CD

Decide which bank or credit union you want to hold the CD for your minor child. Compare interest rates based on the amount you intend to deposit and the term for the CD. Also, look at any penalties and fees the bank might charge.

List Yourself as the Custodian and the Child as the Owner

Fill out the form online or in person stating that you will be the custodian and the minor will be the owner of the CD. You will be asked to provide identifying information such as your Social Security number and the child’s Social Security number.

Deposit the Money in the CD

Deposit the desired amount into the CD account, taking into consideration how different amounts and terms might affect the interest rate paid.

Discuss What to Do With the Funds

Opening a CD account for a child presents a “teachable moment,” in that the minor child, who is the owner of the CD, needs to think through what the money can be used for once the CD reaches maturity. When the CD matures, you can cash it out, or renew the CD. If the child is of legal age at that point, the account is transferred to the child, you may have to contact the bank to remove your name from the account.

Recommended: What are no penalty CDs?

Are CDs a Good Choice to Help My Child Save?

CDs are among the low risk investment options, and a good way to help a child save. Anyone can open a CD, and they do not have to be related to the child.

That said, CDs are also low-yield investments, and funding a 529 college savings plan might offer more growth potential over time, if that’s your goal.

For longer-term savings, opening a Roth IRA may also be a good choice for parents hoping to provide financial security for their child.

Tax Implications of CDs for Kids

Opening a CD for kids isn’t complicated from a tax perspective. Taxes are typically due on earnings when the CD matures, but a child will likely be in a lower tax bracket than an adult, so the earnings could be taxed at a lower rate.

Specifically, if all of a child’s earnings are less than $1,050, including interest, dividends, or other earnings, the earnings are not taxed. Any earnings between $1,050 and $2,100 are taxed at the child’s rate. Any amount over $2,100 in earnings is taxed at the parent’s rate.

The custodian of a CD should be aware that they can give up to $15,000 each year to a child without owing gift taxes.

Financial Aid Implications of CD Earnings

There are some implications regarding financial aid. If a child is applying to college and has savings in a UGMA, those assets will have to be disclosed on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It may be that the student will have to pay more of their college costs than if their money had been put in a 529 college savings account.

Is a CD a good investment for a child? That depends on the length of time between the opening of the CD account, and when the child reaches the age of majority. CDs don’t earn a lot of interest, and a growth-oriented investment might earn more and grow faster if the child is younger.

If the child is a teenager, a CD will provide a guaranteed amount of money, and there is no risk of loss if the market drops.

Where Can I Find a CD for a Child?

Most banks and credit unions offer CDs, and they allow custodians to open accounts for a child. Online banks can be convenient and secure. Many offer competitive interest rates and low fees. Be sure to compare the interest rates and APY of each bank and be sure to understand the penalties that will apply if you withdraw the funds early.

The Takeaway

There are many ways to help your child save. Which one is the best depends on the ultimate use of the funds. CDs are safe, they are federally insured up to $250,000, and they may offer higher interest rates than regular savings accounts. However, other options to consider are a 529 savings account if your child is headed to college, a Roth IRA, or even a trust fund.

CDs are easy to open; most banks and credit unions offer these products. They earn interest on the amount invested as long as the funds are not withdrawn before the CD’s term. If the custodian does withdraw funds before the maturity date, the bank will charge a penalty.

Most online banks also offer CDs, and any adult can open a custodial account online for a child; they do not have to be a family member. The child is named as the owner of the account, and they will assume management of the account when they reach adulthood according to state laws.

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What is the best way to save money for a child?

The best way to save money for a child depends on your goals. Some options include a savings account or a custodial CD, a 529 college savings account, a Roth IRA (for longer-term growth), or even a trust fund.

Can you buy a CD as a gift?

Yes. Under the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) any adult can gift a CD to a child.

Can I open a CD for my child?

Yes. Opening a CD account for a child is easy using a custodial account. The child will be named as the owner and you as the custodian. The owner (the child) will assume full legal ownership of the CD when they reach adulthood. The account cannot be given to anyone else but the named holder.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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