Is it time for a young person in your life to start understanding how banking works? Do they get an allowance? Are they raking in some cash for odd jobs? Or perhaps they are just plain curious about how money works, or you’re eager to get them in the habit of saving?
Whatever the trigger, there are plenty of benefits a kid can reap from learning how to bank before they leave the nest. Gaining financial literacy and responsibility is a very good thing. Fortunately, an array of banks and credit unions offer minor accounts designed for exactly this purpose.
Because most state laws and corporate policies don’t enter into contracts with minors — and opening a bank account is a kind of contract — most banks require a child to have an adult as a joint account owner.
That’s where you come in. It’s tempting to simply open an account for your young one at the place you do your banking. But it can also be worth comparing accounts to see which institution offers the best fees, rates, and other features specifically for minor accounts.
To help with your search, here are answers to several frequently asked questions regarding opening a bank account for a minor.
What is a Bank Account?
Much like regular bank accounts, minor bank accounts provide convenience, safety, and flexibility when it comes to saving and spending money.
For younger children, saving money in a safe place may be the primary reason to open a minor bank account. Sure, that piggy bank you bought them is cute, but it’s not exactly Fort Knox. A bank account is secure, and the funds deposited will likely earn a bit of interest.
Teens may find the same benefits to a savings account. However, they may also be excited to test-drive the checking and debit-card features that minor checking accounts offer. These accounts can be a valuable learning tool in terms of budgeting. They will become familiar with how money flows in and out of an account; they may even overdraw their account for the first time and learn from it.
What Do I Need to Open Up a Bank Account for My Child?
As you shop around for an account, you’ll see that each financial institution has its own rules regarding documentation needed to open a bank account for a minor. In most cases, whether you are opening an account online or in person, you will need the following, in addition to a sum of money (often between zero and $25) to open the account:
Government-issued photo identification is a gold standard for proving you are who you say you are. If you don’t have a driver’s license, a passport will likely be acceptable.
Social Security Card
You may or may not need the actual card in front of you; just knowing your Social Security number should do the trick.
Child’s Social Security Card
Many people apply for their child’s Social Security number at birth; it’s an important thing to have for obtaining medical coverage or government services. Have those nine digits at the ready.
Child’s Birth Certificate
The bank will want to document that your child is who you say they are. That birth certificate is an important way to do just that.
Proof of Address
A typical way to authenticate your address is with a recent utility bill. If you don’t have a hard copy of your bill lying around, you should be able to easily download a bill from your provider’s online portal.
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Types of Bank Accounts for Children
As with standard banking, checking and savings are the most common types of accounts for minors. There are, however, some special aspects of both types of accounts when the child is under age 18. These accounts can help teach good money management and support your family savings efforts. Let’s take a closer look at how they work.
Checking Accounts for Children
Minor checking accounts are common offerings at banks. Most accounts are designed for kids ages 13 to 17; in other words, kids who are a little older and ready to learn the budgeting skills needed to balance a checking account. Some teen checking accounts offer interest, and the best of the bunch offer very low or no fees. This is important since teens are unlikely to carry large balances in their checking or savings accounts. You don’t want fees eroding or even erasing their money.
Savings Accounts for Children
Lots of banks offer special savings accounts for kids. Age restrictions vary, but these may be designed for younger children (the 12-and-under set). There are even savings accounts designed for babies. Check at a couple of banks you are considering for this kind of account and compare offerings.
Many of these accounts have competitive interest rates Some, however, require a minimum deposit to earn those rates. In addition to looking into those details, also see what kind of parental controls are available. These typically allow you to monitor the account and control access. This can be a good thing to have in place in case your child decides to go splurge on videogames or the like.
Recommended: How Does a Savings Account Work?
What to Look for in Bank Accounts for Kids
As you look for the best checking and savings accounts for kids, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Interest. As mentioned before, you may want to compare interest rates on a number of children’s savings accounts. Some are quite competitive but may come with other requirements.
Fees. You want a minor banking account that doesn’t charge the same types of fees you find on an adult account. Many banks waive an application fee and the monthly maintenance fee. But debit card and ATM fees may still apply. Because an adult is the joint account owner, sometimes overdraft and other fees are eased. Be sure to check specific fees on the minor account carefully.
Balance Requirements. Sure, you’ll start the account with an initial deposit, but after that, how much do you need to keep at the bank? Kids’ accounts may require a minimum balance to avoid monthly fees or earn the best interest rates.
Aging Out of the Account. Many banks convert kids’ accounts to standard accounts once the child turns 18. This often takes both adults and the account holder by surprise. The conversion can mean adult account fees, minimum balance requirements, overdraft fees, and changes in withdrawal and deposit protocols. With savings accounts, it may mean a change in interest rates and balance requirements.
On the other hand, some banks allow children to keep their minor account well into their twenties. And there may be special considerations for kids who turn 18 and are students. Be sure to understand what your child’s account allows.
Apps and Financial Literacy Features. Many minor accounts offer apps that help you monitor the account and your child’s activities. Some even go so far as to allow you to assign chores and make the decided-upon payments. In addition, you may be able to get a preloaded debit card for your child, which can help teach budgeting in a very hands-on way. When all the money’s gone, your child will likely understand the value of careful tracking expenses.
Notifications. Many banks allow you to sign up for automatic notifications whenever a transaction has taken place on the minor’s account. This not only lets you know that your child may be overspending but you may also be alerted to any suspicious account activity.
Sometimes, a minor’s account has a small amount of money that slowly accrues as your child deposits birthday money and some summer-job earnings. Other times, a budding entrepreneur or devoted saver might have a higher balance. In either case, interest income on your child’s account may be subject to taxes, specifically what’s known as the “kiddie tax,” which applies to children under 19 and full-time college students under the age of 24. Any unearned income over $2,100 is taxed at the rates that apply to trusts and estates. This is to avoid parents putting large amounts of money in their children’s name and likely lower tax rate.
In addition, funds in your child’s bank accounts can affect their financial aid awards. Because money in a child’s name is weighted more heavily in financial aid formulas than it is for parents’ accounts, you may find high bank account balances work against your student when it comes time to apply for financial aid.
Now that you understand the ins and outs of opening an account for a minor, you can take the next step and figure out the best place for your child to start banking. Congrats on taking this step to foster a healthy financial life for your child.
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While you’re thinking about a minor bank account, why not take a fresh look at your own banking needs?
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