Is Your Teen Ready for a Checking Account?

Some parents may not consider allowing their young teen to get a checking account at all, but there are valid reasons why it can be good for them to have one.

Factors to consider about teens & checking accountsA checking account can teach them how to use ATM cards, debit cards, and even checks responsibly while they are still under your direct supervision (as opposed to when they go off to college and aren’t…)

Consider the following factors when deciding when your teen should get a checking account.

1. Their age.

At least in the U.S., a teen can’t have “signing privileges” on an account until they are at least 13. This means that 13 is the absolute minimum age at which a checking account could even be considered. And until they are 18, it’s you — the adult — that is ultimately responsible for their use of the account.

2. Their level of maturity & responsibility.

How responsible are they in general? Consider whether or not they are responsible for their physical belongings. Do they lose stuff? Do they expect others to replace the things they’ve lost? Do they get their homework done on time? Do they take care of their household responsibilities without prompting?

If they are mature enough to handle these basic areas of responsibility, chances are they can begin to handle even more responsibility.

3. Their financial state.

Do they understand what a checking account IS, and what having one (and an ATM or debit card) means? Have they taken classes or spent time with you learning about handling money? Do they have a job or other source of income? Do they understand what happens if they write a check or make a withdrawal and they don’t have enough money in the account? (It may seem obvious to you, but someone who hasn’t had an account might not understand that the bank will let them spend more than they have — they’ll just be charged for it.)

If the answers are yes…

If the answers to all of those questions are yes, they are probably able to handle a checking account.

If you decide to allow your teen to have a checking account, you may want to start by monitoring the statements, canceled checks, and receipts together. You’ll likely need to be a signer on their account as well.

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5 comments

  • Kathy

    We started our son’s savings account when he was a baby, but waited until he got his first summer job before starting his checking account. We didn’t get him an ATM card until he went to college because we wanted him to learn about writing checks. I think ATM/debit cards make the spending so painless it is easy to forget to write down the spent amounts. But writing checks make it obvious that your balance is declining with each check written.

  • We’re heading down the path of getting my son a debit card attached to his account so he can have direct access to it – he buys a lot of games online, and has to give me cash, and then have me buy the game. Having his own debit card allows him more freedom, more responsibility, AND I can still check his account to make sure he’s not off in the weeds.

  • What about giving a teen a prepaid card not connected to a checking account? Or do they have to 18 to have of those as well?

    • Wendy, I’m not sure about that, but my guess is they would work like a gift card. You could check the back of those cards for their terms & conditions and I imagine it would say.

      • Thanks, Jackie! Many banks won’t let me add my siblings for things like debit cards because they aren’t my dependents. I thought the prepaid card might be a good alternative.