Is Your Teen Ready for a Checking Account?

Should your kid get a debit card? Factors to consider about teens & checking accountsSome 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.

A checking account can give them a chance to responsibly shine with money and teach them how to:

  • use debit cards
  • monitor and plan ahead for automatic payments
  • use an ATM card
  • write checks (should they ever need to do that)

They can learn 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. Is your teen legally old enough for a checking account?

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. Check with your bank for any requirements they may have.

2. What’s their level of maturity & responsibility?

How responsible are they in general?

Consider whether or not they are responsible for their physical belongings.

For example, 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 fairly often?

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

3. Has your teen started learning about money?

Do they understand what a checking account IS, and what having one (and an ATM or debit card) means? It’s not uncommon for teens – and even adults – to confuse a debt card with a credit card, for example, since they look pretty much the same. See if they can explain the difference to you.

Has your child 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 use their debit card 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 extra 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 and receipts together. You’ll likely need to be a signer on their account as well.

Have them go together with you to sign up, and even lead the process. (You may also want to see if there are any special new bank account promotions they might qualify for.)

Remember, it can be GREAT to get practice at an early age handling money. That’s how we learn, and it’s better to make small mistakes early on than large ones later.

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.

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