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How to Open a Bank Account for a Minor

Updated
Dana George
By: Dana George

Our Banking Expert

Ashley Maready
Check IconFact Checked Ashley Maready
Many or all of the products here are from our partners that compensate us. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page. APY = Annual Percentage Yield

It's never too soon to begin teaching your kids (or grandkids) about money and the role a bank account plays in their financial well-being. The earlier you begin, the earlier you can teach them healthy banking habits and how to harness the power of money. Here, we'll show you how to open a bank account for a minor and offer a few tips for getting them off to a good start.

Choose the type of account you want to open

While there is no federal law stating a minor can't open an account in their name alone, some state laws say that anyone under the age of 18 can only be named on a joint account. In other words, they need a parent or legal guardian to set up a custodial or joint account for them. Even if you live in a state without such a requirement, most banks insist that children under the age of 18 have an adult who will serve as a joint account holder. When you think about it, it makes sense. After all, what bank wants to talk business with a 6 year old?

In addition, most banks won't allow a child under the age of 13 to be named on a checking account. You may want to wait on a checking account until a child is old enough to have a job. It's around that age that learning how to balance a checking account becomes easier, too.

Decide on the type of bank

Part of the beauty of opening a savings account for a child is teaching them about the magic of compound interest and how the interest an account earns eventually earns interest of its own. The truth is, the best interest rates on savings accounts are currently offered by online banks, primarily because they have less overhead than brick-and-mortar banks and can pass those savings on to their customers.

However (and this is a big however), there's something to be said for making it an "experience." As convenient as online banking may be, making it an experience is easier to do at a brick-and-mortar bank or credit union. We'll touch more on this topic in a moment.

Find a bank

Here are some of the hallmarks of a great kids' savings account:

  • No fees
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • FDIC insured
  • Pays interest (even if it's a low rate)

One more thing. Look for a bank where customer service seems kid-centric. We know it can be hard to tell, but a kid-centric bank offers materials for children (like coloring books) and employees appear happy to work with children.

Make it fun

A moment ago, we mentioned that opening an account at a brick-and-mortar bank or credit union can be a fun experience that gets your child excited about banking. The first step is to make opening the account memorable. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Call ahead and request an appointment. Let them know you're opening a joint account with your child and want to get them started on the right foot.
  • Ask if it's possible for your child to have a tour of the bank, including a peek into the safe deposit room.
  • If there's a coin counting machine, allow your child to cash out some coins to deposit into their new account.
  • Allow your child to carry the documents they need to open the account into the bank.

What to bring to the bank

Because you'll be opening a joint account with your child, you'll need information about each of you, including:

  • Your photo ID
  • Your Social Security number
  • Your child's name, birth date, and Social Security number
  • Address (or each of your addresses if you reside in different homes)
  • Phone number
  • Your email address
  • An initial deposit to open the account (either cash or check)

If you have a teenager

If your child is working and wants to open a checking account, you'll still need to be a joint account holder if they're under the age of 18. The fun thing about helping a teen open an account is how much you can involve them in the process. Invite them to help you find a bank with no minimum balance requirements or fees.

If access to a mobile banking app is important to your teen, make sure it's part of your search parameter. For example, you could ask a bank, "If my teenager opens an account with your bank, will they be able to download a mobile app?" Better yet, ask if the bank has an app designed for young people (some do).

When it's time to open the account, be prepared to provide the same identifying documents and to make an initial deposit. You know your child best. If you're concerned about how they might handle a debit or ATM card, lay down strict ground rules. That may include a requirement they check with you before using either card.

Advantages of opening a kid's account

Opening a bank account of any kind with your child is chock full of benefits, including:

  • Gives you the opportunity to discuss money in a casual way with your child, teaching them what you've learned through the years.
  • Allows your child to get into the habit of checking their balances and managing their money.
  • Instills the importance of saving money.
  • Gives your minor the opportunity to learn the difference between interest rate and APY and to see, firsthand, how compound interest works.
  • By the time a child is ready to leave home, they've already become familiarized with both checking and savings accounts, giving them a leg up on those who leave home with little financial knowledge.
  • The joint account can be converted into the child's name only when they turn 18 years old, giving them years of banking history.

Finally, the best thing about opening a bank account for your minor is the opportunity it allows you to teach them about finances while they're young and impressionable, offering financial confidence they may not find anywhere else.

FAQs

  • You can open either a custodial or joint account with a child under the age of 18. After they turn 18, that account can be converted into their name alone.

  • Almost any bank will allow you to open a joint or custodial account for your minor child. As long as you sign on as the custodian or joint bank account holder, a bank knows it has an adult it can contact if there's an issue with the account.

  • No, most states require a parent or guardian to be a joint account holder. Even if you live in a state that has no law on the books regarding minors and banking, chances are strong that any bank you approach will have its own rules requiring a parent or guardian to be jointly responsible for the account.

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