With my son growing up (he’ll be 12 quite soon), I’ve been thinking a lot about when it makes sense to get a checking account for him. He’s had a savings account for years, and I even opened a custodial Roth IRA for him this year. However, he has yet to get a checking account. I’ve been thinking about when it makes sense to set him up with an account, and what process we will go through.
What are the rules?
First of all, every state, and every bank, has its own rules about who is eligible to open a checking account. A minor isn’t going to be able to open his or her own checking account anywhere, but you might run into age restrictions on certain accounts.
You can usually open a joint checking account, or a custodial account, or some other minor-focused account with your child. My mom opened a joint checking account with me when I was 12 years old (which is why I’ve been thinking about it for my son). Find out what the rules are in your state, and what your options are.
Also, understand that, even though you might be able to open a joint checking account with your child, he or she might not be able to get a debit card. In some cases, a child has to be 16 to get a debit card, and there are situations in which a minor can’t get a checking account debit card at all. (Although you can usually get a prepaid debit card for your child, if a checking account card isn’t an option.)
Once you know the rules, it’s time to figure out whether or not it makes sense for your child to have a checking account.
Is your child ready for a checking account?
A checking account is a big responsibility, so it makes sense to think through whether or not your child is ready. Pay attention to the way he or she manages money right now. If your child is constantly asking for an advance on his or her allowance, or if it is like pulling teeth to convince him or her to contribute to a savings account, now may not be the time.
Before you open a checking account with your child, it’s important to make sure that he or she understands good money management habits, and that he or she has shown a certain level of responsibility in other areas of life. If your child thinks through purchases, is responsible with homework, and does his or her chores without too much trouble, those are good indications that he or she is ready for a checking account.
What do you think? When will you consider opening a checking account for your child?