My kids got theirs at age seven! But as a teacher of personal financial management, I am a bit fanatical about educating my children. Here are some things to consider when deciding when to open a checking account for your children.
What is the purpose of a kid’s checking account?
A basic checking account is the logical progression from a savings account and is the first real financial product they will have.
Young children learn to spend using quarters and dimes and small bills. But, as they get older, the size of their transactions increases. More and more transactions today are done electronically and online. They must learn how to manage their spending in this environment. The lesson is best taught with a checking account.
The purpose of a kid's checking account is to teach your child to manage their money while you’re still close enough to monitor them and help them through the mistakes they will inevitably make.
Two important lessons they will learn from having their own checking account are:
- How to balance reconcile the account to the credit union statement
- How to keep track of what they actually have to spend with a check register (or some type of record of their spending in this day of debit card transactions).
Where can I get a kid's checking account?
A problem parents can run into is that children aren’t profitable to financial institutions. Many big banks offer little in the way of children’s or even teen’s checking accounts. Or if they do offer them, the accounts come with high fees and ridiculous restrictions to help make them profitable.
You can find a free kid's checking account in your local community with just a little bit of searching. The key is to look locally.
So, when should your child open a checking account?
I opened my kids account early because I needed the time to work with them. Were they ready at age seven? No. But by starting then, they were familiar with a checking account when they became teens. Then I could work with them on specific issues that arose with things like direct deposit and (gasp) overdrafts. However, the financial education sites I checked generally agreed on the following time frames:
- When your child has a job. This is because many employers now pay their employees via direct deposit. Even if an employer pays your child in paper checks or cash, having a checking account now will help them learn how to manage the account. If your child has a job, he or she should be ready to start using an ATM card for purchases and withdrawals, or checks to pay for things like car insurance.
- When your child goes to college. In college, your child must manage money at some level. Whether or not you continue to monitor his or her account depends on you and your child. If they are responsible with money, you won’t need to do so. But if he or she is still learning how to manage money or if you are continuing to put money into the checking account, you may want to continue having access to those statements online.
When you choose to open your child’s checking account is up to you. The important thing is to do it!
Learn more about helping your children manage money with our free Teens and Money eBook.