Is it time for your child to have a checking account?

May 01, 2024
a father and son sit together on a couch looking at a laptop

As children grow, they reach various milestones in their financial education, and one of the bigger ones is opening their first checking account. Deciding on the right time for your kid to take this important first fiscal step will be up to you and your child and will hinge on a combination of circumstances. Here, we’ll explore some common factors to consider.

Maturity and responsibility

As the parent, you’ll be the best gauge of your child’s maturity level and ability to manage money reliably. Start by considering their track record in handling other responsibilities. If they consistently demonstrate responsibility with chores, homework, and other tasks, it may be time to consider a checking account. You’ll also want to look at their ability to make wise spending decisions, but they’ll have your guidance, of course. We have tools and resources available, too, so you won’t be leaving them in the financial wild!

Financial education

You’ll want to ensure your child has a basic understanding of money, including concepts like budgeting, saving, and responsible spending. It’s also helpful if they understand how checking accounts work. They may already have a savings account, so it could be just a matter of explaining the difference between the two. If you’ve been teaching them about basic money management, perhaps as part of the allowance process, this will be a natural transition.

Income source

Simplifying money management is an essential aspect of using a checking account. Opening one is especially practical if your kid has a source of income, such as an allowance, a part-time job, or even an income stream/trickle from odd jobs — mowing and pet-sitting cash can add up, and it’s easier not to spend thoughtlessly if it’s contained in one place. Regular gifts would necessitate having a place to stash their cash beyond a savings account, too, in a place that provides more of a hands-on learning opportunity than a savings account. Together, you can make decisions about allocating money for savings and checking, as they both have their place. Plus, mobile deposits of a paycheck (or birthday check) can easily be made into a checking account.

School and extracurricular activities

As your child gets older, chances are they are going to be involved in school and extracurricular activities, which can require financial transactions. From school supplies to sports fees, a checking account can be a safe and convenient way to wrangle these obligations. With a debit card that you’ve placed controls on (more about that in a minute), school events are in the bag.

Financial goals

If your child has specific financial goals — such as saving for a major purchase like a new scooter, video game, or drone — opening a checking account can be a great way to get them there while presenting a hands-on learning opportunity, since checking accounts require more active money management than a savings account would.

Age and legal requirements

Most banks have age requirements for opening checking accounts. Typically, children can have an account as young as age 14; however, if your child is under 18, you will also be required to be on the account as an owner or signer. (Even if your kid is a little older, it still may not be a bad idea to co-own the account as they get the hang of using it!) Your bank may also offer checking accounts specifically for younger customers, such as UBT’s Simply Free Student account, which offers features and benefits designed with younger spenders (up to age 25) in mind. 

Parental involvement and financial training wheels

After your child opens a checking account, you’ll want to provide guidance and supervision. Regular review of their account transactions is easy with your bank’s online banking tools (like UBTgo!) and provides another opportunity for you to show them how to monitor their balance and avoid overdraft fees. 

Text alerts are another tool in the toolbox, and a good app offers options for transfer and balance alerts. AT UBT, these text alerts can be set to serve as a notification of a low or pre-determined balance or reminder to you of account activity, allowing the freedom your child needs while still giving you the ability to set parameters. These alerts are next-day, so it’s always good to check UBTgo regularly as well.

We can only speak to UBT here, but these alerts apply to our debit cards, too. If you and your child determine that a debit card should be part of their account package, card alerts can be set up to notify you whenever the card is used, or at whatever dollar threshold you determine is notification-worthy.

What’s more, controls can be placed on the card to limit dollar amount or even types of purchases and establishments. The two of you can decide their spending limits and if any categories are off-limits altogether. You may decide to set controls within UBTgo to limit debit card spending at the convenience store, the app store, or whatever is tempting, or even block entire merchant categories completely to remove temptation and make it easier to move toward their financial (or purchasing) goals.

We can help

Opening a checking account for your child is just one step in their financial education, but it’s an important one, and only you and your child know when it’s the right time. If we can get you started, answer questions, or provide more resources, your friends at UBT are always ready to help! Stop in to your nearest UBT branch or simply click here to open your account online today. 

  • Personal
  • Managing Your Money
  • Banking 101
  • Checking

Learning Center articles, guides, blogs, podcasts, and videos are for informational purposes only and are not an advertisement for a product or service. The accuracy and completeness is not guaranteed and does not constitute legal or tax advice. Please consult with your own tax, legal, and financial advisors.

*To qualify for the checking promotion, you cannot be a primary accountholder on an existing UBT personal checking account. Offer not valid if existing checking account closed within the last 120 days. Receive $100 when you open a Simply Free Checking account and complete the following within 90 calendar days of account opening: (1) have $500 in electronic direct deposits posted; and (2) enroll in paperless statements via online or mobile banking. Receive $150 when you open an interest-earning checking account (Simply Free Plus, Simply Free Platinum, or Premium Interest Advantage) and complete the following within 90 days of account opening: (1) have $2,500 in electronic direct deposits posted; and (2) enroll in paperless statements via online or mobile banking. Bonus is credited to your active account within 100 days of account opening if you meet requirements. $1,000 opening deposit required on Simply Free Plus checking accounts. Various Annual Percentage Yields (APY) offered for interest-earning checking accounts based on the account and balance maintained. For example, Simply Free Platinum requires $100 minimum daily balance to earn .25% APY as of 07/1/2024. Fees may reduce earnings; rates subject to change. Promotion offers limited to one new checking and one new savings account per person and cannot be combined with other offers. Simply Free Platinum accounts designed for people ages 50 and over. Premium Interest Advantage is limited to residents of Douglas, Sarpy, and Washington counties in Nebraska. Available 07/01/2024 to 11/22/2024. Member FDIC.