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Intermediate

A parent’s guide to opening a bank account for a minor

Highlights:

-You need to be at least 18 to open a bank account, but adults can open a joint account with a minor.

-Opening a bank account for a minor will require personal information (name, address, Social Security number, etc.) for both the child and the adult.

-A safe and simple way to help a child or teen get started with money management is to use the Greenlight® app.

As parents, we all want what’s best for our children. And the simple reality is that a child’s financial education has a huge impact on their future success and security in life.

Learning about money is important — and unfortunately, financial literacy really isn’t required in most schools. It often falls solely on parents to teach their children about money.

Like so many other things in life, learning through hands-on experience is the best way for kids to absorb new knowledge. By helping your child open their first bank account, you can help them start building a solid financial foundation for their future.

Opening a bank account for a minor looks a bit different than it does for an adult. In this guide, we’ll go over how to open a bank account for someone under 18 years old.

How old do you have to be to open a bank account?

For someone to open a bank account on their own, they must be a legal adult. In most cases, this means that they must be at least 18 years old.

Fortunately, there’s an option for minors: A joint bank account. These accounts allow an adult to help a child open a bank account while sharing account access.

Different banks may have their own rules for minimum age requirements, even for joint accounts. For instance, some banks may have none, while others require that children be at least 13 years old. Check with your bank to learn more about their age requirements. 

Joint bank account basics

Joint bank accounts are opened with the help of a legal adult (often a parent). Both the adult and the minor share account access, and both of their names are on the paperwork.

You can open joint checking accounts and joint savings accounts. Both account types may be insured to keep your child’s money safe. You can check if the financial institution you’re working with is either FDIC-insured if it's a bank or NCUA-insured if it’s a credit union. 

Checking accounts are often the more versatile choice, as they can come with a debit card and check-writing capabilities. But a kids' savings account can also be helpful for working towards savings goals and earning interest.

Mom and young son on the couch looking at the Greenlight financial literacy app and smiling at his Savings Goal

Most banks and credit unions offer joint bank accounts. A variety of money apps for kids also offer banking services designed specifically for children (more on this below!)

When you open a joint bank account, you (the adult) become a joint account owner with your child (the minor). At some banks, the adult will be the primary account holder, while the child) will be an authorized user on the account. At other banks, the child can be the primary owner with the parent listed as a co-owner. 

In any case, your child can use the account just like a normal bank account. They can get a debit card, make transfers and withdrawals, and access online banking. As the parent, you can monitor activity on the account, make deposits and withdrawals, and more.

Opening a bank account for a minor: Step by step

To open a kid’s bank account, parents or legal guardians can take the following steps:

1. Decide on an account type.

There are a few options when it comes to the type of account you want to open. The main options for joint accounts include:

Checking account: A kid’s checking account provides basic banking functionality, a debit card, and perhaps check-writing capabilities. Most checking accounts pay very little in interest, however.

Savings account: A kid’s savings account offers higher interest rates, measured in annual percentage yield (APY). Savings accounts don’t typically come with a debit card, however.

Prepaid debit cards: Prepaid debit cards work similarly to refillable gift cards. Parents can load money onto the card, which the child can use to make purchases. These cards aren’t true bank accounts, however.

Money apps with debit cards: Kid-friendly mobile apps for money management provide a mobile banking experience and typically come with a debit card. The best money apps for kids also include tools to help kids learn how to save, invest, and learn new money management skills.

*Greenlight is an all-in-one money app for kids that helps children and teens learn how to earn, save, and invest money. The app comes with a debit card for kids, saving and investing functionality, advanced parental controls, and much more. Try Greenlight on us for 30 days.

2. Decide on a bank or financial institution.

Next, think about where you want to open the account. Some parents might prefer to use their own existing bank for simplicity, while others might want to seek out another option that might be ideal for their children. Here are some factors to consider:

Physical branches: Do you want your child to have access to physical bank branches? These days, most banking activities can be handled online or through an ATM. However, some parents prefer their children to have a more traditional banking experience.

Account options: Most banks and credit unions offer joint ownership accounts. However, the rules vary — as do the fees. Check with any banks you’re considering to learn more about their account options.

Fees: Keep an eye on the costs of opening a joint account. Many banks have monthly service fees, as well as standard overdraft fees, ATM fees, etc.

Kid-friendly features: Does the financial institution have features that are designed specifically for children or teens? Are there financial education resources? Is the banking app accessible for your child? Also, consider your child’s age. A teen checking account may have different features from an account designed for younger kids, for example.

3. Gather the required information and documents.

Opening a bank account for a minor: person showing another person on where to put their signature

Now it’s time to prepare the necessary information and documents to actually open an account. In most cases, this will include:

  • Your name and your child’s name

  • Your full address (and potentially proof of address, like a recent utility bill)

  • Your date of birth and your child’s date of birth

  • Your Social Security number (SSN) and your child’s SSN or birth certificate

  • Your valid government-issued photo ID (driver’s license, passport, etc.)

Some financial institutions may have additional requirements, but the items on the list above will almost always be required.

4. Open a joint account.

Next, simply follow the instructions to open the account. This can typically be done online, or in person, if you choose to use a traditional bank or credit union.

During the opening process, you will typically be required to make an opening deposit to fund the account. This will generally be a small amount, but it may be required at the time of account opening.

You should also keep an eye on minimum balance requirements. Some banks require that accounts maintain a minimum balance — $100, for example — at all times.

5. Activate the debit card and start using the account!

Mom sits with her two children and uses the Greenlight debit card and app to teach her kids about investing

Once the account is opened, the bank will mail you a debit card. This card might be in the child’s name, your name, or both.

When you receive the card, you’ll need to activate it. This is usually as simple as calling a number listed on the card or visiting a website or app to confirm that the card has arrived.

From there, you can use the set-up and basic functions of the child's account to show your child how to use their new tools. Set up online banking access to help your child monitor account balances and make transfers. Visit an ATM to show your child the process of withdrawing cash. And encourage your child to keep an eye out for interest payments, monthly maintenance fees, and other account activity that will affect their finances.

A bank account is a powerful tool for financial education.

Opening your child’s first bank account can help them learn valuable financial skills with hands-on experience. A joint bank account from a traditional bank is a fine option, but for specialized guidance and kid-friendly tools, consider Greenlight instead.

Greenlight is a debit card and money app for kids and teens. When you sign up, both you and your child get your own account — all managed through the Greenlight app. As a parent, you can fund the account, set purchasing restrictions and other parental controls, monitor activity, and much more. And your child can learn how to earn, save, spend, and even invest money — all in one place! Get started with Greenlight today.

*Greenlight is a financial technology company, not a bank. The Greenlight app facilitates banking services through Community Federal Savings Bank (CFSB), Member FDIC.

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