Opening a bank account is one of the most important tasks for any young person. The first time you do it, you will be asked how old you are and how much money to deposit.
But how old do you have to be before being able to open a bank account?
With this article, we cover the rules and regulations you need to know when opening a bank account, including how old you have to be, the documents you need and the process for opening a bank account to enable child banking.
When setting up a bank account, it’s best to be prepared and start by coming into the branch or opening an account online. Continue reading to learn what you need to do to open a bank account.
Am I Eligible to Open a Bank Account?
To be eligible to open a bank account, you need to meet certain requirements. Most U.S. banks require you to be:
- A U.S. citizen
- 18 or older (an adult)
- Have a government-issued ID
- Make a minimum opening deposit (and maintain certain balance requirements)
- A co-owner if you’re not of legal age
How Old Do You Have to Be to Open a Bank Account?
Opening bank accounts requires you to be of an eligible age. You need to be at least 18 years old to open an account by yourself, or the age of majority in your state of residence.
One way around this requirement comes from opening a joint account with at least one of the account holders being the age of majority. Typically, this is a parent or legal guardian.
Likewise, you can also apply for accounts specifically targeted toward minors looking to open a bank account, but this still requires a parent or legal guardian to serve as one of the account holders.
These accounts allow the adult to manage the account while also teaching the minor owner about banking.
Before applying for an account, you want to check with your potential bank of choice to determine the eligibility requirements for opening an account.
Also be sure to examine the fees, like a monthly maintenance fee or service fee, and other associated charges assessed by the bank.
You don’t want to get hit with overdraft fees or late payment charges and a bank might turn you away if you have a history of them.
In some cases, banks may run a background or criminal check to assess if you have participated in any financial crimes.
As another consideration, you may need to be a U.S. citizen to open a bank account in the United States.
In the event you apply for a credit card, the financial institution will also take a look at your credit history and credit score.
The type of credit card you apply for may require you to have a decent credit score to open the account.
Though, some credit cards target individuals looking to build or rebuild credit, making you eligible without a good score or any history at all.
How to Open a Bank Account as a Minor
Children cannot open bank accounts in their own names because they are not legally capable of entering into contracts yet.
A parent or guardian must open the account and be listed as joint owners with their minor child.
The steps you need to take for opening accounts will vary depending on the financial institution.
However, according to general procedures for how to open a bank account for a minor, these steps should generally allow you to open a bank account for your children.
How to Open a Bank Account for a Minor
1. Choose the Type of Account You Want (Checking Account vs. Savings Account)
It’s quite common for banks to offer checking and savings accounts for kids these days, especially with the advent of banking apps for kids and teens.
Despite this availability, age restrictions still apply in many cases, though they vary by banking institution.
For instance, teenagers generally only have access to kids checking accounts, while kids of nearly any age have access to savings accounts.
If you don’t wish to open full blown checking accounts for your children, you can also look into prepaid debit cards for kids and teens.
With apps like Greenlight, you can establish parental controls to monitor, manage and shortlist where your kids shop online and offline alike.
Further, you have the ability to assign chores and disburse allowance payments, offer Parent Paid Interest, automate money transfers and much more.
If even this presents problems for your needs by still offering access to cash by failing to put in place sufficient safeguards, you can open a custodial account.
These accounts prevent your child from accessing funds until they reach the age of termination (quite often, the age of majority, or adulthood), in their state of residence.
Among many available options, custodial brokerage accounts allow you to save for future expenses ranging from college, to a car, wedding or even down payment on a home.
You can even establish a Roth IRA for kids if your children have earned income and thus the ability to contribute to a retirement account.
With decades of tax-free growth, Roth IRAs are a powerful way to leverage compounding returns to a child’s benefit.
2. Submit an Application
Once you’ve chosen a bank and an account that fits your needs, you can apply for the new account.
A bank account is a valuable start to your child’s financial independence and can help prepare them for the future.
One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is which type of account will work best for different needs, be it saving or spending money.
You may need to visit a bank in person but you may find many banks, credit unions and fintech apps now allow for you to apply online.
In either case, the application process should only take about 10-15 minutes.
3. Fund the Account and Activate the Debit Card
As a condition for opening joint accounts with a minor, you often need to fund the account at opening as part of the final stage of the application process.
Placing funds into your child’s account can usually be done with a debit card, credit card or existing bank account. There may be some institutions where restrictions vary.
If you opened a checking account, your account may come paired with a debit card or bank card your kid can use to make purchases or make withdrawals from their deposit accounts.
If so, this card usually takes 1-2 weeks to arrive in the mail after receiving approval of your application, though some banks and credit unions offer temporary cards immediately.
No matter the timing of when your child receives their debit card, you need to activate the card either online through a secure web portal or by telephone through a toll-free number provided on the card at receipt.
Many modern banking apps also allow you to activate it through a smartphone app and even carry the card in a digital wallet like Apple Pay (age 13+) or Google Pay (age 16+).
If your bank account offers a mobile app, (most do these days), whether opened with a traditional bank, credit union or other financial institution, you should consider downloading it on your phone.
These allow you and your child to check the children’s savings account balance as well as monitor any account fees, transactions and more.
Further, you can use these mobile apps to monitor account activity or restrict access to funds.
What Do You Need to Open a Bank Account Online?
Now, you can open a banking account for your child with a few clicks of a button, thanks to digital systems and fintech apps.
As part of the U.S. Patriot Act, the government requires financial institutions to help fight the funding of terrorism and money laundering activities. Therefore, federal law requires all financial institutions to obtain, verify, and record information that identifies each person who opens an account.
For you, this means you’ll need to supply your target bank with some necessary information when looking to open an account. This includes information like:
- Your name
- Date of birth
- Social security number
- Valid government-issued ID
To open a checking account with banks like Wells Fargo, Bank of America, U.S. Bank, or Capital One, a deposit account with a credit union, or even mobile banking apps like Greenlight, you will need to supply a handful of important pieces of documentation.
Afterward, your kid can start making deposits into these joint accounts, working toward financial goals, using a paired ATM card and managing their money.
While what you need may vary by institution, but the information above will be standard requirements. The account holder will need to provide all or some variation of the above items the joint account held between the minor and parent or guardian with the following documents:
- Your driver’s license
- Your Social Security number
- Your child’s Social Security number (potentially a Social Security Card)
- Your child’s birth certificate
- Proof of address (usually a utility bill)
How Do Banking Apps Work?
While branded as a banking app for kids, these bank accounts work the same way they would for adults, except parents also have access to the account.
Both children and parents have online account access and these apps allow children to log into their own sub-accounts, like an authorized user on a credit card.
These sub-accounts carry fewer features than the adult version because you can set specific limits on how funds get spent, managed and saved.
These banking apps come with debit cards with parental controls and allow you to fund money through transfers from existing checking accounts.
Grown-ups can monitor, limit and pick specific locations where cards can get used.
These apps for kids also help with letting your kids save money in what has become their virtual piggy bank.
Should I Open a Savings Account for My Child?
Banking apps for kids can assist them in learning the value of money. This means teaching kids to save money.
They can be set up with targets for saving and the app will show them how much they have saved, what their target is, and when they’ve hit it.
Some apps teach children about budgeting by having a spending limit that parents approve before each purchase or an allowance amount based on age. Some of these banking apps also provide financial literacy resources to teach kids about money.
Some apps allow teens to save for certain expenses like summer camp, a prom dress or college tuition.
These apps can allow the teen to set up teenager money goals with milestones and it will let them know when they’ve hit the goal in an easy-to-read pie chart layout that breaks down where their saved funds go.
Done consistently and through repetition, these apps can help kids with things to save up for as well as how to manage their funds for the long-term.
Where Can I Open a Bank Account for My Child?
In today’s environment, you have several options available to open bank accounts for your children.
You can either choose a traditional bank or credit union, one that offers banking products for children.
More modern options like online banks also offer savings accounts and checking accounts while some companies are making it easy to open an account with them by partnering up with schools.
Some even come complete with their own debit cards so kids can start using the money with the supervision of their parents.
Some banks offer a special teen checking account where you and your child act as the account owner because you are joint account holders.
Minors can’t legally have bank accounts in their own name, meaning your name must also sit on the title to the account.
Best Bank Accounts for Child Banking
Compare these best online bank accounts for kids that let them save, spend and learn how to manage their money.
|App||Rating (out of 5)||Fees||Best For||Promotions|
|Greenlight||4.7||$4.99/month||Teaching investing fundamentals with guidance from parents; allows individual and index fund investing||First month free|
|goHenry||4.7||$3.99/mo per child||Accessible customer service support||Free month trial|
|Acorns Early||4.8||$1/month - $5/month||Automated investing in the background into diversified investments||$10 sign up bonus when making first deposit at account opening|
|Stash||4.7||$1/month - $9/month||Everyday people looking to start managing their finances||$5 stock bonus for making a deposit of $5 or more|
|Current||4.8||$36/year per child||Innovation and product features||None|
|FamZoo||4.5||$5.99/mo per child||Financial literacy resources||Free month trial|
|M1 Finance||4.3||$0 trading or automated investing; $125/year on M1 Plus subscription for custodial account||Fee-free active trading and automated investing||$30 sign up bonus with $1,000 deposit|
1. Greenlight Card
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: Free 1-month trial, $4.99/mo after
Greenlight provides parents control over where their kids can spend money by limiting the stores where their cards work. Parents can get alerts when money is spent on the Greenlight debit card and for how much.
Greenlight works like a prepaid debit card, allowing you to transfer money onto the card for your child to pay for expenses at approved locations.
You can choose how much money to load onto the card and your child will be cleared to make approved purchases so long as a money balance backs up the card.
If your child asks for extra money to get added to the card, you can have them take a photo of the purchase they want to make and receive your approval. This gives you control and allows kids to discuss why a purchase either is a good or bad idea.
If your child has a job, they can add their own funds to the card as well.
The Greenlight debit card is a good choice for parents looking to teach their kids the importance of saving money and making prudent financial decisions.
This financial product can be an effective learning tool for helping kids to understand why saving should be a priority and how to simplify paying an allowance or tracking chores.
It’s also a rapidly growing app many parents have come to use for raising financially-smart kids.
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: 1 month free, then $3.99 per child/mo
goHenry is a banking app for minors that comes paired with a debit card. You have an online account which comes linked to individual accounts for each of your children.
You can manage all of the money held in each account through the company’s app and online account portal.
Each child will receive their own goHenry debit card which comes paired with parental controls you can set for your children.
What’s nice about goHenry is the ability to spend only the money available on the card, meaning you don’t need to worry about costly overdraft fees or accrue debt.
You open a goHenry account, receive your children’s debit cards in the mail 7-8 business days later, set up an automatic weekly allowance transfer into your children’s accounts and can set up one-off or weekly spending limits.
This will keep your children’s spending in check and you can block/unblock the card as needed as well as choose the stores where your kids can shop.
With time, the controls provided by the app and the guidance you offer can help your kids to earn, save, spend and give with good money habits.
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: Acorns Lite: $1/mo, Acorns Personal: $3/mo, Acorns Family: $5/mo
The full suite of offerings includes the ability to establish custodial accounts for minors to invest, regular and retirement investment accounts for adults and a bank account with linked debit card.
If you sign up for the Acorns Spend product, it creates a bank account that carries FDIC Insurance protection for up to $250,000.
Further, it uses the Acorns “Round Ups” feature which rounds up purchases to the nearest dollar, investing the difference between the transaction amount and the whole dollar. The service claims to help users invest an average of $30/month using this feature.
While not a free stock trading app, Acorns does give you the following subscription options:
- Acorns Lite ($1/mo): Includes the Acorns Invest plan, which invests spare change through the popular “Round-Ups” feature, earns bonus investments and provides access to financial literacy articles
- Acorns Personal ($3/mo): Everything on Acorns Lite (Investing), plus it also includes Acorns Later for tax-advantaged investment options like individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and Acorns Spend. This service acts as your bank account, offering free withdrawals at over 55,000 ATMs nationwide and no account fees and the ability to earn up to 10% bonus investments
- Acorns Family ($5/mo): Everything in Acorns Personal (Acorns Invest, Later and Spend), plus Acorns Early. This allows you to open a custodial account for your child and begin investing for them as a minor.
For a limited time, the service also offers a $10 sign up bonus for people who open an account.
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: Starts at $1/mo
Stash caters to people looking to begin managing their money and invest as you spend money and make recurring deposits into your account. You can also pair the subscription with a stock news app or site to learn more about the market.
You can grow your account balances over time by making regular deposits, utilizing its round ups feature, or “Stock-Backs,” on your purchases.
This essentially substitutes for the cash back features seen on some credit and debit cards, paying you in free stocks as opposed to cash back.
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: $36/teen per year
Current is a banking app designed for all families. The Current app allows you to track your teen’s spending in real-time, set limits on how much they can spend, and even block specific merchants.
You also get the peace of mind that comes with knowing their money is safe because it’s not cash. Plus, the company doesn’t charge any fees or interest for student accounts so there are no surprises when bills arrive.
Current helps parents teach teens financial responsibility while giving them a way to learn without having cash around the house and all its temptations.
That means less worry for both parents and kids! With Current, your teenager will be able to do everything from paying friends back to buying groceries at the store–all safely with only her phone!
And teens will have the opportunity to learn financial responsibility and budgeting from an early age. This will allow them to grow their savings and move one step closer to financial independence.
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: Free trial, then $5.99/mo
FamZoo is another prepaid debit card service parents can use to manage their children’s spending. It works by having parents release money into their child’s account and then having the card work with a loaded balance. Money can be loaded onto the cards at any time.
FamZoo acts like a regular checking account with a linked debit card except FamZoo makes sure the account can’t be charged overdraft fees, saving you money.
Adults are able to monitor the transactions being made. After a free trial, this app costs $5.99 per month, but the price goes down if prepaid in advance.
7. M1 Finance
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: Free trades, M1 Plus costs $125/year
M1 Finance is an all-in-one super app that does it all. The app allows you to invest, borrow and spend but also open a M1 Finance custodial account to allow your kids to use it as an investment app as well.
The service requires you to sign up for M1 Plus to do this, however. Be sure to watch out for when the company puts this on promotion, making it free for you to try.
Read more about this app in our M1 Finance review.
What is a Custodial Account?
A custodial account is established with a parent’s money and the child is the account holder, meaning they have full ownership over the funds held in the account.
You can open custodial accounts, also known as UGMA (Uniform Gifts to Minors Act) and UTMA accounts (Uniform Transfer to Minors Act), to establish savings and investments for your minor children.
Many use these accounts to teach kids about money management but also to invest on their behalf for future expenses like college, a wedding, car or housing down payment.
One potential downside of a custodial account is that once the funds get deposited into the account, they become irrevocable gifts, meaning you can’t take the money back.
While not a problem in most circumstances, this can be a sticking point for some individuals and should be something to be mindful of with custodial accounts.
After reaching the age of majority, custodial accounts transfer to the account owner and no longer have a custodian manage the funds in the account.
Further, since the funds in these accounts technically belong to the account holder, they carry a higher financial contribution weight when deciding financial aid eligibility for college.
Federal financial aid formulas consider 20% of the money in the account as funds available to pay for college.
When compared to 529 plans established by a parent or legal guardian for the benefit of the minor, these provide less favorable conditions to receive financial aid.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) formula considers a maximum of 5.6% of the money held in a 529 plan to be available for college.
The money held in these accounts classifies as an asset of the parent and not the child, despite the child’s Social Security Number appearing on the account title.
Related Questions on Child Banking
Can a 12 Year Old Have a Checking Account?
Yes, though they need to have a parent or legal guardian as an account co-owner. They cannot open one by themselves.
Can You Open a Bank Account at 16?
Yes, though you again will need to have a parent or legal guardian as an account co-owner. You cannot open one of these accounts as a minor because you cannot legally enter into contracts as a minor.
Can a 16 Year Old Open a Bank Account Without Parents?
Not exactly. You cannot open an account without parents or a legal guardian, though you can open a joint account with someone you trust who is the age of majority.
Can I Open a Bank Account at 17 By Myself?
Technically, no. Not by yourself. A minor requires a parent or legal guardian (or someone the age of majority) to serve as a joint owner on a bank account.
How Do I Open a Bank Account at 17?
You can open an account with the steps listed above and the help of a parent or legal guardian.
Are There Tax Implications to Opening a Bank Account for Kids?
Yes, you may face tax implications for having a bank account or custodial account which pays interest or other investment income. This applies to any unearned income, including interest, dividends or capital gains.
The taxes you face depend on the type of account you set up, but all follow the same Kiddie Tax Rules by the IRS with respect to unearned income.
- Savings accounts. If your child makes more than $2,200 in unearned income (interest income in this case) in a given tax year, you and they may need to pay taxes.
- Custodial accounts. If a UGMA or UTMA account makes more than $2,200 in unearned income from interest, dividends or capital gains in a year, the minor and yourself will likely need to pay taxes.
- Trust funds. Minor beneficiaries and other beneficiaries of a trust fund are responsible for paying taxes on any unearned income produced and distributed by the trust. Trusts may be subject to taxation if distribution is made. If you’re considering setting up a trust fund, consider visiting Trust & Will to learn more about your options and how a trust will be taxed.
Can You Gift Money to a Child’s Account?
As of 2021, you can gift up to $15,000 per year to a single person without needing to document the financial gift with the IRS.
This means you can learn how to gift stock to a UGMA account without paying any extra taxes. If you have a spouse, they can also gift up to $15,000 per year.
About the Site Author and Blog
In 2018, I was winding down a stint in investor relations and found myself newly equipped with a CPA, added insight on how investors behave in markets, and a load of free time. My job routinely required extended work hours, complex assignments, and tight deadlines. Seeking to maintain my momentum, I wanted to chase something ambitious.
I chose to start this financial independence blog as my next step, recognizing both the challenge and opportunity. I launched the site with encouragement from my wife as a means to lay out our financial independence journey and connect with and help others who share the same goal.
I have not been compensated by any of the companies listed in this post at the time of this writing. Any recommendations made by me are my own. Should you choose to act on them, please see the disclaimer on my About Young and the Invested page.