How Old Do You Have to Be to Open a Bank Account?

Quick Answer

You typically need to be 18 to open a bank account. However, there are ways to open accounts for minors so they can learn how banking works, practice managing their finances and save for the future.

A young woman sits with her grandparents along a city street. She smiles gratefully as she holds up the debit card they have just given her.

Whether you're a parent who wants to teach their child banking basics or a teen who needs a place to deposit their first paycheck, a bank account is a crucial tool for managing finances independently.

Depending on the type you have, a bank account can offer a safe place to keep your long-term savings or the funds you use to make day-to-day purchases. But how young is too young to get started, and how old do you have to be to open a bank account? The answer depends on a few factors. Here's what you need to know.

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How Old Do You Have to Be to Open a Bank Account?

You generally need to be 18 to open a bank account, although the exact age may vary by state. The good news is there are ways for kids younger than 18 to open a bank account so they can learn how the banking system works and practice managing their money. They just need a little help from a parent or guardian to get started.

Bank Account Options for Minors

Several account options are available for minors, but they require an adult to either sign on as a co-owner or open the account on behalf of the child. Here are a few to consider.

Custodial Accounts

Custodial accounts, such as UGMA and UTMA accounts, allow adults to save on behalf of a minor. Only the custodian—usually the person who opens it—can access the account until it is transferred to the child. The age at which the transfer occurs varies by state. When the account transfers to the child, they can use the money however they want.

While a custodial account can be a great way to help a young adult start on a solid financial footing, there are no guardrails for this type of account. When the account transfers to the child, the custodian no longer has access to it and has no control over how the money is spent. If you plan to open a custodial account, it's a good idea to ensure your child has solid money management skills before the account transfers to them.

Joint Accounts

A joint bank account is just what it sounds like. Both the parent or guardian and minor are listed on the account and can make deposits and withdrawals. A major benefit of a joint account is that it allows the adult to monitor the minor's activity and provide guidance when life's teachable moments occur, such as overspending. Some accounts even have features that let the adult set limits on how the child may use the account to minimize the risk of poor decisions while they learn how to manage their money and bank account.

Savings Accounts

You can typically open a savings account for a minor at any age. But until the child turns 18 (or the age of majority in the state where they live), they'll need an adult to be the co-owner of the account. It can be tempting to stick with a piggy bank until a child is older, but opening a savings account can be a good idea, even at a young age, for several reasons.

When they're young, it gives you and your child a safe place to keep money they may receive as birthday or holiday gifts. As they get older, it helps them save for larger expenses such as a car or college tuition. Keeping money in a savings account is also a great way to teach kids about interest and how it can help their money grow faster—especially now. Some high-yield savings accounts are offering interest rates of 5% or higher.

Checking Accounts

It generally makes sense to wait until your child is older, has a job and is responsible for making some of their own purchases before opening a checking account. Plus, some checking accounts have age restrictions, so opening one when your child is young may not be an option.

One of the benefits of a checking account is that it often comes with a debit card, enabling your child to make purchases independently. Plus, it teaches them how to budget, balance their account and track their expenses to ensure they have enough money to avoid overdrawing their account. Some accounts allow co-owner adults to transfer money into their child's account, receive spending alerts and lock and unlock their child's debit card. These features provide a layer of protection that helps minimize money mistakes as your teen becomes accustomed to managing their finances on their own.

What Do You Need to Open a Bank Account?

Account opening requirements may vary by institution but typically include:

  • The child's name, date of birth and Social Security number
  • Identification, such as a birth certificate or photo ID
  • Parent/guardian's contact information and Social Security number
  • Parent/guardian's photo ID

Depending on the account and financial institution, you may also need to make an initial deposit. However, amounts vary, and some institutions don't require a minimum deposit.

What to Look for in a Bank Account for Minors

When shopping around, it's important to look for accounts that will set your child up for success. Here are several factors to consider.

  • Minimum deposit requirements: Some accounts don't have any minimum deposit requirements. Those that do typically range from $25 to $100.
  • Minimum balance requirements: Some banks and credit unions require account holders to maintain a minimum monthly balance to avoid maintenance fees. Look for accounts with no or low minimum requirements.
  • Interest rates: You may not get rich off the interest you earn from putting your money in a savings account. But it's worth shopping around for the best rate.
  • Fees: While your child is learning to manage their finances, look for an account with no maintenance or overdraft fees. These can take a bite out of your child's hard-earned cash.
  • Online and mobile banking: Accounts that offer online and mobile banking can help teens get in the habit of monitoring their balance, reviewing their spending and checking for unusual account activity.
  • Account alerts: Many institutions allow account holders to set up notifications, such as low balance, transaction and recent deposit alerts to help them manage their account and prevent overspending.
  • Debit card: If you're opening a checking account, look for one with a debit card. It makes it easier for minors to purchase necessary items and gives them practice tracking expenses and balancing their account.

The Bottom Line

With the help of a parent or trusted adult, a minor doesn't have to wait until they're 18 to open a bank account. Opening an account for your child when they're young can help them establish solid money management skills like tracking their spending, balancing their account and saving up for what they want. Forming these habits when they're young and have the help of an adult can help them prevent money mistakes when they're older.