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Best checking accounts for kids

Many banks don't offer teen-friendly accounts. Here are your best bets for checking accounts and prepaid cards.

By MSN Money Partner Jul 5, 2012 2:28PM

This post comes from Rob Berger at partner blog The Dough Roller.


The Dough Roller on MSN MoneyA reader named Ann recently published the following question on the Dough Roller Facebook page:

Why are banks not opening checking accounts for teens, even though their parents are on the account? My 16-year-old granddaughter has only the option of her salary being direct-deposited into a checking account or receiving a card with her salary loaded. However, whenever she takes money from the card she is charged $3. Are there any better options to control her savings, spending, and not having to be charged repeatedly?

Ann's question couldn't have been more timely, for several reasons. First, my brother recently started a new job that requires payment via direct deposit. His employer will not cut a paper check. He ended up getting a no-fee prepaid card and set up direct deposit for free. (Post continues below video.)

Second, our daughter, who is 17, just started her first job, and she and I will be opening an account for her. I'm excited because it gives me an opportunity to work with her on managing money. We'll be working on everything from an emergency fund to a Roth IRA.


So, back to Ann's question: How do you find a good checking account or an alternative for a teen? As easy as this question may seem, there are two hurdles we have to clear.

  • First, a bank won't open an account for a minor unless a parent or guardian is also on the account. Contracts with minors are not enforceable (they are voidable by the minor in most states), so a parent or guardian is a must.
  • Second, many banks don't have products designed for teens. Because teenagers generally don't have a lot of money to put in the bank, some financial institutions have made the business decision that these types of accounts aren't worth their time and effort. While you may be able to open a checking account, it may come with unattractive fees.

Best prepaid card

Image: Teens with MP3 player (© RubberBall/SuperStock)If I were going to choose a prepaid card for my teen, I'd go with the American Express prepaid card. It's free, has excellent benefits (e.g., free roadside assistance) and currently offers a signup bonus.


But if you want a checking account, I have two suggestions.


The first option is to go with the same bank used by the parent or guardian. It may not cater to minors, but if you have a good relationship you may be able to open a no-fee checking account with a minimum deposit. I like this option because I think it's helpful for a teenager to know her or his way around a bank. I like the idea of my daughter learning to interact with bank tellers. It may seem simple, but for a teenager, these things can be very intimidating.

The second alternative is a checking account from ING Direct. ING has online checking accounts specifically designed for teenagers. There are no fees, the accounts actually pay interest and the website is terrific. 


There are other options, and we maintain a list of bank accounts for kids that is worth checking out. If you know of other great banking alternatives for kids, please let us know.


More from The Dough Roller and MSN Money:

Jul 6, 2012 2:36PM

Notasbadasithought is right most Credit Unions have excellent programs for kids. Also, USAA has an option for children. My daughter is not even 1 yet and we have a savings and checking account in her name. However, as the article mentioned my husband and I are on the account. I like that though, because I can see what she is doing when she gets older and while she is young it let me deposit her money for her from birthdays and holidays.

Jul 6, 2012 10:49AM
How about CREDIT UNIONS???  Ours has a few great options for children and teens.  These programs are educational and available to teens.  Check one out.
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