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As the mom of a tween, I am struck quite often by the fact that my baby girl is growing up. On her 9th birthday, I cried. Why? Because at 9 that meant I only had 9 years until she would likely leave me for college. On her 10th birthday I cried again. Why? Double digits ya’ll. Double digits are serious things in a kids life and this mom doesn’t like them one bit. I was okay for her 11th birthday. I think my next issue will be 16. At 16 she will be old enough to get a job, old enough to get her license and old enough to start spreading her wings to prepare to leave home. (Okay, my heart broke a little bit just typing that.) Tom and I were talking the other day about all of this and the question of when we should allow her to have her own checking account was brought up. Obviously, she won’t be getting one anytime soon, but just when should teens have their own checking accounts? Here are my thoughts:
When Should My Teen Have Their Own Checking Account?
In my mind, there are a few key things that your child (and mine) should have before they are allowed to have a checking account and those key things have very little to do with their age. Sure, you obviously don’t want your 10 year old running around with their own debit card, but even kids who are driving age should have to meet a few milestones before they’re allowed. Maybe I’m too strict, but having a checking account is a huge responsibility and in my mind, your teen (and mine) needs to show that they’re able to handle it.
How are their grades?
If a teen isn’t responsible enough to study and stay ahead in school? They’re not responsible enough to manage a checking account.
Do they do their chores?
If you can’t trust your teen enough to be responsible enough to do their chores? Ask yourself how you can trust them to manage a checking account responsibly?
How is their behavior?
If they can’t be responsible enough to behave and avoid getting into trouble (and I don’t mean minor things, I mean bigger things) they aren’t responsible enough to handle everything that comes with a checking account.
Do they have a way to fund the account?
Are they working after school or on weekends? If not, how are they going to keep funds in their account? If they don’t have a regular way to keep their account funded, they’re probably better off with a savings account.
Do they know how to balance a checkbook?
When I was a kid, we learned how to balance a checkbook and all of that jazz in school, but these days, not all schools teach it. If your teen doesn’t know how to, take the time to teach them before you let them open a checking account.
While I don’t think that these are the only questions you should ask yourself when you’re trying to figure out if your teen should have a checking account, I do believe they are some of the very first questions you should ask. In the end though, it is a personal decision between you and your teen. As for my Emma? We will most likely start looking at her having her own around the time she turns 16. If she is ready, great, but I have no issue making her wait a bit longer if needed. If in the end, you decide your teen isn’t ready for a checking account, you can always get them a Green Dot Prepaid Visa. Those require a bit less responsibility since they won’t approve a transaction if there is no money on the card.