Kids Banking: 3 Account Types Every Parent Should Consider

Want to teach your kids good money habits and set them up for success? Laura breaks down three types of kids banking accounts and gives you her recommendations so you'll know what's best for your babies, tweens, teens, and everything in-between! 

Laura Adams, MBA
6-minute read
Episode #705
The Quick And Dirty

There are many innovative kids banking options but knowing which one is best for your child can feel overwhelming and confusing. Getting familiar with the features, pros, and cons of kids banking apps, checking accounts, and savings accounts will help you put your child on the path to financial success.

It's never too early to start teaching kids about money. And what better way to help them hone their financial skills and experiences than by helping them open and manage a bank account? 

But if the thought of giving your child free reign over a bank account concerns you, don't worry. One of the benefits of modern banking for kids is that parents can choose the level of control they have over how their kids use (or don't use) the account.

This post will cover three types of kids banking accounts, including their innovative features, pros, and cons, so you can decide which one may be right for your kiddo. Choosing the best bank account can help you set your kid up for financial success while giving you confidence nothing will go wrong. 

3 types of kids banking accounts

You can generally break down kids banking products into three categories: banking apps, checking accounts, and savings accounts. Here's what you should know about each:

1. Kids banking apps

Let's start with banking apps because they're the most innovative products for kids. Since they're relatively new to the financial services scene, you may not know much about them. But they offer a slew of helpful features for parents, including: 

  • Creating chores and automating allowances for kids.

  • Setting spending limits for the app's prepaid card. 

  • Restricting your child from shopping at specific merchants.

  • Setting up a savings account that earns parent-paid interest.

  • Teaching your child how to spend, save, give, and invest wisely.

Not only are these fantastic features, but I love that kids banking apps have a heavy focus on financial literacy—even more than other accounts for kids that we'll cover. Typically, the apps are jam-packed with interactive games, quizzes, and features designed to help your kid learn to manage money wisely.

Most kids banking apps also come with a prepaid card, allowing your child to make purchases locally and online. But unlike a regular debit card, your child can't overdraft their account with a prepaid card—they can only spend the money loaded on the card. 

One of my top recommendations for kids ages 9 to 14 is Greenlight. This app has every financial education tool you could think of and is terrific for parents who want maximum control over a kid's spending. Greenlight costs from $4.99 to $9.98 a month and includes prepaid cards for up to five kids.

Some of Greenlight's innovative features include:

  • Setting chores and automating allowances inside the app.

  • Setting spending limits for purchases at specific stores.

  • Paying 1% interest (which is more than other typical kids banking products).

  • Giving financial education on spending, saving, and giving through various tools.

  • Having access to investing tools and free cell phone protection with a Premium membership.

If you have a young child, tween, or teen who could benefit from interactive tools to learn about saving, spending, giving, and investing, then Greenlight is an excellent app for them.

2. Kids checking accounts

The term "kids checking account" can be a little deceiving because most banks don't offer products for anyone under 18. So, it's actually a joint bank that a parent or legal guardian co-owns with a child. Most banks require the child to be 13 or older; however, some exceptions are for kids as young as eight.

If your child earns their own money or makes purchases, having a kids checking is an excellent option. It comes with all the same features as an "adult" checking account, such as a free debit card, allowing them to make purchases locally and online. 

The most significant drawbacks are that kids checking accounts don't pay much interest or have as many parental controls or financial literacy tools as kids banking apps. So, if your child isn't careful, they could accidentally overdraft their account or rack up lots of ATM fees. And since you own the account jointly, parents will be on the hook for any bank fees. 

My top kids checking recommendation is Capital One MONEY because it's loaded with benefits. It's an excellent choice if your child shows signs of financial maturity and doesn't need all the bells and whistles of a kids banking app. Plus, it's free to open and use a linked debit card.

Some of Capital One MONEY's innovative features include:

  • Being available for kids as young as eight. 

  • Encouraging kids to set savings goals and track their progress

  • Giving parental controls, including locking and unlocking a kid's debit card, monitoring spending, and setting up auto-pay for allowances.

  • Providing free ATM withdrawals at over 70,000+ locations nationwide

Capital One MONEY is an excellent choice if you have a young child, tween, or teen who wants a convenient way to spend their money and access it using ATMs.

3. Kids savings accounts

When many people think of an old-school kids banking account, they probably have a kids savings account in mind. It's a joint account that a parent or legal guardian co-owns with a child. You can open one no matter a child's age (they can even be an infant) if they have a Social Security number.

Most kids savings are free to open and have no minimum balance requirement. But like a kids checking, the interest rate is meager. Also, some banks require you to be an existing account holder before opening a kids savings account. 

An excellent account to consider is the Capital One Kids Savings. While it doesn't offer many financial literacy features, it does have some tools to help your child learn the basics. For instance, you can set up and track savings goals, and it pays 0.3% interest. 

Plus, parents can create automatic deposits for allowances or gifts. And you don't have to be an existing Capital One customer to open a Kids Savings account. 

Here are some of the Capital One Kids Savings innovative features:

  • Being available for kids of any age, including newborns.

  • Not charging fees or having minimum balance requirements.

  • Creating recurring savings deposits.

  • Setting up and tracking savings goals.

  • Using remote deposit to deposit paper checks a child receives.

If you have newborns or kids up to age 17 and want to help them save for the future and create financial goals, opening a Capital One Kids Savings is the perfect solution.

Frequently asked questions about kids banking accounts

Where can I find the best kids banking accounts?

You can shop kids banking products at financial comparison sites, such as Finder.com and Bankrate.com. If you're a member of a local or national credit union, find out if it offers kids products that would meet your needs.  

What do I need to open a bank account for my child?

You'll need your child's Social Security number and identifying information, including your address, driver's license, birth date, and Social Security number. 

Can I open a kids bank account online?

Some kids banking products allow you to open accounts online, while others require you to visit a local branch. So keep that in mind as you shop around.  

Can a four-year-old have a bank account?

You can open a savings account for a young child of any age. However, some banks require kids to be at least 13 for a checking account, such as Capital One Kids Savings. And they must be at least 9 to have the Greenlight app.

In podcast 680 of the Money Girl podcast and 6 Ways to Save and Invest Money for Kids, I review some terrific options parents have to build financial security for their kids. 

How much money should I invest for my child?

Whether investing for future college expenses or a gift for a child, those goals should never come before your financial security. In other words, if you don't have ample savings and aren't contributing 10% to 15% of your income regularly for retirement, you can't afford to invest for a child and may end up needing their financial support in your old age. 

So only deposit amounts your budget allows. If that's only $1 or $2 a week, that's fine. The goal is to get your kids comfortable managing their money and help them understand how different financial products work. And don't forget that paying an allowance can be an excellent way to teach kids about work and the value of money.  

A Parent's Dilemma: Save for College or Retirement?

Do you have questions about kids banking? Please leave Laura a voicemail by calling the Money Girl listener hotline at 302-364-0308.


About the Author

Laura Adams, MBA

Laura Adams received an MBA from the University of Florida. She's an award-winning personal finance author, speaker, and consumer advocate who is a frequent, trusted source for the national media. Money-Smart Solopreneur: A Personal Finance System for Freelancers, Entrepreneurs, and Side-Hustlers is her newest title. Laura's previous book, Debt-Free Blueprint: How to Get Out of Debt and Build a Financial Life You Love, was an Amazon #1 New Release. Do you have a money question? Call the Money Girl listener line at 302-364-0308. Your question could be featured on the show.