When you open a checking account, you will be given the option of getting a debit card. A debit card is linked to your checking account and funds are removed once you make a purchase. A debit card can be useful for spending money wisely and keeping tabs on your checking account. While these may seem like grownup concerns, teens can benefit from a checking account and debit card too.

So, how old do you have to be to get a debit card and checking account? The answer is that it depends, since each bank’s requirements might vary. 

Younger consumers can often get a checking account and debit card if they have a parent or guardian as a co-signer on the account.

Common Age Requirements 

With a few exceptions, each state requires an individual to be of legal adult age in that state to open a deposit bank account — this is 18 years of age in most states.[1] So, how do younger teens or students get a checking account and debit card? Many banks and credit unions offer accounts specifically for teens or students. These accounts for younger consumers require an adult joint account holder. After opening the account, a debit card can be issued to both account holders, giving the teen (as young as 14) the benefits that come with a debit card.

Benefits of a Debit Card for Teens

Just as debit cards provide grownups a flexible way to pay for purchases in stores and online, they provide the same convenience for teens. They also provide other advantages, which you should ask your bank about when opening your account. 

Becoming Familiar with Banking

Owning a checking account with a debit card attached gives kids the experience of moving money around, planning for purchases, and interacting with bank account software and apps.

Since it's much more effective to learn by doing, they'll get a crash course in all that banking terminology in a way that truly matters to them.

Saving for Money Goals

Kids always seem to have something they want to buy, whether it’s movie tickets or a new pair of sneakers. If they are already accustomed to saving money in a piggy bank at home, having a checking account and debit card is a great next step toward learning how they would save and spend as an adult.

While having debit card access (including ATM privileges) may seem like a temptation to overspend, kids left to handle the consequences tend to quickly learn moderation and planning ahead. Instead of being told to save their money for a rainy day, they can get in practice first-hand. They also get access to mobile apps and planning tools as part of their account, which can help them with learning to save and budget.

Preparing for Future Financial Independence

Many students lack necessary financial literacy skills. In fact, 32% of teens don’t know the difference between credit and debit cards. However, 75% of teens claim their parents are the #1 source of financial information and that they trust mom and dad over even the most popular social media platforms. Because of this earned trust, it may make perfect sense to get a joint account with a parent.[2]

In the larger picture, it’s important to pass down financial knowledge from one generation to the next, with a checking account and debit card as the first step of that hands-on learning. These lessons can be taught early so that when students leave for college or live on their own, they won’t be prone to making poor money choices. This type of empowerment can have lasting positive effects when it comes to future financial security.

Protecting Against Cyber Crimes

Finally, teens who use debit cards get introduced early to the concept of safe online shopping. 

Teens can also refer to the FTC’s guidelines for avoiding scams.[3] Best practices include:

  • Block unknown calls and unwanted text or social media messages.
  • Never share personal information (such as Social Security Number, cell number, passwords, or PINs), especially in response to an unsolicited message.
  • Avoid responding to requests for money that require quick action. Scammers use Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) to get financial information from their victims before they can take the time to research or ask for help.
  • Don't be embarrassed to ask for help. Even if you've fallen victim once, it's worth speaking up to prevent it happening again.

It's also wise to delete debit card information from online shopping accounts after every purchase. Also, not every scam deals with a debit card directly; some crimes, like romance scams, can use any payment method, especially gift cards, cryptocurrency, and money orders. Learning about them now can help protect them from being vulnerable later.

Is Your Kid Ready for a Debit Card?

Even though there are checking accounts and debit cards available for younger kids, you may wonder if it’s a good idea to have one. Every child matures at their own rate, and some kids may not even want an account or debit card until they are older.

That doesn’t mean you can’t introduce them to debit card use, anyway. If you want to ensure they take the responsibility of using the new card seriously, you can help guide them on properly using one. 

The advantage of today’s technology is often when you have a checking account you can set up alerts for your debit card that can help you monitor your spending and managing your account.

What to Look for When Choosing a Checking Account and Debit Card

There is no lack of checking accounts that come with debit cards which are aimed at teens and young adults. While all claim to be easy to use and suited for students, not all are created equal. A few things to look for include:

  • Fees, including monthly service fees or fees to use out-of-network ATMs.
  • The ATM network, where machines are located, and how many withdrawals may be made monthly.
  • Controls that notify you or your parents of large purchases or unusual account activity.
  • Overdraft protection 
  • Easy online access with tools for monitoring accounts, depositing checks, and transferring money.
  • Customer service access through chat or phone.

How to Apply for a Checking Account and Debit Card with your kid 

Each bank will have its own policies for how to open an account. Some will allow online applications, requiring you to upload documentation or verify it through other means. Others may ask that you come into a bank branch in person to fill out paperwork. Whatever the method, expect to provide the following:

  • Documentation of the student’s enrollment in school.
  • Age of the student.
  • Address of the student and adult.
  • Citizenship of the student and adult.
  • Government-issued photo ID, such as a U.S. driver’s license, military ID, or state ID.
  • Social Security number for the student and adult.

To get started, explore PNC Bank’s Virtual Wallet Student® account, which allows children as young as 14 to apply with an adult.