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Everything you need to know about teen checking accounts

We live in a commodity culture. People make and do things and other people want those items or services. For instance, you might want a new iPhone. Whoever made that product, in this case Apple, wants to be compensated for giving you the item. In other words, you have to pay for the thing you want.

What does this have to do with teen checking accounts? First you have to know about the different ways to look at money.

Different ways to look at money

In today’s modern money world there are two ways to look at your money – as cash or as numbers in a computer system. The concrete concept of cash is easy to grasp – literally! You can hold cash, paper or coin, in your hand. As you spend it, it changes form. You might hand a cashier a $20 bill and after purchasing a $12 item, you’ll get back a $5 and three $1s. That’s easy to understand. The bummer of cash is that it can get lost, stolen or destroyed. If you lose your wallet full of cash, your money is most likely gone for good. Sadface.

The other, more modern, and sometimes more confusing concept of money is to see it as numbers stored in a computer system. You may get a direct deposit from your Target job on payday. This amount, or number, is like invisible money. It’s there but you can’t hold it. UNLESS you convert it to cash, by doing a withdrawal at your credit union or an ATM. If you leave it in your bank account, you can still use it just like cash, but it stays in the form of electronic numbers. Let’s call that digital money. A little more abstract, but you get it right?

Either way, you need a bank account.

Financial institutions have developed an account with tools that allow you to use your money to buy stuff, like gas for your car, without having to always use cash.

It’s commonly known as a CHECKING ACCOUNT. The main tools it provides are paper checks, debit cards and digital card-less payment channels.

But dude, checks are for your dad and not cool. A check is a sort of paper form you fill out and use as a substitute for cash. The problem is that you have to carry around the blank checks in case you need to buy something. And they aren’t an easy way to keep track of your purchases and account balance because it takes some time for the money to come out of your account and there isn’t a good way of knowing when that will be. So, you might forget you wrote it and mess up your budget.

Most people agree that checks are an old-school technology and their use is declining. Thank you, universe!! Writing checks and keeping track of them is not convenient and most people write as few as possible. Plus, you don’t want to carry around a checkbook and possibly loose it – then you’re in for a hassle, no joke. You’re better off using a non-paper way to pay for everything – debit card, Apple Pay, Venmo, automatic transfer, or anything electronic.  

sad teen without teen checking account

Digital or card payments are the way to go.


A debit card looks like a credit card but acts very differently.  Debit cards with a chip keep your personal information safe by sending a one-time approval code to the merchant when you buy something instead of your personal and confidential account information.

Get the SecurLOCK Equip app and connect you teen checking account’s debit card for an extra layer of security. You can turn off your card from the app if you misplace it. You can set up a bunch of other features to help protect your money from thieves.

If you lose your wallet and your debit card, you make a call to cancel the card so no one else can use it. You can also order a replacement card. OR go to a branch and pick out a super cool design and get your card on-the-spot.

Digital payment systems – Digital payments are online or mobile device systems or apps that store and transmit your account information when you want to use your money. You’ve probably seen someone in line at Taco Bell or Little Caesars Pizza use Apple Pay or Google Pay on their phone to pay for their grub. Digital wallet payments are one of the most secure ways to spend your money because of tokenization, or the heavy encryption, of your personal information. Plus, you probably know where your phone is, like 99% of the time – you won’t lose your card info if it’s stored in there.

teen bought headphones with teen checking account

Do I really need a checking account?


Yes, it’s the only way to access all of these payment systems. Once you have a checking account you can order checks (or NOT!), get a debit card, and use a digital wallet. Teen checking accounts are the main way for teens to access your money to pay for purchases.


Why not a savings account?

It’s a good idea to have a savings account too, but you’re limited to 6 withdrawals per month due to a Federal law (Reg D). That regulation is kind of complicated, just know that you may get a fee if you go over 6 withdrawals from your savings account in a month. Plus, you won’t have access to the digital payment options or Mobile Deposit.

How do I open an account?

You can open an account with your parent or guardian at any age, but to get a teen checking account or debit card you have to be 13. These require more responsibility and care.

 If you’re under 18 you need to bring a parent or guardian to also be on the account. You’ll also need to bring:

  • Photo ID – a state driver’s license or ID is preferred but a school ID is fine, too.
  • Deposit – bring at least $20 to open your checking account and another $5 if you don’t already have an HCU savings account.

Then decide which features you want to use:

  • Debit card
  • Digital Banking
  • App/mobile deposit
  • Paper checks (For real??)

At age 18 you are considered an adult in the banking world so you can apply to open any type of financial account on your own.

Get all the facts

How long does it take for the money to come out of my account? 

Check clearing: It all depends on when whomever you wrote the check to cashes it. It could take three or more days from the day they deposit or cash the check. If the person or merchant doesn’t cash the check right away it’s a good idea to make sure you don’t spend that money while it’s still in your account. This helps avoid overdraft fees.

ACH –Is a form of electronic check clearing. This happens when the merchant takes the account information from the check but doesn’t keep it. This process can also take a few days for it to clear from the account. Again, if there isn’t enough money in the account you could get a fee.

When does the money come out of my account when I buy something and pay with my debit card?

It depends on merchants – some transactions will come out of your account right away. Others may take a couple days – if you use the card as debit (using your PIN) it will usually come out right away. Choosing the credit option (not using your PIN) may delay the process a few days.

teens using mobile app for teen checking account

How long after mobile depositing a check will I be able to use the money? 

Mobile deposit all depends on the financial, mostly mobile deposits happen Monday through Friday. There is usually a two hour window from when you deposit a check to when you can use the money.

Is there a limit as to how big a check can be for me to use mobile deposit? 

Yes, at HCU our limit is $10,000.00 – probably not an issue with your average Target paycheck.  If it’s over that amount, you’ll need to come into a branch or use our ITM’s (teller machines) for deposit.

Fees and penalties


Overdraft fee

An overdraft is when you spend more than you have in your account. Doh! Debit card transactions and checks that don’t take the money from your account right away can fool you. Your account balance looks like higher than it really is if you subtracted those transactions. If you continue spending without a solid grasp of your actual balance, it’s possible to overspend, or overdraw your account causing an overdraft fee. It happens.


How to prevent an overdraft

Keep track of your account balance and spending. It’s your responsibility to keep track of your true balance by subtracting ALL transactions or purchases. You can do this on paper or online. There are also a variety of apps that can help you keep track of your money and spending.

Overdraft protection – we can set up your account so that if you overspend from your checking account, we can automatically transfer money from your savings account to cover it. Of course that means you have to have money in the savings account in the first place. Also, remember you only get 6 free transfers per month because of the Federal Regulation mentioned earlier.

When you think you’re ready for the responsibility to manage you spending with more teen checking accounts and their advanced tools, let your parents or guardian know. Then visit your credit union and get going. A checking account opens up a whole new world – online PayPal purchases and after school Starbucks here you come!!

teen bought coffee with teen checking account