Questions teenagers should ask when finding a bank

When you're looking for your first bank account, it can be hard to know where to start. You'll have the choice of a lot of different financial institutions offering a lot of different products. So to help you cut through the noise, we've come up with seven questions every teenager should ask before they open an account.

1. Can I apply for the account myself?

If you’re under 18, some banks and credit unions will let you apply for your own account, but others ask your parents to set it up for you.

Once you’ve worked out if you can apply yourself, you’ll also need to look at how you can apply. Some banks and credit unions will let you apply online if you’re over 14, but others need you to visit a branch to provide proof of ID (like a birth certificate or Medicare card). Banks and credit unions that need the OK from your parents will, of course, ask you to bring your parents along to the branch with you.

2. What do I need to set up an account?

Opening a bank account always requires an ID check. To set up an account yourself, you’ll usually have to provide photo ID, contact details and personal details like your full name, gender, date of birth and address.

If your parents are setting it up for you, you’ll need their photo ID, your birth certificate and a residential address. Just make sure you also check the bank or credit union’s requirements in case they need something extra.

3. Do I have to pay any fees?

Banks and credit unions charge different fees for different services. These can add up quickly meaning less money to spend or save. So it’s important to know the details of what you’re signing up to.

Fees that some banks and credit unions might charge for include:

  • Account keeping fees, which is just because you have an active account.
  • Transaction fees, such as for putting money in your account or transferring it to others.

The good news is that some student accounts have very low fees or even no fees, depending on how you use them.

4. What are your online services like? 

Being able to access your money wherever you are is important. Some banks and credit unions still focus on in-branch services and phone calls, not on digital tools. So make sure you check the bank or credit union has the online tools you need, like online banking and banking apps you can use on your phone or tablet.

5. What type of accounts or cards can you have?

With so many different accounts to choose from, you want to find the right one to fit your needs. Some banks and credit unions have accounts designed for students and teenagers, with no account keeping fees, no cash withdrawal fees, and no transaction fees. These accounts mean you can access your money whenever you want, without all the extra features you don’t need.

For some other accounts, like the "standard" accounts that adults usually get, you might need to be 18 before applying. And don't get your hopes up about a credit card – it's a legal requirement that you have to be 18 to get one. However, your parents may be able to add you to theirs as an additional cardholder depending on the bank or credit union.

6. What will happen when I turn 18?

If you have a youth or student account as a teenager, pay attention to what happens when you turn 18. For some banks or credit unions, your account will automatically change to an adult account, and you may lose the low fees and good rates that you once enjoyed.

Others might let you keep the benefits up until 21 or while you’re still studying full-time.

7. How can I use the bank to start saving?

It’s never too early to talk about saving money, even if it’s just a little bit at a time. You might not have a goal in mind now, but starting your savings account as soon as possible means you’ll have more money later when you decide to go traveling, buy a car or save for a house deposit.

Your bank or credit union will usually have different types of savings accounts. So take a look online to find the best option for your savings goals and make sure you understand what you have to do to qualify.

For example, to have a savings account with a high-interest rate, you may need to deposit a certain amount each month and avoid making withdrawals.

Any advice given is of a general nature only and does not take into consideration your personal circumstances. Please consider the appropriateness of the advice before acting.

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