A checking account is just one of the services
that banks offer. It allows you to put money in the bank
and use paper checks instead of cash to pay for what you owe.
You probably won’t need a checking account until you have a real
job that pays
wages or a
salary. Most people want a
checking account to pay for
expenses they have. Kids
usually give cash to their parents for them to write a check from their
checking account if they need to pay for something.
If you are starting a checking account, it is important to
know what to do first. With a checking account, you
deposit money in the bank and
have different ways that you can take it back out again. It is mainly
used for money that is going to be spent soon. Your money can be taken
out by using a paper check, an
You will need to go to the bank, talk to an account manager
usually found in the bank lobby, and set up the account. The bank will
Social Security number
I.D. Usually a school
photo I.D. is okay. Sometimes kids like to take a parent with them
because it is always good to have advice during the account set up. It
is also a good idea to call the bank to find out what you will need to
bring and if there is a
A minimum balance is the least amount of money that you can keep in
your checking account without being charged a fee. For example: Your
minimum balance is set by the bank at $200.00. You have $400.00 in your
account and write a check for $201.00. You now have $199.00 in your
account and you will be charged the extra fee. Minimum balances need to
be watched and checked often so that you don’t lose money with extra
charges. If there is a minimum balance, you have to deposit at least
that amount when you set up the account. Some banks have student
accounts that don’t have a lot of extra charges.
When you set up your account, you will deposit (or put in)
money. The deposit can be in
or a check. Cash is available to take out or write checks on right
away. Sometimes a check takes a little longer to use because it will be
sent to a large bank that will then send it back to the bank of the
company that it came from. Then the company’s bank will electronically
transfer the money to another bank that will transfer it to you. It
sounds like it would take a long time to do this, but it usually takes
from 2-3 days. Then you can write checks and know that they will be
paid. It is important to pay attention to the time it takes for your
deposited checks to ‘clear’ or be approved and paid. If you will be
getting a paycheck from the same company each week, you can call the
bank a few days after your first deposit and find out how long it took
for the money to be transferred to your account. This will let you know
how long you need to wait before you write checks using that money.
The account manager will give you your
first checks. A check is a rectangular piece of
paper that is used to pay debts. The check
includes the following:
The bank will give you a register, or booklet where you write
down all of the checks you write, the ATM withdrawals you make, the
withdrawal tickets you use, and deposits you make. Each time you do any
of these things, you write it in your register. If you look at the
picture, you will see that there are columns to use for all of these
things. (Click on the picture
to make it larger.) The
register includes the following columns:
Date you wrote the check, took out money, or deposited money.
Use this to mark the checks, deposits, and withdrawals that are
in your bank statement.
Description of transaction =
Write down the person or company that is
getting the check. This area should also be used to write down
‘deposit’, ‘ATM’, or ‘withdrawal ticket’ if you do any of these.
any amount that needs to be subtracted from your account
like checks, ATM, or withdrawals.
any bank or ATM fees that need to be subtracted from your total.
Any checks that you can use for your income taxes. Kids don’t
usually use this column.
Money that is put in or needs to be added to your
How much you have after you add or subtract what is on the
The account manager will ask you if you want an ATM card.
This is an Automated Teller Machine card and allows you to go any ATM
machine, anywhere in the world, and take money out of your account. It
is a convenience AND a huge responsibility. There are many people who
steal ATM cards. There are people who might look over your shoulder
while you are using it and steal the numbers so that they can take money
out later. You need to be ready to protect an ATM card before you get
one. For more on ATM cards,
You will have money
going in and coming out of a checking account all the
time. It is easy to forget taking money out with
ATM card or a
withdrawal ticket. Save all of the receipts
that you get from the bank and keep them in the same
place at home until your statement comes. A
statement is a monthly notice from your bank that shows
all of your deposits, withdrawals, fees, and interest
(if you get any).
When you get the statement:
Take out your check register and any receipts for withdrawals, ATM
machine, or deposits that the bank gives to you.
Make sure that your check register is up to date and has listed the
amounts on your receipts.
Look at your bank statement and find any fees that you are being
charged. Subtract them from your register.
our register, look at the column that is labeled code. Use this column
to check off which checks and deposits have cleared the bank. Any
checks, deposits, or withdrawals that are listed on your statement have
cleared the bank. Mark these with a check mark on your check register.
When you get done, you will probably have checks,
deposits, or withdrawals that are in your register
that aren’t on the bank statement. This may be
because bank statements are sent out once a month.
Look at the date on the statement. If the
check, deposit, or withdrawal that you have in your
register that wasn’t on the statement was completed
AFTER that date, then you will have to wait until
the next statement to see them. Remember, when
you send a check to someone, they might hold onto it
for awhile. It might take months for that
check to clear because it was carried around for
order to balance your check book, you need to subtract anything that has
not cleared (or been checked off) on your register from the amount that
the bank says you have. You might have to subtract your cousin’s check
for months if he is slow in cashing it.
When you are done subtracting all of these things from the bank total,
you should match the total that is in your check register. If it
doesn’t match, you need to check the statement over again. Then you
need to check your addition and subtraction on the check register with a
Sometimes it is hard to figure out why the two totals don’t match. If
that happens, you can ask a parent to help you figure it out or the bank
account manager can help, too. If you find that the bank never lists a
deposit or withdrawal that you made—even after a few months—then call
the bank. Banks only give us a couple of months to find errors that
Just like all other services, the bank makes money on checking
accounts. There might be a monthly fee or a fee for every check that
you write. You will have to buy the paper checks from the bank or some
other company. If you buy checks from them, your bank will subtract the
cost of the checks from your account. If your bank has a minimum
balance, and your balance goes under that at ANY time during the month,
you will be charged a fee. It is important to find out what fees the
bank charges when you set up the account.
Another fee is an
fee. You can only take out the amount of money you actually have in
your account. Here is how it works:
Another way to pay bills through the mail or in person is by
using money orders. You would go to the post office, grocery store or
another place where they sell them and buy one. It looks a little like
a check because the name of the person/company you are paying is on it
along with the amount you are paying. Your name and address are
listed. You use the top piece of paper like a check and keep the copy
that is attached so that you can prove that the bill was paid. When you
buy the money order, you pay the exact amount that will be on the check
plus a small fee. For kids that don’t have a lot of debts, this is
cheaper than setting up a checking account.
Sometimes teenagers have checking accounts because they have
a job and need to pay things like cell phone bills. You need to decide
how much use you will get out it before you get one A checking account
is a money management tool but you need to decide when you are ready and
responsible enough to use it.
More Piggy Pages
What is a
This page lists
different kinds of banks and the services they offer.
This page gives ideas
and tips for spending your money.