Picture this: you’re standing at the grocery store register on a busy day. The lady behind you is grumbling about how you’re taking too long. You feel like everyone is staring at you. All because you’re stuck fumbling in your wallet for exact change. You keep thinking “there’s got to be a better way to do this…”
I have good news for you. A checking account could make this, and many other messy money situations, much easier.
A checking account is a transaction account at a bank or credit union. Basically, it’s built to keep your cash safe and make it easy to move money in and out of your account. Not only is it convenient, it’s a necessity. Things like rent, utilities, insurance, and more will often require a checking account. With checking accounts, you can use checks or a debit card to have the money taken directly out of your account. You can also set up automatic bill payments or other direct transfers that allow a person or organization to pull money directly from your account.
A non-transaction account, on the other hand, is meant for saving money. That means you can only access the money directly through a withdrawal or by transferring money to another one of your accounts.
It’s important to recognize that checking accounts can come with a price. It’s common for financial institutions to charge a monthly fee for a checking account. These fees average anywhere from $7-$15 a month. Some institutions will waive the fee if you keep a minimum amount of money in the account or make a set amount of transactions each month. You can also be charged for checks, but the cost is usually minimal at around 35 cents. ATM withdrawals can be a bit more costly, sometimes up to $3 per withdrawal.
And finally, there are overdraft fees. If you try to charge more than what’s available in your account, your institution will often allow the charge to go through. You’ll just be required to pay back the extra money they let you charge as well as a fee. That fee is generally around $35. If you want to avoid this, you can often opt out of overdraft protection. Without this service, your card would decline if you tried to buy something but didn’t have enough money in your account for it.
Teen Checking Accounts
If you’re under 18, you’ll likely need to open a youth or teen checking account. These modified checking accounts are meant to help you get used to everything that goes along with having an account with some safeguards in place. For example, some accounts won’t require that a minimum amount of money be kept in the account in order to avoid a fee. These accounts are also often joint accounts with a parent, meaning you can both put money in or take money out. This allows them to help you with issues as they arise. When you turn 18, many financial institutions will automatically convert your teen account into a regular checking account, so you’ll need to be prepared for the changes that will bring.
Setting Up an Account
It takes a bit of research and decision-making to find the right account for you, but once you’ve found it, setting it up is easy.
What you need
Government issued photo ID—driver’s license, state issued ID, or valid passport.
Social Security card/taxpayer identification number—You must have at least one of these to qualify, so make sure to find one before arriving at the bank.
Proof of Address—Most banks require you to use a physical address and not a post office box on the account—all banks require proof of address.
Money to deposit—This differs depending on the bank, but you almost always need a small amount of money to deposit into your new account.
A Parent or Guardian—If you’re under 18, you’ll need someone there when you go to set up your account.
When used carefully, a checking account can make your life a lot easier. It gives you a safe place to store your earnings and convenient access to your money. Make sure to check out the options available near you.
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