As parents, we all want the best for our children, including teaching them financial responsibility from a young age. If only they had taught this stuff at school!
One of the best ways to help a child find their financial feet is by opening them a kid bank account.
However, with so many options available, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Should you choose a traditional bank or an online-only bank? What fees should you look out for? What features are important? Will their money be safe?
In this article, I explore the key factors to consider when selecting the best bank account for your child.
It’s never really too early to get them started on saving and teaching them how to be financially responsible.
In a research conducted by Raiz Invest, it was found that an alarming 25% of children are not adequately educated by their parents about finances. I believe this needs to change, and only us parents and caregivers, can make that happen.
Most banks in Australia require parents of children aged 13 years and below to help them set up their accounts online or at your chosen bank branch.
Some Australian banks already allow children aged 14 years and above to set up and maintain an account by themselves.
Having said that, the age specifications may still vary slightly between different banks.
Minimum balance requirements
Most Australian banks fully understand the needs and limitations of their young customers.
It’s now easy to find a bank that offers savings accounts for children that require zero maintaining balance for the account to remain active. Although most banks do still need a deposit of some kind to open. This is less for children than it is for adult bank account.
If your child is earning pocket money, encourage them to save it until they have enough to open a bank account.
Kid’s bank account fees
In order to encourage you and your children to venture into learning how to save money, most banks have either minimised or totally excluded bank fees for their young customers.
Note: Conditions may be set by the banks that you are considering before they exclude these fees, so look out for that. See if these conditions are beneficial enough for your child’s saving capacity, as some banks may charge zero fees only IF your child doesn’t go over a specific number of account activities allowed by the bank.
This is where you can show your child that responsible saving grows money.
Australian banks offer higher reasonable base interest rates for children over adult savings accounts in order to encourage your kids to save. They can go from 0.01% to 4.75% pa depending on the bank and your kid’s account balance.
Choose a bank that offers the best rates for the range of account balance you know that your child can eventually maintain every month.
Rewards and incentives
This is what I find truly interesting and rewarding for children who are trying to save.
Several banks in Australia can reward your kids with bonus interest rates (this could be an additional 1.1% – 4.1% on top of the base rate) for consistently making deposits every month and zero withdrawals.
Through making deposits of $5-20 monthly (minimum deposit amount varies between banks) and seeing how interest rates add up if they don’t touch their savings, your children will be able to understand that with consistency and a bit of self-restraint, they can be rewarded.
This incentive can help your child develop actual saving habits and decision-making skills that will empower them into the future.
In order to also bolster your child’s interest in saving and engaging with the world more financially-aware, some Australian banks also partner with child-oriented establishments and companies for added purchasing perks and discounts. I would also suggest for you to check your shortlisted banks’ partners.
ATM access for a kid’s bank account
Remember the first time you used an ATM? It didn’t matter if it was actually with your mum’s card, you still felt like an adult and wow, did it boost your confidence?
Now, it’s possible to instil the same confidence AND newfound independence in your child because they will be handling their own card and money.
Many Australian banks now offer Visa/Mastercard debit cards with kids saving accounts for their customers as young as 9 years old.
You should also choose a bank that has a good number of ATMs close to your family and your child’s most frequented places: your home, their school, or their favourite shopping centre.
When setting up a kid’s bank account it will require an adult guardian signatory, preferably the parents. This entitles the signatory parental control over the account until a certain time when the child is empowered to independently take over their bank account.
Some banks require mandatory parental control for savings accounts of children under 12- 14 years of age. Parental control may include measures such as requiring a parent’s authorisation when the child makes withdrawals at the bank if a debit card is not available or when a child is making a fund transfer. This also means that the parental control holder receives notifications for each of the child’s transactions when using the account.
Parental control does not mean YOU have access to your child’s money; this is highly discouraged.
Depending on the bank, a child becomes the primary decision-maker over the account and can amend parental control and access to the account upon reaching a specified age by the bank. Parental control becomes optional.
I strongly advise that, as a parent, you make sure that the parental control specifications of your chosen bank meet your expectations but also do not hinder your child too much from exercising control and decision-making over their money.
Online and mobile banking
Now that our kids’ generation are becoming more and more tech-savvy (have you seen how they navigate through your iPad like fish in water?), consider the user-friendliness and efficiency of banks’ online banking apps and websites, both for desktop and mobile interface.
For me, this is not only to judge these banks’ future-ability, but also to provide convenient channels for your child to monitor their finances and learn more about their bank and account.
I also encourage you to look into a bank’s available finance educational materials before choosing a kid’s bank account.
After you shortlist the best banks for your child according to fees and interest rate benefits, check if they also have accessible and digestible online reading materials on their website, engaging and informative materials on their social media accounts, and readily available videos where your child can learn more about money.
This aspect is crucial to be well-implemented and available in your chosen kid’s bank account.
Even I, as an adult, sometimes struggle with poor customer service from time to time; I don’t think you would like your child to be intimidated by “the adults at the bank” or to not know how to independently ask for help from their bank.
Research the answers to these questions:
Does this bank’s hotline accept calls 24/7?
Do they have a chat support channel on their website available at all times?
Are they responsive on social media?
Do their bank branches close to your location have good reviews based on their customer service?
Being secure spells a bit differently with banks nowadays as their current biggest threat is not a heist, but a cyber security breach.
After the infamous Optus data breach, it’s been found that telcos and banks are the most attractive targets for hackers and personal data thieves. Most banks in Australia are at a very low risk for cyber security breach, but it wouldn’t also hurt for you to read up on which measures each of your bank options employ to keep their customers’ information and money safe.
This can also be a good exercise to do with your child as you teach them how information technology does more than just show them videos, offer them games, or create their favourite social media platforms. It can also protect their personal information and their money.