A checking account is a great way to show that you are financially responsible. With a checking account, you can write checks to pay bills and use a debit card to make purchases with money in your account. Your checking account becomes a great way for banks and other lenders to see how well you handle your money. Paying bills on time, balancing your account correctly, and never writing bad checks will reflect well on you when you want to apply for a loan.
- Find out how old you need to be. In most states, to open a checking account you'll have to be eighteen years of age, have a social security number, and have some form of ID. If you're not eighteen yet, you can open a joint account with your parents and you can still manage it.
- Before you open an account, shop around. You'll want to find a checking account that works for you. Be sure to ask questions first: Do I have to keep a minimum balance in the account? How much do I get charged if I write a bad check? Do I get charged for every ATM visit?
- Get started. Once you open the account, you can deposit cash or checks into the account and keep track of how much money you put in on your check register. Once you know how much you have, you can begin writing checks or using your debit card to pay your phone bill, a credit card bill, or to make other purchases.
- Keep your checkbook balanced. Each time you write a check or use your debit card, record it on your check register so you can carefully keep track of how much money you have. You should always know how much money you have in your account (your balance).
- Keep track of your ATM withdrawals too. You will probably be able to use your debit card as an ATM card as well. You can take money out of your checking account at any ATM site, but remember to mark it down on your check register. If you don't, you may end up writing a check for something that you don't have the money to cover.
- Watch out for bank fees. You can use any ATM machine, but if it is not affiliated with your bank, you may be charged a fee (usually a few dollars) for any transaction (a withdrawal, a deposit, or a transfer of funds).
- Don't be shy about asking questions. If you are unsure about how to write a check or use a debit card, make sure you ask someone. Once you get in the habit of writing checks or using your debit card, you'll realize how easy it is.
- When you get your bank statement each month, be sure to look it over. Compare it to your own check register and make sure they match. Call your bank if you notice any discrepancies.
Stay organized! If you don't keep track of each withdrawal and deposit, you risk writing a bad check. If you write a check and don't have the money to cover it, the check will bounce and you'll have to pay a fee. This doesn't look good on your financial history when you go to apply for loans for cars or college.
For more information and resources to help military youth and teens navigate everything from the unique challenges of a mobile military lifestyle to managing their social lives, saving money, and going green, visit Military Youth on the Move!