Smart Banking

An important part of financial independence is having your own checking and savings accounts. Some financial institutions offer teen accounts for people under 18, or custodial or joint accounts if a parent or guardian co-signs.

Opening a Bank Account

Choose your bank carefully. You want a bank that is easily accessible and has the types of accounts you want – like a savings or checking account without a required minimum balance.

Learn about how to open a bank account.

Savings Accounts

Saving your money can help you achieve the goals you’ve set. It is also a good idea to put some money away for emergencies and unexpected expenses, such as losing your job or health problems.

A savings account can actually help you save. Just put the money in there and forget about it. It’s more likely to stay there until you really need it than if you put it in your checking account where you might be tempted to spend it.

Savings tips:

  • Prioritize your savings and treat it like any other important bill you have to pay.
  • Deposit money in your savings account as soon as you receive your allowance or paycheck, or set up a regular, automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account.
  • Don’t wait to see what money you have left over at the end of the month! 

Checking Accounts

Unlike a savings account in which you deposit money and leave it there, your checking account is much more active – with money going in and out more frequently.

Learn about using an ATM to access money from your checking account.

A checking account requires active management. Manage your checking account responsibly:

  • Treat your debit card and checkbook right. Keep them in a safe place, and never share. Report a lost or stolen card or checks to your financial institution immediately.
  • Avoid paying unnecessary fees. Make a habit of using your financial institution’s ATMs so you don’t waste money on transaction fees charged by other banks’ ATMs.
  • Avoid overdrafts and bounced checks. A check bounces when there is not enough money in the account to pay the check. Typically, there are hefty fees charged for bouncing checks, so don’t get into this expensive habit. Having overdraft protection, which prevents checks from bouncing, is usually cheaper than having to pay bounced check fees, but it is still not a good idea to overdraw your account. It can be a sign that your spending is not under control. Check your account balance before writing a check. Most financial institutions will let you do this over the phone or online.
  • Keep track of all of your transactions in your check register. It is one way to know what the balance is in your checking account, and it also allows you to see if any errors have been made when you get your statements.
  • Balance your checkbook. Every month you receive a statement from your bank. Check it against the transactions you’ve recorded in your register. If you notice any problems when checking your statements, contact your financial institution immediately.

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