How to get a bank account for under 18s

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Whether you’re interested in opening a bank account for a child or baby, we’ll help you choose and open the right one for your youngster.

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There are many benefits to opening a bank account for a child, but it’s important to compare your options carefully, as we explain. 

Opening a bank account for a child

Children’s bank accounts have many similarities to standard current accounts but are designed for account holders below 16-18. They usually come with some restrictions on how children can use them – they don’t have overdraft facilities, for instance.

Older children with jobs can have their wages paid into this type of account, which often includes debit or cash cards that allow them to use cash machines and make purchases in-store or online.

What are the benefits of opening a bank account for a child? 

Opening a bank account for a child can help them learn to look after their money. By opening a bank account for a child, you can:

  • Encourage them to save their birthday and Christmas money

  • Teach them to check their balance

  • Let them have a debit card so that they can spend their money in shops or online

Luckily, a child can’t get into debt with a children’s bank account because they don’t include overdrafts.

Opening a bank account for a child gives them a way to access their money whenever and wherever they are, meaning they don’t have to carry cash.

Opening a bank account for a baby

If you want to open a bank account for a baby, it’s slightly different to opening a bank account for an older child. 

For a start, you may find your options are more limited. A child needs to be at least 11 years old before many banks will let them open a bank account. However, some banks allow parents to open an account on behalf of their baby.

Of course, the baby won’t have any involvement in the account. So, when you open a bank account for a baby:

  • The parent will be the account holder on behalf of the child

  • The child will be the legal owner of the money

How old does the child have to be to open an account?

In most cases, a child has to be at least 11 years old to open their own bank account. Some children’s accounts have a higher minimum age, like 16. Usually, a parent will need to be present to set up a bank account for a child unless that child is 16 or over.

Some banks offer one account for children and another for teenagers, for example:

  • An account for children aged 11 to 15

  • An account with more features for teenagers aged 16 to 19.

Some children's accounts expire once you reach a certain age, usually 18 or 19. The bank usually upgrades the account to a standard adult bank account at that point.

How do I open a bank account for a child?

If you’re wondering how to open a bank account for a child or how to open a bank account for a baby, there’s no need to worry as it’s simple to do. Here’s some helpful information.

Choosing an account 

When opening a bank account for a child, choose one with all the features your child will need, including:

  • A debit card

  • Internet banking

  • A nearby branch

You’ll also need to check the age limits and the minimum and maximum balance your child can have in the account.

If several accounts offer what you need, check what else each one provides, such as:

  • Interest (what your bank pays to you as a percentage of your account's balance)

  • Rewards, such as cashback, when you spend 

  • Other freebies, like driving lesson discounts

You can then choose the one that gives the most suitable bonuses.

Applying for the account

If you’re opening a bank account for a child, you can usually apply online through the bank's website. However, you may need to go into a branch to provide the required ID documents, including ID for your child.

Some banks only let children under 16 open an account if a parent or guardian is present, so you will need to go into a branch with them.

If you’ve decided to set up a bank account for a child at the same branch you bank with, you may be able to arrange this over the phone.

What documents do you need?

To set up a bank account for a child, you usually need to provide two identification documents. These tend to be:

  • Name ID – This usually has to be a passport or birth certificate (or a driving licence if the child is over 17)

  • Address ID – This includes utility bills or bank statements. If the child lives with the adult opening the account, these documents can be in a parent or guardian's name.

Can I withdraw money from my child’s bank account?

Parents can’t usually withdraw money from their child’s account because the child is the legal owner of the money.

However, parents can pay money into the account to help their child save.

Can grandparents open bank accounts for grandchildren?

Yes, bank accounts for grandchildren are available. 

Both parents and grandparents can open bank accounts for a child as long as they can provide the right documentation.

Grandparents can gift up to £3,000 in total per tax year without it potentially being subject to inheritance tax. If they don’t gift all of that amount, it can be carried over for one year.

They can also gift £250 per year to any one person. But they can’t gift this on top of the £3,000 annual allowance if it’s all for the same person.

What features do you get with a bank account for a child?

Every bank account offers different features. When you’re opening a bank account for a child, you can usually find one that lets them:

  • Receive payments into the account by bank transfer, cash or cheque from other people, such as a relative or their employer 

  • Withdraw cash from a cashpoint using a debit card or cash card 

  • Pay on a debit card in a shop, by phone or when shopping online (parents have to give permission for a debit card for children under 16)

  • Use internet and mobile banking to check the balance, move money between accounts or send money to someone else. Here’s how mobile banking works

  • Pay bills by direct debit or standing order. These would come out of their account regularly - for example, to pay a monthly phone bill. Here’s how they work.

Some accounts even come with fun features such as the chance for children to design their own bank card. Others offer modern technological features such as the ability to pay for things using Apple Pay.

Children’s accounts don’t come with overdrafts.

How much does it cost to set up a bank account for a child?

Most children's bank accounts are free. That means there won’t be monthly fees or costly overdrafts, but check the terms and conditions of the account you’re looking at.

Any interest earned on the account is usually tax-free. Tax will only be charged if:

  • The child’s annual income is above £12,570 (2021-2022 tax year)

  • The child earns more than £100 interest on money given to them by their parents.

Here’s how tax works on children's accounts.

How to manage a children’s account

Managing a children’s bank account is simple if you and your child know how they work. 

This information may help:

Should you open a savings account instead?

You can open savings accounts for children or babies on their behalf, or a child can open their own savings account if they’re over seven years old. A children’s savings account usually comes with fewer features than a current account, but they do tend to pay more interest.

A children’s savings account can be useful for saving up for the future, but you can’t spend with a debit card or set up direct debits with a savings account.

If you’re a parent and want to save money for your child's future, a children's savings account could be more suitable than a current account. Savings accounts let parents control the account until their child reaches a certain age. 

However, if you want your child to be able to withdraw cash or make card payments, you’ll need to get them a current account instead.

New bank accounts are offered all the time, so compare all of the best options to make sure you get the right one for you.

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