It's never too early for kids to start saving money, and a savings account for a minor child can give her an excellent opportunity to learn to manage her money. It's easy to open a joint savings account with a minor child, and many banks offer savings accounts designed specifically for children.
Children can't legally sign contracts, so banks require that a parent or guardian be listed as a joint owner of the account. Joint accounts for children are often called custodial accounts because the parent has custody of and responsibility for the account but the account is in the child's name and the child has access to the funds. You'll need to put your name on the application and, if you've ever had trouble opening a bank account, your child might have some difficulty as well.
When applying for the account, you'll generally have to provide your full name, contact information and Social Security number. Even if you have bad credit, banks generally accept applications. The only exceptions to this occur when you've been entered into a bank system for people who overdraft and then abandon their accounts or for people who repeatedly overdraw their accounts. You'll also need to provide your child's full name and might have to provide proof that you are her parent or legal guardian.
Although the account is your child's chance at saving, her bank account is really your responsibility. Careful supervision of your child's spending and saving habits can help you teach her how to properly manage money. Moreover, if your child overdrafts her account, you'll be held responsible if she doesn't repay the funds, so it's important to carefully monitor her account activity. Many savings accounts for minors have low or no minimum balance requirements, but if your child has a minimum balance requirement that she does not meet, she'll be charged a fee that you will be responsible for if she doesn't pay it
After Age 18
At most banks, your name will remain on the account until your child is above the age of 18 and you ask to remove your name. When your child moves out or goes away to college, you'll still be held responsible for her spending decisions if your name is on the account. Consider removing your name when your child becomes an adult or continuing to monitor the account.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.