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Financial Literacy

How to Open a Bank Account for Your Child

December 21, 2023Back to Learning Centre

Instilling a sense of financial responsibility in your child at an early age is important. One way to do this is by opening a kids bank account for them so they can become accustomed to managing their savings vs. spending money. Below, we explain the steps to opening a kids bank account, as well as the importance of teaching your little ones the benefits of saving early.

Find out how much budgeting and saving is required for your child’s education.

Why children need bank accounts

Opening a kid’s bank account is one of the first steps to teaching your child important financial lessons. Allowing your child to have their own ‘starter’ bank account not only instills a sense of independence in them but allows them to learn the basics of banking and money management, which is an integral part of being an adult.

Although your child may not have a job or a steady source of income – beyond you – opening an account for your child gives them a place to put money they may be gifted from friends or family. It also allows them to save the money they earn as an incentive to watch it grow.

Ultimately, when you open a bank account for your child, it opens the door for them to feel responsible for their own wealth and money. It’s a great opportunity to discuss the Canadian financial system, the purpose of banks, what long-term and short-term financial goals are and how to set them responsibly.

Choosing the right bank account for your child

Whether you’re choosing a basic bank account or choosing the right education savings account for your child, there are several factors to consider. With so many different types of accounts available today, it can be difficult to know which one is right for your child. Just as if you were opening an account for yourself, it’s important to consider the monthly fees, minimum account balance, maximum monthly transactions, Interac e-transfer allowances, and the conveniences offered with the bank and account that you are considering. With most children’s bank accounts, fees are waived until a certain age and interest rates are typically be minimal. A few of the most common types of kids bank accounts in Canada are as follows:

Children’s savings accounts

A savings account for kids is practically the same as a traditional savings account, but they usually do not come with any monthly fees. However, there may be other restrictions, like the number of monthly transactions that the account holder is allowed.

Day-to-day children’s account

A day-to-day children’s account is a fancy term for a checking account. It usually allows a higher number of monthly transactions than a savings account, and gives your child access to online banking. They will also receive a debit card in exchange for opening the account. One difference between a day-to-day children’s account and a typical adult’s checking account is that the child will not be issued cheques.

It is worth noting that unless a parent or guardian authorizes the use of a debit card for their child, those under the age of 18 are not able to obtain a debit card. Thus, if you want your kid to have a debit card before they reach the age of 18, you will need to open a children’s bank account and authorize the use of a debit card on their behalf. Doing so is generally recommended as it can teach your child about the world of day-to-day banking and digital transactions.

Cash cards

Cash cards are another type of account that your child could open. Cash cards are typically offered by digital-only financial institutions and they function similarly to day-to-day children’s accounts. Many of these cards are prepaid, which provides an additional layer of safety, and they often come with higher interest rates than basic children’s savings accounts. They may also have money apps associated with them, which can be a useful visual aid when teaching children about banking.

Guaranteed investment certificates

Although a child cannot invest in a guaranteed investment certificate (GIC) on their own, they can be gifted one, so long as their parent is listed as the account custodian. Thus, another way of instilling smart financial habits in your child is to gift them a GIC and have them follow along, watching as it grows. GICs are a great way of teaching your child about the power of saving and how compound interest works. Plus, they can access their GIC money when they turn 18.

Registered education savings plans

Another type of account that you can open to help your child succeed financially is a registered education savings plan (RESP). This is a registered, tax-sheltered account that allows parents to save money for their child’s education. Even better, a portion of the contributions that are made each year are matched by the government through grants and bursaries. Learn more about how RESPs work and when to start saving for your kid’s education.

How to open a bank account for your child

Opening a bank account is relatively simple, whether you’re opening one for yourself or for your child. But there are a few steps to note when opening a kids bank account, which we have outlined below.

1. Collect the necessary information and documentation

When opening a bank account for your child, you will need to provide information and documentation about yourself and your child. Thus, it is recommended that you bring the following pieces of ID:

  • Child’s passport
  • Child’s social insurance number (SIN)
  • Child’s birth certificate
  • Parent’s photo identification, e.g. passport, driver’s license, provincial health card

2. Visit a financial institution near you

Once you’ve decided what bank you want to go with, research where the nearest branch is to your home. Most of the time, kids and other bank accounts can be opened in person at your local branch or online. However, opening a bank account in person may be the better option, especially if your child has questions. It could be useful to familiarize them with bank processes and show them in general that banks are not as scary as they may seem. No matter which option you choose, the entire application process shouldn’t take more than five or ten minutes.

3. Choose which kids bank account to open

Whether you decide to open a savings account or are looking for the best checking account for kids, you will need to choose the type of account you wish to open. As seen above, most financial institutions in Canada offer a range of options, from day-to-day accounts and savings to guaranteed investment certificates and RESPs. Decide what makes sense for you and your child’s needs.

Kids bank accounts vs. regular bank accounts

You might be curious about what separates kids bank accounts from regular bank accounts. Although they function similarly, there are a few key distinctions between the two. We break down the key differences below:

  • Minimum age: In order to open a kids bank account in Canada, the child must usually be between 12 and 15 or 16 years of age. If the child is under 12 years old, then a parent or legal guardian will need to be present to authorize the opening of the account.
  • Involvement of a parent or legal guardian: Even if your child meets the age requirement for opening an account, some financial institutions will still require an adult’s name to be listed on the account. When opening a bank account for your child, you should bring at least one piece of government-issued photo ID with you.
  • Minimal interest rate: Most children’s bank accounts feature minimal interest rates, especially when you compare them to high-yield savings accounts for adults. That said, unlike adult accounts, many children’s accounts have little to no monthly fees, which means that all the money you earn ends up back in your pocket. If you want to find a more competitive interest rate for your child, consider a digital-only financial institution or money app.
  • No account fees: One perk of opening a checking or savings account for kids is that they usually come with no account fees. It is always wise to compare the different accounts out there, but you will find that most do not have any annual or monthly costs.
  • Transaction limits and costs: Some kids bank accounts have strict transaction limits. If your child goes over the maximum number of transactions per month, they may have to pay a steep price. Thus, if you authorize your child to open a day-to-day account that comes with a debit card or the ability to send Interac e-transfers, make sure that they understand how to use it properly, including ensuring that they know the card’s limits.
  • Debit card: Not all children’s bank accounts come with debit cards. Thus, you will need to ask the financial institution whether your kids account comes with a debit card, and if so, what the limits of that card are.
  • Minimum account balance: Most children’s bank accounts do not have a minimum account balance that must be met. That said, it’s always smart to ask your financial institution about minimum account balances just in case your child’s account has one. As you might suspect, having less than the minimum amount in your account can result in hefty fees.
  • Necessary account changes: Children’s banking needs change as they get older. Thus, unlike the average bank account, there may be several necessary changes that need to occur as your child grows. In most cases, the bank will automatically convert your child’s kids account to an adult account once they turn 18 or 19 years old. As you now know, adult accounts are significantly different from a kid’s account, so you will need to make sure that your child understands the implications of any pre-authorized changes to their account.


Written by Embark

Embark is Canada’s education savings and planning company. The organization aims to help families and students along their post-secondary journeys, giving them innovative tools and advice to take hold of their bright futures and succeed.