A bank account is the way most people look after their money. A card connected to the account is how you can pay for things.
Reasons to have a bank account
A bank account is how the bank shows you how much money you’ve given them to look after. You can put money in your account and take it out when you want to spend it. This type of bank account is usually called a ‘transaction account’ or ‘everyday account’.
So, why should you get a bank account? Bank accounts give you:
- a place your boss can send the money you earn doing your job
- a place you can put money given to you
- a way of paying any bills you have
- a card connected to it that lets you pay for things when you go out, or shopping online.
Getting a bank account
You don’t need to be 18 to get a bank account, but you might need an adult to help you apply.
Banks offer different types of accounts and have different rules for signing up.
The first thing you’ll need to do is find the right type of bank account for you. There are lots of options, so you don’t have to go with the ones you’re familiar with, or the ones your family has. They may not be right for you.
Good things to look for when choosing a bank account:
- it won’t cost you any money to have an account
- it won’t cost you any money to take cash out of that bank’s ATMs
- it has unlimited free transactions like using tap and pay with your card. A transaction means any change to your account balance, whether that’s adding money or taking it out
- it can help you easily track your spending with a mobile app.
Transaction accounts are different to savings accounts
Transaction accounts, or everyday accounts, only contain the amount of money you put in, and the balance will only change if you add money or take it out.
Savings accounts gain money as compound interest is paid by the bank, based on how much money you put in the account.
Comparing bank accounts
There are websites that help you compare bank accounts by asking you what options you want and then showing you the banks that offer those options. If you search for ‘compare bank accounts for teenagers’ online, you’ll see a number of these websites.
It’s important to remember that some banks pay to be featured on these websites, and one website won’t show all the banks. Look at a few different comparison websites so you’re seeing as many accounts as possible.
The Australian Government website Moneysmart lists options you should consider when choosing a bank account:
Using a debit card
The card that comes with a bank account is a ‘debit’ card. Debit means it takes money out of the account. When you use a debit card you are using money that’s in your bank account.
There are a few ways to use your card when you’re in public. The person with the machine will usually tell you how to use your card. Ways include:
- tapping it on a machine or on a tablet/square
- inserting it into a machine slot
- swiping it in a machine.
If the amount you need to pay is over $200, you will need to enter a PIN to approve the debit from your bank account. When you get a card, you are given a PIN or the option to choose one you’ll remember.
When you use a debit card online, or pay for something over the phone, you’ll need to enter or read out the numbers written on the card.
Making sure you have enough money in the account
If there is no money, or not enough money in the account, then the card may not work. Some banks will still take money out of your account, leaving you with a negative balance. This is called an ‘overdraft’.
Your bank can charge you fees and interest on the negative amount until you pay it back. Make sure you know how much money you have in the account by checking your balance online or using an ATM.
Reading your bank statement
A bank statement is a list of all transactions made using your bank account and debit card. It will show when you, or your boss, add money to the account. It will show when you paid for something and money was taken out of the account.
Debit cards are different to credit cards
Debit cards are attached to a bank account and can only be used to take money out of that account.
A credit card borrows money from a bank that you have to pay back, and if you don’t pay it back on time, they charge you interest on top of what you owe.
Important bank details
Have you heard someone ask for ‘bank details’, especially if they want to send someone money?
The details they’re talking about are:
- The account name. This is usually the full name of the person who owns the account, like ‘Jane Smith’.
- The BSB number. BSB stands for Bank State Branch. It’s a number that identifies which bank the account is with. It’s 6 numbers and looks like ‘012-345’.
- The account number. Because you can have more than one account with a bank, this number makes sure the money goes to the right one. It’s usually about 10-12 digits long.
Most banks have made sending money to people even easier by offering something called PayID. Once you set it up, people only need to know your email address or phone number and they can send you money.
It’s easier than giving all your details to someone and because it’s so simple you’re less likely to make a mistake and send your money to the wrong person.
Tips for teens/adults
Ask someone you trust which bank they use and why. Is it because it has no fees? Has lots of ATMS? Do they like the phone app? Did they choose it because it’s the same bank they have a mortgage with?
If you’re looking at a bank comparison website, look for filters for ‘youth’, ‘kids’, ‘teenagers’, ‘students’, or ‘under 18’. Often banks will have special bank accounts for teenagers and using these filters will help you find them.
To open a bank account, you’ll need ID to prove who you are and how old you are. The bank will tell you what they need. Ask an adult to help you find any ID you already have, or to help you get the type you need.
It’s completely normal to not know what lots of the words used on bank websites mean. Some of them are used on this website but if you tap on the word you’ll see an explanation. You can also ask an adult, search for it online, or check out ‘What does that word mean?’
Talk to your teen about your bank and what you do and don’t like about it. Remember that just because the bank meets your needs, it may not meet theirs. Help them review different accounts on comparison websites.
Next time you pay a bill or move money between accounts, slow down the process and show your teen how you do it. Show them how the balance changes in each account.
While it’s often easy to do online, if you’re helping your teen open a bank account, consider going to a physical bank branch instead. This way your teen can ask the staff questions about the terms of the account, and it will give them a better understanding of the reality of the banking system.
Don’t assume any of the words you use and understand are familiar to your teen. Let them know they should ask if they don’t know a word, and you can check ‘What does that word mean?’ for simple ways to explain complex terms.
Tell me more