Tired of hiding money in your sock drawer? Opening a bank account can help you learn how to save money and keep track of spending. The earlier you start, the better you’ll be at handling your money in the future (when you have more of it). With a bank account, you can:

  • Budget. Your monthly statement shows how much money you have vs. how much you spend.
  • Save. When you open a checking account, it’s a great idea to get a savings account, too. This way, you can start setting money aside to save up for big expenses, like a car or college tuition.
  • Practice. Just like everything else, managing money takes practice. Start now to get good at it.

How to open an account

Research banks that offer student accounts with no fees and no minimum balance (the amount you need to keep the account open). Tip: Some banks have special offers for students whose parent holds an account. Then head over to your chosen bank with your social security number, ID, and money to deposit.

Using a debit card

When you open a checking account, it usually comes with a debit card. You can use the debit card to withdraw cash from your account at an ATM or at a store that allows you to get cash back when you make a purchase. You can also swipe a debit card to pay for something, just like you would with a credit card.

No matter how you use your debit card, the money is taken directly out of your checking account. This is great for convenience, but it also means that you have to know how much money you have in your checking account at all times so you can avoid overspending.

Overdraft fees

If you accidentally spend more money than you have in your account, the bank can charge you an overdraft fee. For example, if you had $5.00 left in your checking account and used your debit card to buy a $6.00 sandwich, the bank might charge you $35.00 for overdrafting. Clearly that sandwich isn’t worth $41.00, so be careful! The bank can keep charging you overdraft fees for every purchase you make until you put enough money back into your account. The good news is that online banking makes it easy for you to keep track of how much money you’re spending on a daily basis just by logging in on your phone or computer.

To avoid the mess of overdrafting altogether, you can also look into prepaid debit cards. These have a daily spending limit and no overdraft fees. Find out more here.

To learn more about banking, check out this interactive guide for teens.

Marina Komarovsky is a health and travel freelance writer with master’s degrees in public health and nutrition from Tufts University.

Brandy Reeves is a health educator at the College of Public Health at the University of Kentucky. She received her undergraduate degree from Miami University, a master of public health from Ohio State University, and a master of higher education from the University of Kentucky.