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Opening a Bank Account as a Minor

What is the legal age to open a bank account in most states? If a minor is able to open an account on his own, is he liable for any fees he acquires?


Under common law, a minor is generally someone under the age of 18. This person cannot enter a binding contract, so any bank that opened a deposit account for a minor would be risking the possibility that the minor could run up fees and overdrafts and simply repudiate the contract and walk away.

Many states have enacted specific laws that provide for deposit accounts for minors. In some cases, those laws simply say that the minor's minority can be ignored and the minor's contract will be just as enforceable as it would be if age were not an issue. In other cases, the laws restrict the types of ownership that are covered. For instance, an account solely owned by the minor would be fine, but a joint account would not be covered. In yet other states, a minor can open an account, but his or her parents can step in and take it over. When a bank opens an account for a minor within the limits set by state law, the minor's contract to pay the fees for the account will be enforceable, so what we have is a patchwork quilt of state laws on the subject. A bank should be able to tell you how those laws apply in your state.

In states that specifically allow account ownership by minors, there is generally no age below which the law does not apply. Theoretically, a child of three, if she can sign her name, could open an account. There is a strong argument that the child couldn't understand the contract, and could escape it even in the face of the state law, but most banks establish policies about the minimum age they will require for an account to be opened. Some of those banks will open a savings account for a younger minor than they would accept for a checking account. Some banks will risk opening accounts for minors even when state law does not specifically provide for it.

Published on 4/17/08