Checking Account Checklist

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You made a killing at babysitting this summer—that’s great! Have some fun with your friends, buy some cute stuff for your dorm, but don’t blow ALL of your hard earned cash. After graduating high school, if not before, opening a checking account is an important step. There are so many choices you will make on how you spend or save your money, and budgeting can be difficult, but there are extra features provided by most banks or credit unions to make that job easier!

Here are some tips for choosing where to put your money:


Each state is different, but in Alabama—until you reach the age of 19—you have to have a cosigner (yes, your parents) to open an account. But as a benefit, you can choose the option to have an account where your parents can transfer money directly into a shared account as often as they decide. This eliminates the temptation to just swipe your parents card for the smallest things, but instead gives you access to the balance and allows you to manage your own funds.


Weigh your options and see if a credit union or a bank would be your best fit. There are a lot of differences between a credit union and a bank. Credit unions, for the most part, are locally based and are only available in certain areas. However, you can make a deposit through services like mobile deposit apps, online access, and shared branching (the ability to deposit at any credit union) which are offered to members free of charge. Credit unions are not-for-profit; they exist to serve their members while banks have shareholders who make profit from their customers.

Credit Unions also offer benefits such as lower rates and fees on things like checking accounts and loans, and higher dividends on savings. Banks, depending on the branch, are typically more global and you can access your account in multiple places. This makes moving and traveling less stressful, but credit unions provide a community involvement that large banking corporations do not. Credit Unions also fit to students’ needs in a way banks do not by providing scholarships and manageable credit cards for students to build credit without falling into debt. Consider all of these viewpoints when choosing your location to open an account and the type of account you want.

Here are some things you need to do when opening a checking account:

  1. Know your Balance: Always keep an eye on how much is in your account and the expenses you are using. Keep track of activity throughout your account because card numbers can be stolen.
  2. Avoid Additional Fees: When choosing a bank or credit union to open your account, choose wisely and make sure the branch you choose doesn’t require additional fees for instant transfer, deposits, or ATM withdrawals.
  3. Explore the Mobile App: With everything being digital these days, banking is at your fingertips. Check out whether your chosen branch has a banking app and learn how to navigate it.
  4. Decide Where to Keep Extra Money: When you make money that isn’t budgeted for, you should decide if you want to add that to savings or a specific fund. Don’t let extra money just float around, give it a purpose and keep track of the amount.

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