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Has this happened in your family? Grandma gives your son a $100 check for his birthday, but he’s unbanked, unemployed — and only 5 years old.
How is your kindergartener (or any minor, for that matter) supposed to cash that gift check? He’s not, of course. It’s up to their parents to get the money into an actual bank account.
Each bank can have different rules for how to cash a check for a minor. Let’s take a look at some ways to cash or deposit a check made out to someone too young to sign it for themselves.
- Can I cash or deposit a check made out to my child?
- How do I endorse a check for a minor?
- Can I deposit my child’s check into my personal account?
- Next steps: Tips for age-appropriate conversations about banking
Can I cash or deposit a check made out to my child?
The simple answer is yes, depending on your bank’s or credit union’s rules.
Each financial institution has its own requirements for how to deposit a check made out to a minor. Typically, banks will require you to have your own account with them before they’ll cash or deposit a minor’s check for you. You may also be able to open a custodial account jointly owned by you and your child, which allows you both to make deposits and withdrawals.
How do I endorse a check for a minor?
To endorse a check made out to a child who can’t yet sign their own name, you should first call your bank or visit its website to understand its requirements.
With some banks and credit unions, you may not need to endorse the check if it will be deposited into the child’s account or a joint custodial account. If you plan to deposit the check into your own bank account, you’ll typically need to sign your child’s name on the back of the check followed by the word “minor” — and then endorse it with your signature right below the minor’s name. You may also need to include additional information like your account number.
If your child is old enough to endorse the check themselves, you may not need to sign their name. But you’ll probably still need to provide your signature under theirs, followed by the word “parent,” depending on the rules of your bank.
If your child’s name is misspelled on the check, you may need to bring proof of identification, such as their birth certificate or state ID, to the bank and show it to the teller. Again, every bank will have its own rules, so this documentation may not be enough to get the check deposited. In this situation, you can contact your bank to determine its policy. Or you might consider asking whoever sent the check to send a new one with your child’s name spelled correctly.
Can I deposit my child’s check into my personal account?
This will all depend on your bank, but usually a parent can deposit a child’s check into their own account — especially if the child doesn’t have an account in their name. Some banks might allow you to deposit the check if you follow their requirements for endorsing the check and include your child’s name or signature as well as your own. It’s also not a bad idea to bring extra documentation or your child’s identification with you, just in case.
Rather than making a deposit into your own account, consider opening a custodial account for your child. Talking to your kids early about money — even if they’re in elementary school or middle school — can help them develop a better understanding about finances and banking basics and lay a foundation for them to build better money habits in the future.
Next steps: Tips for age-appropriate conversations about banking
Getting a check from a loved one is a great opportunity to teach your kids about money management and how banking works.
Once your kids are in grade school and begin learning math, you can start helping them understand simple concepts like saving. When they get money from relatives, help them count it and provide a piggy bank or jar they can use to set aside some of the money for a special treat or purchase of their choice — even if it’s as small as candy from the local convenience store, a new book or a toy they’ve seen on TV.
Older children may be able to grasp more advanced money concepts, like opportunity costs. Explain to them that if they spend their money on one thing, they may not have enough to make other purchases. When they become tweens and teens, consider giving them an allowance and talking to them about budgeting. This can help them learn about money management and how to better allocate the money they’ve earned.
Teenagers can get part-time jobs, open accounts and learn about how to use mobile apps to manage their money and even make mobile deposits.
But more than anything, leading by example is one of the best ways you can help your kids build better money habits. Learning to manage money is a lifelong process, but starting when your kids are young and receive their check may be the best way to build these habits — even if it takes some extra steps to deposit the check.