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About the Activity

There are many options when choosing a financial institution, including nationwide banks, locally owned community banks, online-only banks and member-owned credit unions.
This activity shows kids and teens how to compare financial institutions and lets them decide what factors are important in choosing the one that’s right for them. This activity assumes a basic level of computer/technology literacy and access. Specifically, the ability to use an internet-connected device and navigate the internet.

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If any of the banking terms in this activity are unfamiliar, kids can look them up in THIS GLOSSARY from the FDIC, short for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation – or ask a family member or other adult. Plan to do this activity during business hours in case youth need to chat online with customer service representatives to get answers to questions. Make sure an adult is nearby if youth are chatting online with financial institutions to facilitate the conversation if needed.
Grades: 7 – 12
Topic: Financial Literacy
Estimated Time: 1 Hour
Brought to you by TD Ameritrade and Penn State Extension

These simple materials—along with a few specialty supplies—will get you started.

  • Pre-made printout
  • Pen, pencil, or marker
  • An internet-connected smartphone, tablet, or computer
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Activity Steps

  1. Download the financial institution comparison chart (PAGE 3 OF THIS PDF) and find a pen or pencil.
  2. Open a map app on a smartphone or tablet, or if you’re on a computer, open a browser window and go to a map search site like Google Maps.
  3. In the search bar, enter “banks,” “community banks,” or “credit unions.” You can also open your favorite search engine and search “online only banks.”
  4. Select a financial institution and click on their website.
  5. Look on the website for answers to the questions on the worksheet. If the institution offers accounts or services geared toward young people, use that one to answer your questions. If you can’t find the answer to one or more questions, use the online chat function if available. Ask an adult to help before chatting with a customer service representative.
Adult working with youth to teach financial literacy
  1. Repeat the previous steps with two other institutions. Try to choose three different types of institutions (e.g. one national bank, one community bank and one credit union or online bank), rather than three of the same.

Bonus Activity (Optional)
Did you miss any of the institution types in the main exercise? Take a moment now to research any remaining options. By the end of this bonus activity, you should have researched one national bank, one community bank, one online-only bank, and one credit union. Did this additional research change your choice?

Reflection Questions
Questions for your kids and teens.

  1. What financial services are the most important to you – checking, savings, ATM, online banking, mobile app, or others?
  2. Did you discover any other features or services these financial institutions offer that you liked?
  3. What other providers of goods and services should you compare?
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  1. How can it be helpful to have an account and a relationship with a financial institution?
  2. Is it necessary for your financial institution to have a local branch that you can visit in person?
  3. How can competition between financial institutions or other businesses help you as a consumer?

Investigate and Explore
Take what you've learned to the next level to learn more and explore the possibilities.

Opening an account at a financial institution like a bank or credit union is step one toward handling money responsibly. Kids might not have much money now, but when it’s in an account, they will know that it’s safe. They will be able to deposit checks and take out cash when they need it. Plus, their money can earn interest just by sitting in the account.
Note that credit unions have good rates but also have membership requirements and often have fewer physical locations, so youth with plans to open an account should also research a major one that’s easy to join and with good online support.

Father and daughter doing a financial literacy activity

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