BB&T Bank introduced a new account, called LEAP, that is designed with teens in mind. It’s a “prepaid transaction account,” in the words of a BB&T press release, and BB&T hopes that parents and their teenagers will sign up for the account jointly.

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The account has all the features of a checking account — a debit card, ATM cash withdrawals, direct deposit, online banking, bill pay, FDIC insurance, etc. — except for the checks. It’s effectively a prepaid card with full banking capabilities. It comes with a reasonable $3 monthly fee.

“The LEAP Account is an ideal product for parents with teenagers and we believe it will equip them with a valuable tool to help their teenagers learn financial responsibility at an early age,” said Scott Qualls, manager of retail payments at BB&T, in prepared remarks.

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The account can be connected to parents’ accounts allowing for both fund transfers — weekly allowance, say — and for close monitoring of teens’ spending habits. Customers must be 18 years or older to sign up for a LEAP account on their own.

BB&T also offers a MoneyAccount prepaid debit card, which carries a $10 monthly fee (reduced to $5 with deposits and/or reloads of at least $1,000 per month).

Banks are increasingly turning to prepaid products to get younger consumers into the banking world. This could be a fruitful way forward for banks: courting the young with safer prepaid products until they can “graduate” on to the more grown-up stuff.

Furthermore, as banks step into the prepaid space more and more, the boundaries between what constitutes a checking account and what constitutes a prepaid account are blurring. Chase’s Liquid Card, for instance, offers access to ATMs for both deposits and withdrawals, and even mobile check deposit. As technology makes checks less necessary, perhaps the checking account needs an update, too.

That update might very well look like LEAP.

Willy Staley

Willy Staley is a staff writer and columnist for His columns focus on banking, monetary policy and culture.