Are you looking for a way to teach your child about money? One way is using debit cards.
Most of us find ourselves paying for fewer purchases in cash. Instead, we pay with plastic or even use the digital wallet smartphone app. A possible negative result of a cashless society is that children may not understand how to handle money until they enter adulthood.
But the best debit cards for kids make it easy for parents to help their children learn how to manage money.
Parents open a joint checking account and serve as a co-signer for their child’s debit card. It’s possible to create spending limits and track your child’s spending activity to ensure they don’t overspend.
Plus, the best debit cards for kids will also prevent overdraft fees and never affect the parent’s or child’s credit score. Finally, you don’t risk making the same mistakes you could when you use a credit card.
The Best Debit Cards for Kids
Each of the following debit cards gives you and your child different spending options. You will also need to pay close attention to the account fees and reload fees.
Some cards are more expensive than others and can offer extra budgeting tools and educational resources. You will need to decide if the extra fees are worth the benefits.
One of the best options for price and features is FamZoo. Your annual membership includes four free prepaid debit cards.
When paying by the month, membership costs $5.99 monthly. This is the most expensive option as FamZoo charges as little as $59.99 when you prepay for 24 months upfront. If you request all four debit cards, you pay $0.63 per month per card.
Parents can transfer money to their children’s debit cards for multiple reasons including:
- Savings account interest
- Sharing bills
Inside the FDIC-insured savings account, you can determine how much of each deposit is for saving, spending and giving to charity. You can also withdraw money from your child’s account if they owe you money or they don’t complete their chores on time.
The lessons your child learns can help prepare them when they make money as a teen. Using platforms like FamZoo helps children learn about debit cards, online banking and budgeting.
FamZoo never charges an overdraft fee because their debit cards are prepaid. You can only spend up to the current card balance.
There are multiple ways you can reload the cards for free including direct deposit and bank account transfers. Although, you might pay a reload fee when reloading at an in-person vendor like a gas station or store.
Finally, FamZoo debit cards allow free in-network ATM withdrawals for those rare times when your child needs physical cash.
Why We Like FamZoo
- Open to children of every age
- Children can deposit money into saving, spending and giving accounts
- Receive the first four debit cards for your family with no shipping fees
Parents may appreciate the parental control a Greenlight card offers. There isn’t a minimum age restriction when a parent creates an account.
Teens wanting to open their own account with parental oversight must be at least 13 years old. Greenlight costs $4.99 monthly for up to five children.
There are several advantages of giving your child a debit card. For example, you can track their purchases and create parental controls.
Plus, it’s possible to divide the account balance into flexible and restricted spending accounts. And in a restricted account, they can only use money at specific store locations or types such as grocery stores but not gas stations.
Other parental controls include:
- Blocking certain types of stores. Greenlight blocks transactions including wire transfers, cash back from a cashier and restricted industries including gambling. Plus, parents can prohibit purchases at certain store types or specific locations.
- Flexible spending limits. Can designate specific dollar amounts to only be spent at certain stores. Funds can be added in real-time if the child’s card has insufficient funds.
- Custom spending alerts. Receive alerts for new purchases, declined purchase attempts and low account balances.
- Instant card freeze. The card can also be instantly frozen to prevent all spending. This option can be helpful if your child loses their card.
Greenlight also encourages children to save money by offering an FDIC-insured savings account. Parents can pay an interest rate on the deposits which can motivate their children to save more money.
Because you set and pay the interest rate, it can easily be higher than the current bank interest rates. You can also assign your children one-time and recurring chores and pay them after the tasks are complete.
Why We Like Greenlight
- Can block purchases at specific store locations and store types
- Flexible parental controls
- No minimum age to receive a debit card
- FDIC-insured savings account
BusyKid is another full-service platform that can help your entire family learn about money. Your children can do the following activities with BusyKid:
- Get a debit card
- Save money in an FDIC-insured bank account
- Make charity donations
- Earn money by completing parent-assigned chores
If you only want to use one platform to help your child learn money management, BusyKid can be a good option.
An annual family membership costs $24. Then, you pay $7.99 a year for each child’s prepaid debit card. For example, your total fees are $31.99 annually if you only get one debit card. Getting two debit cards costs $39.98 annually.
Besides the prepaid debit card, a BusyKid membership lets parents assign chores and pay their children on Fridays. All payments deposit into an FDIC-insured savings account.
Parents can teach their children how to budget by splitting the amount into saving, spending and sharing accounts. You get to decide how much of each payment goes into these three accounts.
Why We Like BusyKid
- Children can spend, invest or donate to charity
- Parents can pay a weekly allowance
- Bank deposits divide into spend, save and share accounts
Kids between the ages of six and 18 years old can use a Gohenry debit card. Parents pay $3.99 monthly per child. One parent can control up to four child accounts.
Parental controls include allowance payments, assigning tasks and setting spending limits. Funding and spending limits can either occur once or weekly. Gohenry can send you real-time spending notifications.
You can also decide to restrict card usage from the following transaction types:
- ATM withdrawals
To make the debit card more “personal,” your child can pick a custom card design for a one-time $4.99 upgrade fee. Children can also create savings goals, create a budget and make donations to the Boys & Girls Club of America.
The Gohenry card doesn’t charge overdraft fees and is FDIC-insured up to $250,000. Parents can also freeze the card if the child misplaces the card.
Why We Like Gohenry
- Can customize parental controls
- Mobile app helps teach children how to save, spend and give to charity
- Parents can add tasks and chores for automatic payments
5. Capital One MONEY
If you prefer to use a nationally-known bank, Capital One is worth considering. The Capital One MONEY online-only teen checking account comes with a debit card and interest-bearing bank account.
Like the other online-only Capital One products, this teen checking account is free. There isn’t a minimum account balance requirement or maintenance fee. When your child turns 18, they can convert their MONEY account into a Capital One 360 Checking account which is also free.
Teens can deposit checks via mobile, enroll in direct deposit and access 39,000 fee-free ATMs. Parents can receive activity alerts but won’t receive their own debit card despite being a joint account holder.
For full access to the Capital One online banking experience, parents should open a 360 Checking account first. Doing so means parents can access these additional features:
- Automatic allowance transfers
- Instant transfer between adult and teen Capital One accounts
- Help teens separate money into spending and saving categories
Other apps that charge a monthly fee may already offer similar features to all members. Capital One will begin offering the above features to all members in the summer of 2019.
Why We Like Capital One MONEY
- Zero account fees
- Cash deposits earn interest
- Direct deposit and mobile deposit-friendly
Parents of teenagers at least 13 years old may like Current. Adults can get a free online checking account for themselves. For $36 a year, parents can open a teen checking account that comes with a prepaid debit card.
Parents can block specific stores or set daily spending limits and ATM withdrawal limits. Any adult can link to their account to fund the teen’s debit card.
Like other debit card providers, Current lets parents assign chores within the mobile app. Teens receive payment after completing each task.
Teens may also like the bank-like features that Current offers. These include mobile check deposit and instant reimbursement of gas pump cash holds. Since these holds can be as much as $100 and last up to a week, this feature can be a boon for teen drivers.
Current also tries to motivate teens to save more money by purchase round-ups and setting savings goals. Employers can also deposit paychecks directly into the FDIC-insured checking account as well.
Why We Like Current
- Parental controls can restrict specific stores or set spending limits
- Accepts mobile check deposit and employer direct deposit
- Instant reimbursement of gas pump cash holds
- Purchase round-ups help encourage regular saving
Mastercard issues most of the debit cards for kids. But you may appreciate Navy Federal Credit Union if you’re loyal to Visa. They issue Visa Buxx prepaid debit cards which also have near universal acceptance.
Your child must be at least 13 years old to use a Navy Federal debit card. Unlike many prepaid debit card issuers, custom designs are free at Navy Federal.
Parents can set spending limits and ATM withdrawal limits. If you enable ATM withdrawals, Navy Federal provides access to more than 40,000 fee-free ATMs.
You and your teen won’t pay any reload fees or overdraft fees. But one potential cost can be a $1 inactivity fee after six months of no transactions.
One downside to Navy Federal is that membership is limited to active duty military members, their families, veterans and Department of Defense civilians. If you qualify for membership, you may appreciate Navy Federal’s free banking accounts for adults and college students.
Why We Like Navy Federal Credit Union
- Free custom card designs
- Parents can set spending and ATM withdrawal limits
- No reload or account maintenance fees
8. TD Go Card
Your local bank may offer free debit cards for kids. One bank to look for is TD Bank. Its TD Go Card doesn’t have a monthly or annual fee. Like Navy Federal, TD Go is a Visa Buxx prepaid card too.
Parents can monitor their teen’s spending and card balance in real-time with message alerts. And funds can be loaded from the parent’s bank account over the phone, mobile app or online. Plus, teens can link this card to digital wallet apps to pay with their phone instead of carrying a physical card.
Your child can also make free in-network ATM withdrawals.
Why We Like the TD Go Card
- No maintenance fees
- Parents can receive real-time alerts they can customize
- Free ATM withdrawals
Do you only need a basic debit card without the budgeting tools that other platforms offer? If so, Akimbo is another flexible and free option. You won’t pay any enrollment or monthly fees. The parent owns the primary Akimbo debit card, and your teen receives a subaccount card.
Akimbo gives you the first subaccount card free and charges $4.95 for each additional card. So this can be an affordable option if you only need to make purchases. That way, you don’t get charged extra for budgeting tools you don’t need.
You may pay the following fees for these transaction types:
- Pin-based “debit” transactions: $0.99
- ATM cash withdrawals: $1.98
- ATM balance inquiry: $0.33
Although it doesn’t include budgeting tools and other premium tools, you can still receive transaction alerts and disable your cards in real-time. You can also schedule automatic account reloads. One-time transfers to others in your Akimbo network are also available.
Why We Like Akimbo
- No account fees
- Real-time transaction alerts
- First subaccount is free
Parents may appreciate that Bluebird offers family accounts without account fees. You get four free cards for family members at least 13 years old.
Also, this can be the best debit card for kids shopping at Walmart because of their free in-person reloads. But you pay a reload fee at other non-Walmart retail locations.
Mobile check deposit, direct deposit and bank account transfers are free ways to reload your child’s Bluebird account balance.
Bluebird doesn’t charge any activation fee or account maintenance fees. The only potential one-time fee is $5 when ordering your Bluebird cards from a physical Walmart store. However, you can avoid this fee by ordering your cards from the Bluebird website.
American Express issues the Bluebird debit card. And it works at any merchant that accepts American Express. Most U.S.-based stores and online websites accept Amex, so this isn’t the problem it once was.
The Bluebird platform doesn’t offer all the premium features of other kids debit cards that charge an account fee. But you still have plenty of budgeting tools.
Parental controls include daily spending limits and purchase notifications. You can also disable ATM withdrawals, but Bluebird has access to more than 24,000 fee-free MoneyPass ATMs.
One budgeting tool is “SetAside Accounts” which helps you save for specific goals. The Bluebird mobile app also lets you view spending by category to help ensure your child sticks to their budget.
Why We Like Bluebird
- Zero account fees
- Can get four cards for free
- Basic parental controls can limit and track child spending
- Free in-store Walmart reloads
11. American Express Serve Family of Cards
American Express is no longer exclusively for the rich. They also offer three prepaid debit cards in their Serve family.
These cards charge a monthly fee that can be relatively expensive. But the unique card benefits can cause these cards to be cheaper than other options listed here.
You can add up to four subaccounts to your Serve account. These subaccounts are free and available to children at least 13 years old.
One downside for subaccounts is that children can’t add funds to their own account. Only the primary cardholder (i.e., the parent) can add funds to child accounts.
To avoid the $3.95 in-store card price, you can purchase your card for free on Serve’s website. There isn’t a monthly fee for New York, Texas and Vermont residents.
All three card versions share these common traits:
- Free online bill pay
- No fees at 24,000+ MoneyPass ATMs
- Free bank account transfers and mobile check deposit
- Up to four free subaccounts
American Express Serve
The basic Serve debit card can be the best option if you plan on funding your account with direct deposit. Monthly deposits exceeding $500 waive the $6.95 monthly fee.
In-store cash reloads cost up to $3.95 each. So consider this card if you can reload your card with direct deposit or a linked bank account.
American Express Serve FREE Reloads
This can be the cheapest Serve card option if you primarily reload your car at local stores. You can reload for free at over 45,000 physical locations including CVS, Dollar General and Walmart.
The monthly fee is $6.95 and cannot be waived.
American Express Serve Cash Back
The Serve Cash Back is one of the few rewards debit cards. You get 1% back on every dollar spent just like online shopping apps. Typically, only credit cards offer cash back rewards.
This card helps you and your child enjoy the purchase rewards of credit cards while enjoying debit card safeguards that help prevent overspending.
The monthly fee is $7.95, and in-person reloads cost up to $3.95. Like the basic Serve card, consider the Serve Cash Back when you reload with direct deposit or bank account transfers to avoid these pesky reload fees.
Why We Like the American Express Serve Family of Cards
- Four free subaccounts
- Can waive the monthly fee or in-person reload fee
- Serve Cash Back earns 1% back on all purchases
The best debit cards for kids can do more than make it easy for your children to spend money when you’re not with them. Added card tools can help you teach your child how to budget money for spending, saving and charitable giving.
Childhood is the best time to learn money management. Plus, these debit cards help your children gain experience without risking their credit.
Why are you getting a debit card for your child? How old are they? Please share your thoughts on our Facebook page.