If you’re looking for a fiscal teaching aid that uses real money while allowing you to maintain full control over how your kids spend, it’s high time you considered adding a prepaid debit card with parental controls to your family’s financial mix.
Think of it as a sensible alternative to custodial checking or savings accounts that empower kids to manage their own finances under the watchful eye of a responsible adult.
Best Debit Cards and Prepaid Cards for Kids & Teenagers
These are the best debit cards and prepaid debit cards for kids under age 18.
Some live within comprehensive family banking and budgeting suites that help parents and kids manage household finances together and deliver age-appropriate financial education lessons along the way. Others are more basic prepaid cards that support online and in-person purchases.
Unless otherwise noted, these reloadable cards don’t have minimum balance requirements and come with FDIC insurance up to $250,000 per account
Best Overall: FamZoo
FamZoo is a comprehensive budgeting solution for families serious about imparting actionable personal finance lessons. It’s built around a Mastercard debit card with free load options, instant transfers between linked accounts, no transaction fees, and no hidden fees.
FamZoo’s key features and benefits for child and adult account holders include:
- Payment Checklist: A customizable list of chores and odd jobs for which parents can schedule and set payments to teach kids the connection between work and pay.
- Separate Subaccounts: Separate subaccounts linked to each child’s debit card: spend (day-to-day spending money), save (savings), and give (charitable donations). Split payments between subaccounts to reinforce valuable lessons like paying yourself (saving) before spending what you earn.
- Parent-Paid Interest: Set your own interest rate on kids’ balances to teach the concept of compound interest and incentivize kids to save.
- Savings Goals: Set customizable savings goals for each child, further incentivizing them to sock funds away.
- Family Billing: Schedule recurring debits from kids’ accounts to cover shared family expenses, like their portion of a family phone plan.
- Informal Loan Tracking: Create, update, and track balances on informal loans extended to your children.
- Text-Based Requests and Approvals. Manage your kids’ requests for funds via a text-based approval system.
- Card Controls and Visibility: FamZoo makes it easy to lock and unlock misplaced cards, see detailed information about declined transactions, and transfer funds instantly between linked accounts.
If your kid isn’t quite ready for a prepaid debit card yet, use FamZoo’s IOU account feature instead. IOU accounts are essentially virtual accounting ledgers for families, allowing parents to track funds owed to kids (for things like allowances and monthly education fund deposits) and vice versa. Funds tracked in IOU accounts can be held in bank accounts not tied to FamZoo or in hard cash, depending on your preference.
Either way, the monthly plan costs $5.99 per month per family and can be cancelled at any time. The prepaid plan costs $25.99 for a six-month block ($4.33 per month), $39.99 for a 12-month block ($3.33 per month), or $59.99 for a 24-month block ($2.50 per month).
Best for Managing Allowances: GoHenry
GoHenry is a mobile-friendly financial education app tied to a prepaid Mastercard debit card with no annual or monthly fees, no load fees, and instant transfers from linked parental or custodial bank accounts.
GoHenry really shines as an allowance manager. It offers:
- The ability to set custom money-earning tasks and mark them complete
- Immediate fund transfers to kids’ accounts
- Recurring or one-off payment options
- The ability to set and fund savings goals — great for putting allowances to work for the long term
- Set monthly or weekly dollar spending limits for each card
- Set spending limits based on location
- Eliminate entire types of transactions, such as online purchases or ATM withdrawals
GoHenry costs $3.99 per month per child after a one-month free trial. Upgrade to a custom-designed card for a one-time fee of $4.99 per card. All accounts come with FDIC insurance up to $250,000.
Best for Older Kids: Capital One MONEY Teen Checking
Capital One MONEY Teen Checking is a totally fee-free joint bank account and debit card for teenagers ready to manage their own finances with minimal (but adjustable) parental supervision. Although it’s marketed as a teen checking account, MONEY is open to kids age 8 and older.
MONEY is one of the few kid-friendly bank accounts with an across-the-board yield on all balances.
- App-based alerts that notify parents when their kids spend or send funds
- Seamless card lock and unlock functionality that allows parents the final say on when and how their kids use their MONEY debit cards
- Fee-free withdrawals at more than 70,000 ATMs
- A rewards system that parents can use to reinforce good money behaviors, like saving for a future goal
- Secure links to external bank checking and savings accounts, with no Capital One account required to open and fund a MONEY account
- Instant transfers between external accounts and the MONEY account and card
- Easy integration with external budgeting apps
Best Value-Added Features: Greenlight
Greenlight is a kid-friendly debit card with robust parental control features and sensible money management tools for parents and kids alike.
While it’s not quite as comprehensive a budgeting solution as FamZoo or GoHenry, Greenlight boasts a wider range of capabilities that make it a plausible one-stop financial education platform for older kids. The core debit card plan ($4.99/month) includes:
- Paid household chores and odd jobs via an in-app chore list with customizable financial incentives
- Automated weekly or monthly transfers with no manual deposits required
- Real-time notifications whenever the card is used online or in-person
- Customizable spending rules that parents can set and update
- Customizable earning, spending, and saving goals that kids or parents can set
The Greenlight + Invest plan ($7.98/month) adds a custodial investing account with full parental controls. And the top-tier plan, Greenlight Max ($9.98/month) includes all the features of Greenlight and Greenlight + Invest as well as identity theft protection, cellphone insurance coverage, and purchase protection (reimbursement for eligible stolen or damaged items purchased with the Greenlight card).
Best Basic Debit Card: Serve American Express (American Express Serve)
Serve American Express debit cards are not only for parents and kids. But they’re perfect for parents and kids who prefer cash-based budgeting methods like envelope budgeting without the inconvenience of physical cash.
Parents — and older kids who rightly demand a say in their financial lives — can choose the Serve card or cards that work best for their needs:
- Free Reloads: This card never charges reload fees, transaction fees, or ATM fees at in-network ATMs (MoneyPass). The monthly fee is $6.95.
- Cash Back: This card pays 1% cash back on all eligible transactions. The cash reload fee ranges up to $3.95 per load, depending on the retailer. There are no transaction fees or in-network ATM fees. The monthly fee is $7.95.
- Free Direct Deposit: This card waives the customary $6.95 monthly fee with a recurring monthly direct deposit of $500 or more. Otherwise, the transaction schedule is identical to the Cash Back card’s.
- Pay-As-You-Go: This card charges $1 per transaction and $2.25 per ATM withdrawal. Cash reloads cost up to $3.95, depending on the retailer. There’s no monthly fee.
- Early direct deposit (up to two days early for qualifying payers)
- A mobile app for Android and iOS phones
- Easy cash reloads (subject to fees where applicable) at major retailers like CVS, Walmart, and Dollar General
- Free transfers to other Serve cardmembers, making it easy to top up kids’ card balances on the fly
- Customizable text alerts that help parents monitor kids’ card balances and transaction patterns
- Load fee waived when you buy online
Best for Cash Back: Green Dot
Green Dot is a mobile banking solution that offers multiple prepaid and pay-as-you-go debit cards for everyday use.
Like American Express Serve’s debit card family, Green Dot debit cards come in four distinct flavors. The most notable is the Cash Back Visa Debit Card, which earns 2% cash back on eligible in-person and online purchases. This card also has a separate interest-bearing savings account that pays 2% APY on balances up to $10,000.
The other three Green Dot cards are:
- Visa Debit Card: This card has no monthly fees with qualifying direct deposit of $500 or more. Otherwise, the monthly fee is $7.95. Other fees may apply.
- Pay As You Go Visa Debit Card: This card has no monthly fees but does charge up to $1.50 per transaction (in-person or online).
- GO2bank Visa Debit Card: This card earns up to 7% cash back on eligible eGift card purchases in the app (3% cash back on eligible Amazon eGift cards). Eligible savings balances earn 1% APY on balances up to $5,000. Other fees may apply.
- Early payday for eligible payers (up to two days early for qualifying private payers and up to four days early for government benefits providers)
- Mobile check deposit or check cashing
- Online bill pay
- Inbound and outbound transfers to external bank accounts
- Integration with popular mobile wallets
- Card locking and unlocking
- Customizable account alerts
- $200 in overdraft protection with at least two direct deposits totaling $400 or more within a 35-day period
Best for a Parental Savings Match: BusyKid
The BusyKid Visa Prepaid Spend Card is built to replace cash allowances and walking-around money. It’s one of many features of the BusyKid app, a robust financial education tool that starts at $19.99 per year.
One of BusyKid’s many highlights is a parental savings match feature that makes it easy for parents to encourage kids to save. Turn it on to automatically match kids’ contributions to their savings subaccounts — the more they contribute, the more you match.
- Assign chores to your kids and set and track allowance payments for each job completed
- Automatically allocate portions of your kids’ allowances to spending, saving, and giving subaccounts.
- Custodial brokerage account that allows kids to invest in shares of real stock with no buying commission
- One-time or recurring bonus payments and financial gifts from authorized users in the app, including parents, grandparents, and other adult family members
- Approve any financial decisions involving external funds, including card reloads and stock purchases
- Real-time activity feed showing spending and saving on kids’ cards
Methodology: How We Select the Best Prepaid Cards for Kids
We use several key factors to evaluate prepaid debit cards for kids and select the very best. Each of the criteria on this list relates in some way to the quality of the user experience or the overall value the card delivers for its users.
None of the cards on this list are entirely fee-free. That said, we look for cards that try to keep fees to a minimum — for example, by waiving monthly maintenance fees or reload fees. For cards associated with money management and education apps, we look for low monthly fees that cover multiple child accounts or cards.
The more usable the prepaid card, the better. This list exclusively features major-network cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express) that can be used with millions of merchants worldwide. We look for cards that are easy to reload as well via rapid or instant electronic transfer or cash loads at retail locations.
The best debit cards for kids are associated with accounts or apps that have built-in budgeting and financial education features, such as financial goal-setting and savings buckets.
These features help parents set kids up for financial self-sufficiency and empower kids to take control of their finances from a young age. They also give parents the peace of mind that comes with knowing their kids will make sound financial decisions.
Money Management Features
The best debit cards and financial education apps for kids also have built-in money management features, such as tools for sharing household expenses and tracking informal loans between parents and children. Like budgeting tools, these features provide valuable financial education and empowerment for kids.
Most of the products on this list have built-in parental controls or settings that guardians can use to monitor and manage kids’ financial activities. The best cards and accounts have customizable controls that parents can turn up when their kids need more hand-holding and dial back as their kids become better stewards of their finances.
All of the debit and prepaid cards on this list are designed for day-to-day spending. Some are associated with traditional checking accounts, and a few are tied to other account types as well. We’re fans of kid-friendly debit and prepaid cards that include savings accounts and custodial investment accounts, the better to teach kids about saving and growing their money for the long haul.
Prepaid Card FAQs
You have questions about prepaid cards for your kids. We have answers.
How Much Do Reloadable Prepaid Cards Cost?
It depends on the card and the app behind it.
Many of the top reloadable prepaid cards don’t have monthly or annual service fees but do charge for reloads or other functions.
Others tamp down on card fees but charge monthly fees that help support the features and capabilities of their apps.
Some have multiple plan levels with progressively wider arrays of features. These levels may or may not include free tiers that cost users nothing.
Do Prepaid Cards Pay Interest on Balances?
By themselves, reloadable prepaid cards generally don’t pay interest on balances. They’re meant to hold cash for day-to-day spending rather than long-term saving.
However, some kid-friendly money management apps do pay interest on balances, such as Capital One MONEY Teen Checking. And some apps give parents the option to pay interest out of their own pockets if they choose, perhaps as a reward for completed chores or to teach kids the concept of compound interest.
Where Can Your Kids Use Their Prepaid Card?
The best kid-friendly reloadable prepaid cards belong to major payment networks like Visa, Mastercard, or American Express. They can be used at any merchants that belong to those payment networks.
That said, the ability to set custom parental controls is one of the top benefits of reloadable prepaid cards for kids. Most cards allow you to set up alerts when your kid uses the card at a particular merchant or spends a particular amount. Moreover, if you choose, you can mark certain merchants or types of purchases as off-limits or allow the card to be used only at certain “whitelisted” merchants.
What Other Financial Accounts Can You Open for Your Child?
These cards and the custodial bank accounts they may complement or replace aren’t the only financial accounts worth opening before your kids turn 18.
In addition to a custodial bank account and adult-controlled prepaid card, parents looking to give their kids an early financial edge should also consider opening a Roth IRA, a taxable investing account, a college savings account, and a credit-builder account that builds credit without a credit card.
How to Choose the Best Prepaid Debit Card for Your Kid
As you consider your kid-friendly prepaid card options, think about your family’s objectives. Ask yourself questions like:
- How much financial responsibility can my kid handle?
- Do I want a way to manage my kid’s allowance?
- Do I plan to ask my kid to share a portion of the household’s expenses?
- Do I want to loan my kid money or pay them interest on balances held in the account?
- How much independent spending will my kid do outside the home?
- Do I want to help my kid save for long-term goals or simply manage day-to-day expenses?
- Do I want to help my kid invest in the stock market?
Your answers will determine which of the cards and accounts on this list make the most sense for your kids and your family. But keep in mind that the answer could change as your children age and become more confident, capable stewards of their personal finances.