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It’s often said that the best way to learn is to do. That’s certainly true when it comes to teaching kids about money. App-based lessons and real-world play can introduce and reinforce financial concepts that kids will need to learn as they age, but there’s really no substitute for spending, saving, and investing real money.
Of course, most parents aren’t comfortable with their children — even nominally responsible high schoolers — having unfettered access to family bank accounts. That’s why so many banks offer custodial checking and savings accounts that empower kids to manage their own finances under the watchful eye of a responsible adult.
Not that one needs a proper FDIC-insured bank account to impart valuable, tactile money lessons to the next generation. Kid-friendly debit cards and prepaid cards can do that as well. 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 one to your family’s financial mix.
Best Debit Cards and Prepaid Cards for Kids
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.
Manage Payments, Savings, and Investments With One Card and App
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, it’s incredibly user-friendly and boasts a wider range of capabilities that make it a plausible one-stop financial education platform for older kids.
Greenlight’s core debit card plan costs $4.99 per month. For that, parents and kids get a personalizable physical and virtual debit card with a powerful personal finance app that facilitates:
- 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 adds a custodial investing account with full parental controls for about $3 more per month ($7.98 per month).
The top-tier plan, Greenlight Max, 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) for $9.98 per month.
Comprehensive Budgeting Solution for Families
FamZoo is much more than a prepaid debit card for kids, though the FamZoo prepaid card certainly holds its own against the competition.
FamZoo is better understood as 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.
FamZoo pricing is the same for IOU-account-only families and for families that use both debit cards and IOU accounts, with the exception of a longer free trial period (two months versus one month) for IOU accounts — so there’s a clear incentive to add debit cards.
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).
Mobile-Friendly Spending and Budgeting App for Kids Ages 6 to 18
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’s key features and capabilities include:
- Instant One-Off and Recurring Transfers: Immediately transfer funds to child accounts for one-time payments (for special chores or anything else) or schedule recurring transfers for allowances, education savings, and other recurring parental obligations.
- Spending Limits: Set monthly or weekly dollar spending limits for each card and change them on the fly. You can also set spending limits based on location — limiting your kids to spending only online, in-person, or at ATMs, for example.
- Money-Earning Tasks: Set and mark as complete tasks that earn your kids money, such as chores or odd jobs.
- Savings Goals: Set and fund savings goals for your kids and other family members, or task them with setting those goals themselves. You can track progress toward each goal in the app.
- Giving: In partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of America, GoHenry’s giving feature gives kids a say in how and when they contribute to the less fortunate.
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.
4. Capital One MONEY
Interest-Bearing Account for Teens
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, although said yield is subject to change with prevailing rates at Capital One’s discretion. For teens eager to take off the financial training wheels and parents willing to indulge them, MONEY has some additional features worth noting:
- 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
MONEY doesn’t have the robust budgeting and goal-setting features of some of the other kid-friendly debit cards on this list. But it’s easy enough to integrate with an external budgeting app at any time.
5. Serve American Express (American Express Serve)
Prepaid Debit Cards With Flexible Terms and Fees
Serve American Express debit cards are not only for parents and kids. They belong to a four-member prepaid debit card family for consumers of all ages. And 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.
All Serve cards offer the same core benefits:
- 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
Be aware that Serve cards purchased in-person at participating retail locations may carry a small but unavoidable initial load fee ($1.50 or less). Buy online to avoid it.
6. Green Dot
Flexible Debit Card Options for Kids and Parents
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:
- 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).
- Cash Back Visa Debit Card: This card earns 2% cash back on eligible in-person and online purchases. It also has a separate interest-bearing savings account that pays 2% APY on balances up to $10,000. Other fees may apply.
- 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.
All Green Dot debit cards share some notable, parent-and-kid-friendly features in common as well:
- 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
Green Dot products have some attractive value-adds that many other kid-friendly debit cards lack. The most notable of these is up to $200 in overdraft protection when you opt in and set up qualifying direct deposit to your enrolled GO2bank card.
To unlock the full $200 overdraft protection allowance, you’ll need to receive at least two direct deposits totaling $400 or more within a 35-day period. A $15 fee may apply for each transaction that results in a negative balance.
Digital Alternative to Cash Allowance Payments
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 and features:
- Chore Chart and Allowance Levels: This feature allows parents to assign chores to their kids and set and track allowance payments for each job completed. Parents can automatically allocate portions of their kids’ allowances to spending, saving, and giving subaccounts.
- Parental Savings Match: BusyKid makes it easy for parents to encourage kids to save with this feature, which automatically matches kids’ contributions to their savings subaccounts.
- Low-Commission Stock Trading: BusyKid comes with a custodial brokerage account that allows kids to invest in shares of real stock. There’s no buying commission and a flat $0.99 fee for each sale.
- Bonus Payments: The BusyKid app enables one-time or recurring bonus payments and financial gifts from authorized users, including parents, grandparents, and other adult family members.
- Parental Approvals: Parents must approve any financial decisions involving external funds, including card reloads and stock purchases.
- Activity Feed: The BusyKid activity feed offers real-time insights into spending and saving decisions kids make with their BusyKid cards.
A BusyKid Visa Prepaid Spend Card isn’t required to use the BusyKid personal finance app, but it’s recommended for an optimal experience.
These debit and prepaid cards are all fine financial teaching tools for parents and kids alike. When used as intended, they’ll increase your kids’ financial literacy and confidence without burning a hole in your family’s collective wallet.
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.
It’s never too early to prepare your children for financial independence. Why not start today?
Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.