The Best Prepaid Debit Cards for Kids

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Money Problems Solved

My 11-year-old son has multiple piggy banks, and they’re all pretty cool.  One of them belonged to his dad and is in the form of a baby snuggling a blankie (the coin slot is where you’d expect it), and another is a Moroccan puzzle box that you have to solve before it will open (a good deterrent for sneaky older sisters).  Unfortunately, none of them are very helpful for keeping track of money.  We never seem to know exactly how much money he has or where it is, and we often have a tough time figuring out what I owe him for chores and past due gifts.

Now that my son is old enough to walk into town for pizza or ice cream with friends, he’s noticed that a lot of them have debit cards.  This sounded like a great solution to our money troubles.  But when I asked our bank if he could get a debit card, they said the minimum age was 13.  So where did I turn when a traditional bank couldn’t fix my problem?  The internet of course!  I was excited to find reloadable prepaid debit cards designed for young children that come with friendly apps full of useful money management tools.  Most of these cards offer the following features and benefits:

  • Downloadable app from the App Store or Google Play
  • Quick and easy online account setup (no credit check required)
  • Card arrives within a week or so
  • Instant money transfers from parent’s bank account 
  • Use where major debit cards are accepted worldwide (foreign transaction fees apply)
  • Real-time notifications about where and how much your child spent
  • Parents can set spending limits 
  • Budgeting/saving tools 
  • Automatic money transfers to kids, such as for weekly allowances
  • Child can send money requests, such as for a school trip
  • Tools for setting tasks and chores
  • Instantly block/unblock card from app (if it’s lost or stolen)
  • No overdraft fees or debt (you can’t spend more than the prepaid amount)

Thanks to prepaid debit cards, parents no longer have to deal with constant requests for cash or wonder about those mystery piles of bills lying around the house.  Our kids can enjoy the freedom and pride a debit card brings them while learning how to be financially responsible.  And we can rest easy knowing that we’re ultimately still in control.

While all of the cards aim to make life easier for families, some cards provide unique features that set them apart from the competition and make them more appealing to particular users.  They also differ somewhat in cost and in the ages of the children supported.  To help determine which card is right for your family, take a look at these overviews: 

Greenlight MasterCard

greenlight debit card.jpg

Notable features:

This Atlanta-based startup prides itself on being the first card with store-level controls.  The child’s money gets divided into two categories:  1) money they can spend anywhere and 2) money they can spend at a store (or type of store) approved by the parent.  So if you only want your son or daughter to spend their lunch money at the deli, instead of at the candy store next door, this might be the card for you.

The Greenlight card also distinguishes itself by integrating with Apple Pay.  That means, if your child has an iPhone, he or she can leave the physical card at home and still make purchases where Apple Pay is accepted.  Integration with Android Pay is coming soon.

Cost:

Greenlight charges customers $4.99/month per family for up to 5 kids.  Given that there’s no extra cost for multiple children, it’s a cheaper option for large families.

Ages of children supported:

According to Greenlight’s web site, “Parents may order a Greenlight card for children of any age.  However, due to Federal Regulations surrounding Children's Online Privacy Protection, if your child wants to create an account before you do, the minimum age is 13.”

The Greelight app is available on the App Store and the Play Store.

 

GoHenry Visa 

GoHenry was founded in 2012 by a group of British parents who wanted better money management tools for their kids.  It serves hundreds of thousands of families in the UK and will soon be launched in the US.  

Notable features:

  • Free UK cash withdrawals
  • Kids can create savings goals and automatically save towards them
  • Relatives can be invited to contribute to a child’s savings
  • Parents can load account for free using Standing Order or bank transfer
  • Parents decide where each card can be used
    • In shops
    • Online 
    • At cash machines

Cost:

GoHenry offers a free one-month trial.  After that, it costs £2.99 per month per child.  A standard card is free, while a card with a custom design that reflects your child’s unique personality costs £4.99. 

Ages of children supported:

GoHenry is for young people aged 6-18.

The goHenry app is available on the App Store and the Play Store.

 

FamZoo MasterCard

Notable features:

Famzoo lets parents transfer money into a “primary funding card” (a virtual wallet) from multiple sources, including from their PayPal balance and from their salary via direct deposit.  They can specify what portion of their salary they’d like transferred to the card on a regular basis.  Once the funds arrive, they can instantly be moved among the cards of all other family members.

Cost:

Slightly more expensive than Greenlight, FamZoo charges $5.99 per month per family for up to 4 cards.  There are other payment plans that involve lower monthly fees if you pay more upfront.  You may inccur small additional fees when reloading the primary funding card.  For example, some banks may apply a fee of up to $3 for transfers from a conventional checking account.  If you reload with cash at a participating retail location, the typical fee is $4.95. 

Ages of children supported:

FamZoo markets itself to kids of all ages (their tagline is “preparing kids for the financial jungle”); however, they issue “on-behalf-of” cards to kids under 13.   That means the parent is the legal cardholder and therefore should be present for in-store purchases.  The card can still be used to track the child’s spending and otherwise manage the child’s money.  Usually, parents will put their child’s name beneath their own on the card’s customizable emboss line.

The FamZoo app is available on the App Store.  There's no app for Android devices, but FamZoo has built mobile optimized screens that you’ll automatically see at sign-in.

 

Current Visa

Notable features:

This New York-based startup offers a student account with three different virtual wallets:  spending, savings, and giving.  The spending wallet is linked to the debit card.  Funds from the spending wallet can be transferred into the savings and giving wallets, either automatically according to a set schedule or through one-off transactions.  Kids can round up debit card purchases and direct the spare change to their savings wallet.  Through their giving wallets, kids can send money to thousands of local and national charities.  (Greenlight plans to roll out similar functionality soon.)

Cost:

A Current student account costs $3 per month per child and $1 more per month for each additional child.

Ages of children supported:

Only children 13 years old and up can obtain a Current Visa.

The Current app is available on the App Store and the Play Store.


The Founder & CEO of Current, Stuart Sopp, believes that big banks have lost touch with the local communities they used to serve and that they’re inclined to see people as numbers rather than individuals.  Oftentimes the nontraditional players have a better grasp of the tools people need and want, as well as the technical expertise to develop them.  Says Sopp, “In this world of cheap and easy credit, where empty financial calories are consumed at the expense of long-term security, we are building a series of experiences and tools that make it safer to spend, easier to save, and faster to move your money."

Want to learn how else you can move money quickly and conveniently?  Check out our comparison tool for international money transfers.

 

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