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Do you have kids and are you wondering how old you need to be to get a debit card? Depending on how you set up the account, which banking institution you use and more, the age requirements for having a debit card varies.
This is an article which talks about how old you need to be (whether you can get debit cards for under 18-year old’s) and what requirements there are for getting a debit card for kids.
It also answers some common questions that people ask when it comes to kids debit cards.
Let’s dive in.
How Old Do You Have to be to Get a Debit Card?
Typically, a child becomes eligible for a debit card when they turn 13 and their parent or legal guardian can open a joint checking account with a teen.
That said, many banks, credit unions and online financial companies allow kids as young as 6 to get debit cards.
You may need to read the fine print of any offer to understand the age requirements completely. Though, if you can’t find the age limits easily, feel free to reach out to the company directly with your question.
They will help you to understand whether your kids need to be teenagers or they can simply be enrolled in a joint account with a parent at any age.
You may also look into other options like a prepaid debit card or adding your child as an authorized user on an existing bank account you have without needing to worry about getting a special teen debit card.
This can get them a debit card without opening a new account at all, though this may not come with the many features found on debit cards for kids and teens that you may want, some of which we describe below.
Do Banks Allow a Debit Card for Under 18 Year Old’s?
Yes, though it depends on the bank. As stated above, some require a parent or legal guardian to open a joint teen checking account for them both to have ownership over the account.
Minors can’t have an account on their own as a result of their legal inability to sign an enforceable contract.
This means any account you find in person or online through a bank, credit union or financial app will require you to open a joint account to ensure you have a legally valid account which passes compliance requirements.
Make sure you understand the rules of your target bank or financial institution and what age restrictions they provide for opening accounts.
Where Can You Get Debit Cards for a Child?
Several banking institutions and online banking apps for minors offer you the ability to get a debit card for minors. Read below for some of the top recommendations on places to open a debit card for teens.
|App||App Store Rating*||Fees||Best For||Promotions|
|Greenlight||4.8||$4.99/month for up to five kids||Highest customer rating, parental controls, goal setting, chore and allowance management, and ability to learn investing fundamentals||First month free|
|goHenry||4.7||$3.99/mo per child||Accessible customer service support||Free month trial|
|Current||4.7||$36/year per child||Innovation and product features||None|
|FamZoo||4.6||$5.99/mo per child||Financial literacy resources||Free month trial|
|Acorns Early||4.7||$1/month - $5/month||Automated investing in the background into diversified investments||$10 sign up bonus when making first deposit at account opening|
|*Apple App Store Rating as of September 3, 2021|
1. Best Rated Overall: Greenlight
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: Free 1-month trial, $4.99/mo after for up to five kids
- App Store Rating: 4.8
Greenlight provides parents control over where their kids can spend money by limiting the stores where their cards work. Parents can get alerts when money is spent on the Greenlight debit card and for how much.
Further, parents can open an investment account for kids to get them involved with investing in stocks and index funds for the first time.
Greenlight works like a prepaid debit card, allowing you to transfer money onto the card for your child to pay for expenses at approved locations.
You can choose how much money to load onto the card and your child will be cleared to make approved purchases so long as a money balance backs up the card.
Greenlight charges $4.99 per month for up to five kids. Replacement cards cost $3.50 each but are free the first time. If you need to replace your card quickly, you can get express delivery for $24.99.
This company also offers a personalized card for $9.99/year with your own photo or design. Greenlight doesn’t offer interest but you may set up “parent-paid interest” between you and your child where you foot the bill and pay interest on accounts for up to five kids.
If your child asks for extra money to get added to the card, you can have them take a photo of the purchase they want to make and receive your approval. This gives you control and allows kids to discuss why a purchase either is a good or bad idea.
If your child has a job, they can add their own funds to the card as well.
The Greenlight debit card is a good choice for parents looking to teach their kids the importance of saving money and making prudent financial decisions.
This financial product can be an effective learning tool for helping kids to understand why saving should be a priority and how to simplify paying an allowance or tracking chores.
It’s also a rapidly growing app many parents have come to use for raising financially-smart kids.
The Greenlight Mastercard Debit Card offers the best combination of features among all cards we reviewed, including its simple mobile app. Who says kids can’t have their own debit card? Nowadays, there are plenty of options for parents but our top choice is Greenlight.
Read more in our Greenlight Card review.
2. Best for Customer Service: goHenry
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: 1 month free, then $3.99 per child/mo
- App Store Rating: 4.7
goHenry is a banking app for minors that comes paired with a debit card. You have an online account which comes linked to individual accounts for each of your children.
You can manage all of the money held in each account through the company’s app and online account portal.
Each child will receive their own goHenry debit card which comes paired with parental controls you can set for your children.
What’s nice about goHenry is the ability to spend only the money available on the card, meaning you don’t need to worry about costly overdraft fees or accrue debt.
You open a goHenry account, receive your children’s debit cards in the mail 7-8 business days later, set up an automatic weekly allowance transfer into your children’s accounts and can set up one-off or weekly spending limits.
This will keep your children’s spending in check and you can block/unblock the card as needed as well as choose the stores where your kids can shop.
With time, the controls provided by the app and the guidance you offer can help your kids to earn, save, spend and give with good money habits.
goHenry is one of the best debit cards for kids for customer service. They offer 24/7 phone availability, email access and social media engagement, ensuring users can solve their problems quickly and with little hassle.
Learn more by reading our goHenry debit card for kids review.
3. Best for Product Features and Innovation: Current
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: $36/teen per year
- App Store Rating: 4.7
Current is a banking app designed for all families. The Current app allows you to track your teen’s spending in real-time, set limits on how much they can spend, and even block specific merchants.
You also get the peace of mind that comes with knowing their money is safe because it’s not cash. Plus, the company doesn’t charge any fees or interest for student accounts so there are no surprises when bills arrive.
Current helps parents teach teens financial responsibility while giving them a way to learn without having cash around the house and all its temptations.
That means less worry for both parents and kids! With Current, your teenager will be able to do everything from paying friends back to buying groceries at the store–all safely with only her phone!
And teens will have the opportunity to learn financial responsibility and budgeting from an early age. This will allow them to grow their savings and move one step closer to financial independence.
Read more in our Current review.
4. Best for Financial Education: FamZoo
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: Free trial, then $5.99/mo
- App Store Rating: 4.6
FamZoo is another prepaid debit card service parents can use to manage their children’s spending. It works by having parents release money into their child’s account and then having the card work with a loaded balance. Money can be loaded onto the cards at any time.
FamZoo acts like a regular checking account with a linked debit card except FamZoo makes sure the account can’t be charged overdraft fees, saving you money.
Adults are able to monitor the transactions being made. After a free trial, this app costs $5.99 per month, but the price goes down if prepaid in advance.
FamZoo is our top education choice because of its strong financial education library which improves its overall value.
5. Best for Long-Term Growth: Acorns
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: Acorns Lite: $1/mo, Acorns Personal: $3/mo, Acorns Family: $5/mo
- App Store Rating: 4.7
Acorns has become one of the most popular financial apps for minors and young adults but also offers a robust money management platform extending beyond just investing.
The full suite of offerings includes the ability to establish custodial accounts for minors to invest, regular and retirement investment accounts for adults and a bank account with linked debit card.
If you sign up for the Acorns Spend product (available under the Acorns Personal and Acorns Family plans), it creates a bank account that carries FDIC Insurance protection for up to $250,000.
Further, it uses the Acorns “Round Ups” feature which rounds up purchases to the nearest dollar, investing the difference between the transaction amount and the whole dollar. The service claims to help users invest an average of $30/month using this feature.
While not a free stock trading app, Acorns does give you the following subscription options:
- Acorns Lite ($1/mo): Includes the Acorns Invest plan, which invests spare change through the popular “Round-Ups” feature, earns bonus investments and provides access to financial literacy articles
- Acorns Personal ($3/mo): Everything on Acorns Lite (Investing), plus it also includes Acorns Later for tax-advantaged investment options like individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and Acorns Spend with a linked debit card for kids and teens. This service acts as your bank account, offering free withdrawals at over 55,000 ATMs nationwide and no account fees and the ability to earn up to 10% bonus investments
- Acorns Family ($5/mo): Everything in Acorns Personal (Acorns Invest, Later and Spend), plus Acorns Early. This allows you to open a custodial account for your child and begin investing for them as a minor.
Learn more in our Acorns review.
What Features Should I Look for in a Debit Card for Teens?
1. Monthly Fees
Many debit cards for kids have account subscription fees you pay to open and maintain an account with this banking provider.
This has become a common way for banks to earn money. For example, this is how Acorns makes money. These monthly or annual fees are commonplace given the low account balances kids and teens will likely carry in their accounts.
Banks typically make money by taking the deposits held on account and lending them to borrowers. They charge an interest rate to the borrower at a higher rate than they borrow from the depositor.
This difference, called the net interest margin, accounts for the lion’s share of bank earnings.
However, many banks have also gone after non-interest income in the form of fees or services. Items like overdraft fees, account fees, account minimum balance violation fees and much more.
Because most kids will have low account balances and still require automated financial assistance for their needs, many debit cards for teens choose to charge fees as an avenue for earning income.
Thankfully, many of them offer value-added services above and beyond what many traditional banks have, making them worth more to a parent’s peace of mind.
Having parental controls, setting spending limits, maintaining shared mobile app access and more provide parents with an attractive value proposition.
2. Banking Services
In addition to a debit card, checking account or savings account, you also want to look at other related banking services which might be of assistance to you and your child.
This could mean the ability to apply for credit cards, a prepaid card for a sibling, a personal loan, or any other loan products or banking services which might help you.
3. Financial Literacy Resources
You’ll want apps that can teach, inform and grow your child’s understanding of finances. That means coming with tools for smarter spending.
Life gets busy and keeping track of your finances can be time-consuming. You don’t always have to see where and how you spend your money.
That’s why many of these apps come with information to highlight spending insights based on your history, budgeting tools to manage your money, saving categories and goals and more.
These all help with managing money, developing a sense of ownership and understanding with finances for kids. Many also come with information through financial literacy resources through videos, articles, tutorials and explainers.
Make sure you review the content covered and navigate through the available libraries of resources to select the most important topics to cover.
4. Parental Controls
Parental controls are one of the key features that a debit card for teens should have. This is easy to set up and can be suited to any parent’s needs by being able to choose what notifications they want, set spending limits, determine which merchants kids can visit and more.
Different transactions need different levels of monitoring, so parental controls allow customization which makes it easier on parents who want a specific view into their kids’ spending activity. You won’t get these on a free debit card
Parental controls also allow automated allowance payments, setting chores to complete, notifications for all purchases online and off and seeing spending reports.
These parental controls differentiate between a traditional prepaid card and a card offered by a traditional bank.
5. Checking Account
Opening a kid or teen checking account can teach your children about the importance of financial responsibility and give them their first taste of managing money.
The best thing about opening up a checking account, or even just depositing money in one, is that it teaches future generations how to save responsibly and spend wisely. It will also be a great way to teach your child the importance of budgeting and how much they should save.
The issue with opening a checking account for children is that most banks require parental permission on behalf of the minor before being able to open up an account.
This means you’ll need to be around at account opening in order for them to do it themselves. Further, the best debit cards for kids also require ongoing parental involvement, like establishing parental controls and monitoring activity through a mobile app.
Checking accounts today are different than they were in the past. Now, most banks have migrated many of their important services online. As a result, you don’t need to go to a bank anymore to handle many of your money transfers, payments or other transactions.
Having a digital checking account capable of performing several necessary financial tasks has become increasingly important.
6. Savings Account Option
The best debit cards don’t just about teach kids about money and develop financial responsibility. They’re also a savings account in disguise, since the money gets drawn from the linked checking account on the card itself and all transactions go through it.
Learning to manage this account can teach kids how to save and budget their money in the short-term but also toward longer-term goals.
7. Direct Deposit
One of the best features that may be available on child bank accounts with debit cards for kids is direct deposit. Direct deposit means that a child’s paycheck will go directly to their account, rather than just getting an envelope from work and then needing to deposit it yourself.
Direct deposits are also good because they can enable automated money decisions. For example, your money can automatically go toward a dedicated savings account.
Likewise, they can go toward a recurring bill or even into a custodial Roth IRA to save for retirement decades down the road.
A debit card for teens sometimes even allows free early direct deposit if they open a premium checking account as well. This allows teens to get paid faster than with regular direct deposit.
Further, some bank accounts with a debit card allow paychecks to hit your account up to two days sooner than would a traditional bank account.
8. Set Spending Limits
When you sign up for a credit card as an adult, chances are your spending limits will be set relatively high. You may start with a $500 credit limit in the beginning but can quickly work your way up to a balance of $5,000 or more if you build a good credit score and history.
For kids however, it might not make sense to give them that much freedom during their early years before they’ve had a chance to develop strong money skills.
Parents can set spending limits by the day, week or month. For example, parents can set limits of $25 per day for children to spend on things they want and need.
Some people have acted better with cash while others might be more comfortable using cards. Cash provides a spending limit that may help them avoid impulse purchases.
Thankfully, with the spending limits parents can set on these cards, you’ve installed a cash-based mentality in a cashless society.
9. Overdraft Protection
Fees for overdraft can be avoided when banks decline charges that would overdraw the account.
One of the best features to look for when choosing a bank account is overdraft fee protection, which can come with prepaid cards or linked debit cards.
This can block purchases from going through, automatically transfer money from another account to cover this purchase or provide a line of credit if you’re short on cash.
Parents should have spending controls for their children. This way they can monitor how much money a child spends.
In the past, kids were not allowed their own debit card or credit card unless they met certain requirements. With mobile apps that allow parents to take control of the card, children can’t spend more than a predetermined amount in any period of time or location.
That means not having to pay for overdrafts: if the debit card for teens won’t allow spending above a preset limit (such as the remaining account balance), children won’t have the ability to buy something that triggers a fee.
Another method for avoiding overdraft fees comes from use of prepaid debit cards for teens. Much like a debit card with spending limits set above the account balance, prepaid debit cards don’t allow you to spend what you don’t have loaded on the card.
Both types of cards place guardrails on overdraft fees, protecting children (and yourself) from costly fees and other banking account issues.
10. Age Restrictions and Limits
Some financial products limit access by requiring users to be a certain age. Banking apps with debit cards like goHenry provide access to kids as young as 6 while the American Express doesn’t offer cards to kids below 18.
Likewise, Greenlight and FamZoo have no age restrictions on who can have a debit card. You can be any age minor: a young child, a teen or even a teen entering college. Check with your banking institution to learn about what rules they place on age restrictions and limits.
11. Age Transfer
Because these banking products target minors, that inevitably means the account will need to phase out or evolve into something else owned by an adult.
Fortunately, many bank accounts for teens will likely convert into the bank’s adult version of the account. For example, if you have a checking account for teens, this account would convert to a regular checking account available to anyone the age of majority.
However, depending on your prepaid card provider, your account may not convert into an adult equivalent as one may not exist. In this case, you can likely use your card until it expires.
Consult the provider for more information and inquire about any product development which might allow you to transition to a new adult product or if they can refer you to a banking partner.
About the Site Author and Blog
In 2018, I was winding down a stint in investor relations and found myself newly equipped with a CPA, added insight on how investors behave in markets, and a load of free time. My job routinely required extended work hours, complex assignments, and tight deadlines. Seeking to maintain my momentum, I wanted to chase something ambitious.
I chose to start this financial independence blog as my next step, recognizing both the challenge and opportunity. I launched the site with encouragement from my wife as a means to lay out our financial independence journey and connect with and help others who share the same goal.
I have not been compensated by any of the companies listed in this post at the time of this writing. Any recommendations made by me are my own. Should you choose to act on them, please see the disclaimer on my About Young and the Invested page.
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