I’ve written for years about how parents who want to help their children develop sound financial management skills should consider a debit card. That still holds true, but from time to time, you find an exception to the rule—and in this case, the exception is a credit card.
And surprisingly, it’s a credit card that can be useful to adult cardholders, too.
Step Banking—and its secured credit card, the Step Card—is similar to many of my favorite debit cards for kids in that it not only allows kids to spend, but it acts as an educational tool that teaches kids how to use their money responsibly. Step also has parental controls that I covet, such as helping parents track spending activity so they can always be on top of their kids’ card purchases.
But the Step Card also has several aces in the hole that can help kids, teens, and adults alike:
- It can act as a high-yield savings account.
- It can help you invest for free.
- It can even build your credit.
And as you’ll find out in my Step Review, it does a whole lot more, too. So read on as I walk you through the main features of this debit card-esque secured credit card, explore the various pros and cons of the service, explain how to open a Step Card, and compare it to some of its closest competitors.
Let’s dive in.
What Is Step Banking?
Step Banking bills itself as the “next generation” of banking. And given that it offers a collection of services that are difficult to access all at once through traditional banks, it’s a fair claim.
Step’s original thrust was heavily skewed toward children and teens—an underserved niche. For the longest time, parents either had to add their kids to their existing bank accounts or let them go unbanked. But Step combined traditional banking functions with many features that kids and their parents want.
For instance, with a few taps on a smartphone (or computer), teens can check their balances, deposit their paychecks, transfer funds between each other or with friends or family. And parents can make sure their children are spending smartly by receiving real-time alerts and notifications on stuff their kids buy.
But these and many other Step features also make sense for adult cardholders. Realizing this, the fintech company has expanded its offerings over the past few years to widen its card’s potential reach to users of virtually all ages.
The Step Review: Overview
Step Banking offers a secured Visa credit card and an FDIC-insured account with banking services provided by Evolve Bank & Trust—both of which are managed from the Step app.
However, while Step’s card is technically a secured credit card, it functions much like a prepaid Visa debit card—all while offering features you’d find from other types of accounts, including saving and investing.
The Step Review: Step Banking Features
Step earns a high rating from Young and the Invested (more on that in a minute) because of its wide array of features. Indeed, rather than thinking about Step as a credit card or a bank account, it’s easier to think of Step as a financial Swiss army knife, providing solutions for numerous needs.
For instance …
The Step Card
The Step Card itself is a Visa-branded secured credit card, which means you can use it anywhere Visa is accepted. At the moment, that’s some 44 million merchant locations across more than 200 countries and territories, so it’s easier to just say you can use it virtually anywhere credit cards are accepted.
But the Step Card acts more like a prepaid debit card in that you can only spend whatever funds are in your account. You can fund your Step Account through a number of avenues, including directly linking to another bank account; to a debit card from another bank account; or to payment apps like PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App. You can also have an employer directly deposit funds, or you can even deposit cash from 70,000-plus retail locations.
The card also allows you to withdraw money fee-free from Step’s network of 30,000-plus ATMs. (But I will point out that you can’t use those ATMs to fund the card.)
The feature that stands out most about Step is its ability to build credit.
To be clear: You can build a positive credit history with virtually all secured credit cards. But Step stands out because it works differently, it has a laundry list of features most other cards don’t have, and it’s the only such card available for users under age 18.
That last point is what has made Step so popular among teens.
When a parent sponsors a card for their teen, they can opt to have Step report the past two years’ worth of information—transactions, payment history, and more—to the credit bureaus when their child turns 18. Credit scores are assigned once someone turns 18, and most teens will begin with a score of under 600. But based on a Step survey, 18-year-olds who used Step for at least seven months had an average credit score of 725.
That’s a massive difference that can mean easier access to (and lower financing rates on) everything from car insurance to apartment security deposits to student loans.
What’s appealing to people of all ages is how Step actually functions when it builds your credit. Like I said: Step Card is a secured credit card, which means it’s processed just like a credit card. However, money is withdrawn directly from your Step account, more akin to a prepaid debit card.
In other words, parents can add money to their child’s Step account and never fear them overdrafting their account. And adults can also build credit through the Step Card without risking missing payments or getting hit with interest charges.
Step encourages users to save with the Savings Goals feature. This effectively acts like a savings account, but it allows you to specify several Goals—say, one Goal is saving for a car down payment, and another is saving for a laptop. You can then determine how much you want to save toward (and control the flow of money into) each of those Goals.
Better still? Users earn 5% annually—compounded and paid monthly—on up to $250,000 saved in their Savings Goals. Like with your average savings account, Step’s savings yield can change depending on movements in the Federal Funds Rate, but if that happens, Step will give you 30 days’ notice before it happens.
Users must have direct deposits of at least $500 per month to qualify. The benefit lasts for as long as the direct deposits continue. (By the way, setting up direct deposits earns you other perks, including getting paid up to two days early, and earning bonus points on food delivery, dining, charitable donations, and some merchants, as well as Other perks of setting up direct deposits include bonus points on food delivery, dining, charitable donations, and some merchants.)
Step actually has another way you can accelerate your savings: Savings Roundup.
With this feature, purchases are rounded up to the nearest dollar and the extra amount is added to the designated Savings Goal. For example, if you buy a fast-food meal for $8.75, Step would round the purchase up to $9.00 and add the extra 25 cents toward a Savings Goal.
Step enables its users to invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and cryptocurrencies—and it offers fractional shares, so you can invest with as little as $1. (Teens need the assistance of a parent or legal guardian to open a stock account, crypto account, or both.)
Users have to open investing-specific accounts within Step to access these assets. Within the Step stock account, you get access to more than 1,000 “popular” stocks and ETFs. On the one hand, that’s a wide range of options that should be plenty for a beginner investor. But I’ll tell you that’s thousands of stocks and ETFs shy of the entire investible U.S. market—in other words, you might come across stocks and funds you want to invest in that you can’t with Step. So if investing is your main concern, and you want access to a fuller range, you might want to consider more specialized investment apps.
The crypto account is even more limited. It allows you to buy Bitcoin, and nothing more. Also, you can’t spend Bitcoin directly at vendors, and this isn’t a pure crypto wallet.
Apple Pay / Google Pay Compatibility
Step Banking is in itself a wide-ranging financial app, but it also plays nice with popular digital wallets. Specifically, you can add your virtual Step Card to Apple Pay or Google Pay. (One tiny feature that I love: You can even add your card to these wallets before your physical card arrives. Not an important feature, but I think it’s a nice touch.)
Instant Transfers (Send + Receive Money from Other Step Apps/Members)
Technically, the instant transfer capability refers to Step’s feature allowing you to immediately send money to (and receive money from) other Step account users. It’s pretty simple. You can literally just tap Send, enter a friend’s name or phone number, punch in the amount you want to send, then tap a couple more times to finish the transaction. And like with many payment apps, you can send a note along with the transfer so the recipient knows what the money is for.
This also applies to parent-managed accounts. Let’s say your child is too young to have a job or your teen is too busy to go with you to the bank, you can instantly send them money through the app.
However, you can also fund your Step Card instantly if you’ve linked a debit card from another bank account. (If you link directly to a bank account, or other payment apps, funds will arrive in one to three business days.)
Parental Controls and Monitoring
Parents or guardians (called “Sponsors” by Step) have a few ways to keep tabs on or protect their children from the app:
- Monitor spending
- Freeze the Step Card
- Block the card from working at certain merchants
As I mentioned earlier, users can withdraw money from Step’s network of 30,000+ ATMs, and they can do so fee-free. Step caps ATM withdrawals at $250 within a 24-hour period, and $1,000 within a 30-day period.
One of the best features on here for both teens and adults is direct deposit. Adults will enjoy knowing that they can directly deposit their paychecks into their Step account, just like they would a traditional bank account. Parents will love knowing that paychecks are going directly into their teen’s account, where they can monitor the spending.
Allowance and Recurring Payments
Parents can set up one-time allowance payments for their kids, or automate it by setting up weekly recurring payments. (And if your child has done extra work or slacked off, you can adjust allowance higher or lower.)
Seamless Transition to Adulthood
Step also provides a seamless experience for teens who “graduate” into young adulthood. When they turn 18, Step allows cardholders to keep their old credit card number and account, doing the legal heavy lifting in the background to get them appointed as the legal owner of their account, and transitioning them to an independent account. Everything—from how they access the app to their account numbers to their investments—stays the same from their perspective, and Step continues reporting credit on the same “credit line,” which allows them to keep building their credit history.
The Step Card comes protected by Visa’s Fraud Protection and Zero liability guarantee. So if your card (or your teen’s card) gets lost, stolen, or misplaced, and fraudulent charges crop up, you can dispute the charges within a certain time frame to avoid liability for paying.
And remember: If you’re worried the card is lost, you can also freeze it right from the app until you’ve found it or determine you need to order a replacement.
How to Open a Step Bank Account and Debit Card for Teens
Opening a Step card account is quick and easy.
- Visit the Step homepage and click the “Get Started” button in the top right.
- Enter your phone number.
- Step will send you a link to your mobile device to download and install the app.
- Install the app either from the iOS App Store or Google Play Store (depending on your mobile device)
- Launch the app and Click “Sign Up.”
- Create a username and password, customize your card if desired, and enter your address to receive the card by mail.
- Once your account is verified, you can create a virtual Step card, which can be used online instantly. If you want a physical card to use in stores, you can order that as well. The physical card should arrive within 14 to 21 business days (though it can arrive sooner). When I ordered the card to review it, I received it in roughly two weeks.
Is Step a Good First Bank Account for Teens?
The Step App was designed to help teenagers learn about personal finance, banking, investing, and credit. So if you’re a parent who is looking for a way to teach your teen money management, or the basics of credit card usage, I would recommend a Step card.
If you’d like more nuanced parental controls as well as integrated allowance and chore app functionality, I think alternatives, such as the Greenlight card, give you more options. While Greenlight’s prepaid card for kids comes with a flat monthly fee, it comes with added security and parental controls and covers up to five kids.
Likewise, you might consider other prepaid cards, such as GoHenry, FamZoo, and Current—all of which incorporate allowance and chore management, have spending controls and limits, as well as real-time notifications.
However, for the price you pay (that is, nothing—Step has no monthly fees), Step is an excellent way to help your teen begin banking, build credit, and build a solid money management knowledge base.
What Other Debit Cards for Teens Should I Consider?
If you’re looking for a card for your teen or child, and you’re not sure Step is the solution, I’ve compiled a list of the best debit cards for teens that should work for your needs below. Look at each and compare which one makes the most sense for your needs.
|App||Apple App Store Rating|
+ Best For
|Greenlight||☆ 4.8 / 5|
Customer rating and parental controls
|1 month free. Core: $4.99/mo. Max: $9.98/mo. Infinity: $14.98/mo. (Each plan supports up to 5 children.)|
|Copper Banking||☆ 4.9 / 5|
Teen financial independence
|Copper $4.95/mo., Copper + Invest: $7.95/mo.|
|Revolut <18||☆ 4.7 / 5|
|No monthly fees|
|GoHenry||☆ 4.6 / 5|
Accessible customer service support
|1 month free. Individual: $4.99/mo. Family (supports up to 4 children): $9.98/mo.|
|FamZoo||☆ 4.6 / 5|
Financial literacy resources
|Free trial, then $5.99/mo./family. (Discounts available for longer periods of prepayment.)|
|BusyKid||☆ 3.5 / 5|
Teaching balanced financial approach via chores & allowance
|$4/mo. (Supports up to 5 cards)|
|Till Financial||☆ 4.5 / 5|
Teaching about smart spending
|Free (no monthly fees)|
|Axos First Checking||☆ 4.7 / 5|
Teens ready to learn about money management
|Free (no monthly fees)|
|Mazoola||☆ 4.3 / 5|
|Free (no monthly fees)|
|Current||☆ 4.7 / 5|
Innovation and product features
|Free (no monthly fees)|
|Chase First Banking||☆ 4.8 / 5|
High customer satisfaction from a major bank without fees
|*Apple App Store Rating as of June 1, 2023.|
1. Greenlight (Best-Rated Debit Card for Teens)
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: Free 1-month trial. Core: $4.99/mo. Max: $9.98/mo. Infinity: $14.98/mo. (All plans include cards for up to 5 children)
The Greenlight debit card allows kids to begin spending, but provides parents with peace of mind by giving them control over where their kids can spend money. Parents also can choose to receive alerts that tell them when, and how much, money is spent on the Greenlight debit card.
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.
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 you to have discussions with your child about why a purchase might be a good or bad idea.
And if your child has a job, they can add their own funds to the card as well.
Each monthly Greenlight subscription includes debit cards 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. The company also offers a personalized card, with your own photo or design, for $9.99.
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. Greenlight has no minimum age requirements for this card, but recommends starting at age 6 or older.
Greenlight boasts numerous other features, too. For instance, parents can open an investment account for kids to get their children investing in stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) for the first time.
Greenlight offers monthly savings rewards based on your tier: 1% per annum for Core members, 2% per annum for Max, and 5% per annum for Infinity. You may set up “Parent-Paid Interest” between you and your child. This allows you to foot the bill and pay interest on accounts for up to five kids.
Any Greenlight subscription also lets users qualify for the cash-back Family Cash Card. Parents can add their teenagers as authorized users to this Mastercard help them learn how credit cards function and establish a credit history.
This credit card offers the following cash-back rewards:
- 3% cash back when you spend at least $4,000 in a billing cycle
- 2% cash back when you spend at least $1,000 (but less than $4,000) in a billing cycle
- 1% cash back when you spend less than $1,000 in a billing cycle
There is no limit to the cash back that can be earned, and users can also auto-invest the cash-back rewards.
Read more in our Greenlight Card review.
2. Fidelity Youth™ Account (Best Debit Card With Teen Investing)
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: No account fees, no account minimum, no trading commissions*
- Platforms: Web, mobile app (Apple iOS, Android)
- Promotion: Teens get $501 on Fidelity® when they download the Fidelity Youth™ app and activate their Youth Account; parents get $100 when they fund a new account
Is your teen interested in jumpstarting their financial future? Do you want them to build smart money habits along the way?
Of course you do! Learning early about saving, spending and investing can pay off big when you start on the right foot. And one tool that can help your teen get that jump is the Fidelity Youth™ Account—an account owned by teens 13 to 17 that’s designed to help them start their money journey. They can start investing by buying most U.S. stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and Fidelity mutual funds for as little as $1!⁴
Your teen will also get a free debit card with no subscription fees, no account fees³, no minimum balances, and no domestic ATM fees⁵. And they can use this free debit card for teens to manage their cash and spend it whenever they need.
And as for building smart money habits? You and your teen can access your account through the Fidelity Youth™ app, which has a dedicated Learn tab packed with materials developed specifically to help teens develop good financial habits. Not only will Fidelity’s interactive lessons, videos, articles, tools, and calculators accelerate their learning—but for every level they complete, reward dollars will be deposited into their account to use however they want.
Controls parents want and need
A parent or guardian must have or open a brokerage account with Fidelity® to open a Fidelity Youth™ Account. For new Fidelity® customers, opening an account is easy, and there are no minimums and no account fees.
Parents and guardians have plenty of tools they can use to monitor their teen’s activity: They have online account access, can follow monthly statements and trade confirmations, and can view debit card transactions made in the account.
To make it even easier, you can set up alerts to notify you of trades, transactions, and cash management activity, keeping you firmly in the loop on actions your teen takes across the Fidelity Youth™ Account’s suite of products.
If your teen has an interest in learning about investing and taking their first steps toward building their financial journey, you should consider downloading the Fidelity Youth™ app and opening a Fidelity Youth™ Account. The account comes custom-built for their needs, which will help them become financially independent and start investing for their future.
Read more in our Fidelity Youth™ Account review.
3. Chase First Banking (Best Free Debit Card for Kids and Teens)
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: Free (no monthly fees)
Ready to teach your little ones about money, but not quite sure if you have the time, patience and expertise?
Chase First Banking℠ offers simple banking for both of you in one location: the Chase Mobile® App—for free. Manage all accounts with this mobile app and encounter no fees as well as find yourself able to withdraw money on 16,000 Chase ATMs around the country. The account is designed with kids 6-12 in mind, and available for ages 6-17.
At the heart of Chase First Banking℠ sits one of the best free debit cards for kids and teens that works anywhere Visa is accepted.
Need insight and oversight into your child’s spending and saving? You can set spend alerts and limits as well as specific locations all in your Chase Mobile® app.
Teach your kids to spend, save and earn — all from the Chase Mobile® app. Chase First Banking℠ helps parents teach teens and kids about money by giving parents the control they want and kids the freedom they need to learn.
To get started, you’ll first need to be a Chase customer with a qualifying Chase checking account.
- Chase Total Checking℠ also grants access to 16,000 Chase ATMs and more than 4,700 branches as well as a $200 sign up bonus when you set up direct deposit within 90 days of coupon enrollment. You can pay $0 in monthly fees, subject to meeting certain conditions*.
- Chase Secure Banking℠ offers the same Chase ATMs and branch locations as well as a $100 sign up bonus when you make stated qualifying activities and meet certain conditions.
Once you open a qualifying Chase Checking account, you may apply for a Chase First Banking℠ account for your child.
Read more in our Chase First Banking review.
4. GoHenry (Best for Customer Service)
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: 30 days free. Individual: $4.99/child/mo. Family: $9.98/mo. for up to 4 children
I think of GoHenry as more than just a way to spend—it’s a financial solution for minors that includes an account, prepaid debit card, app, even financial lessons. Parents are given an online account that’s linked to, and allows them to oversee and manage, individual accounts for each of their children via both the GoHenry app and the online account portal.
Each child will receive their own GoHenry debit card; you can choose from 45 different designs or create your own customized card for $4.99. And each card is governed by parental controls you can set for your children.
What I like about GoHenry is that kids can only spend whatever money is available on the card. That means parents don’t have to worry about costly overdraft fees or their kids running up a debt.
When you open a GoHenry account, you should receive your children’s debit cards in the mail seven to nine business days later. Once you do, you can set up events and controls, including:
- Automatic weekly allowance transfers into your children’s accounts
- Real-time spending alerts
- One-off or weekly spending limits
- Choosing the stores where your kids can shop
You can even block and unblock the card as needed from your parent account. So, let’s say your child has lost their card—you can block any expenditures on it until it’s found, then unblock it once it’s back in your child’s care.
But GoHenry really sticks out to me as one of the best prepaid debit cards for kids because of their customer service. They offer everyday phone availability, email access, and social media engagement, ensuring users can solve their problems quickly and with little hassle.
GoHenry has no minimum age requirements but recommends starting at age 6 or older. Your child will be able to do plenty with the card from the onset—and plenty more as they grow up to be teens. Not only can they receive an allowance, but they can also get paid by employers through their account. They can use that money to reach savings goals or shop within the limits you’ve set. Your teen can even receive money from (or send money to) friends!
With time, a combination of your parental guidance and the app’s features should help your kids develop good money habits around earning, saving, spending, and giving.
Users should know that the company was acquired in 2023 by Acorns—a popular investing app for young adults who invest spare change through Round-Ups and recurring investments. However, for now, it still operates as GoHenry, and as of this writing, I’ve seen no announced changes that would suggest it will stop operating as normal.
Learn more by reading our GoHenry debit card review.
Related: GoHenry vs. Greenlight
5. Copper Card (Best Debit Card for Kid Independence)
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: 30 days free. Copper: $4.95/mo. Copper + Invest: $7.95/mo.
Copper Banking was founded on the belief that kids and teens should have equal access to financial education and should be empowered to learn by doing. Now, the company is on a mission to help children gain real-world experience by giving them access to their money in a way that traditional banks can’t.
The Copper app and debit card teaches your child how to make smart financial decisions by creating a platform where parents and their kids can connect. With the Copper app, you get easy snapshots of your accounts. And with the Copper Debit Card, it’s easy to shop in-store or online, including with Apple Pay or Google Pay.
Plus, users get exclusive access to engaging advice curated by a team of financial literacy experts who provide tips on how to take control of their financial future.
When I reviewed the Copper banking product, I found the following features to be most important:
- Send/Request: Kids and parents can easily send and receive money all at the touch of a button.
- Spend: Spend using Apple or Google Pay, or using the Copper Debit Card.
- Withdraw: Access your money from more than 55,000 fee-free ATMs.
- Monitor: Get a snapshot of all your child’s spending in an easy-to-read dashboard.
- Save: Gain quick snapshots of your kid’s savings and helpful tips on how to save even more. Set up savings buckets and save for the things that you want.
- Learn: With the help of Copper’s team of financial literacy experts, gain bite-sized tips on how you can maximize your money and prepare yourself for your financial future.
The basic Copper account includes the above banking features. With Copper + Invest, your child also gets access to automatically curated smart portfolios built with their preferences in mind. (We like the guardrails they provide to get your child started with investing.) Your child is given a questionnaire that helps Copper determine a portfolio based on their age, income, net worth, investment objective(s) and investment horizon. Copper then recommends one of three ETF portfolios—Moderately Aggressive, Aggressive, and Extra Aggressive—made up of thousands of stocks. Parents can review the portfolio to ensure it matches with not just your child’s preferences, but your family’s. (Portfolios can be changed later on by accessing the Support chat.)
Much like many other apps I’ve reviewed on Young and the Invested, your child doesn’t need much money to begin their investing journey with Copper. They can begin investing for as little as $1, then add more contributions down the road. Copper will automatically rebalance the portfolio as needed to make sure it always keeps up with your child’s investment preferences.
Copper is available to kids 6 years and older.
Read more in our Copper Banking review.
Is the Step Banking and Checking Account Safe?
Step App employs several industry standards and best practices when it comes to safety. The most relevant items to know:
- Step card accounts are FDIC-insured for up to $250,000 per individual through banking services provided by Evolve Bank & Trust. This partner bank has FDIC coverage, which protects any balance held on your cards from risk of failure of Step or Evolve Bank & Trust. FDIC coverage works for all accounts held at a financial institution by the primary owner.
- Step card comes with an EMV chip and parent-controlled PIN.
- Step card uses industry-best encryption practices as well as firewalls and VPNs to protect your private data.
If you lose your card, you have the ability to turn off that card with a tap on your Parent Account. Likewise, the Step card comes with Visa’s Zero Liability Policy. This is the industry standard $0.00 of liability if your physical card gets lost or stolen, someone gains unauthorized access to your virtual card number or fraudulently makes an unauthorized transfer from your card account.
However, to claim this liability waiver, you need to act fast by contacting customer service through the app within two business days. You also must exercise reasonable care in safeguarding your card from loss, theft or unauthorized use.
How Does Step Make Money?
Traditional banks make money from charging you fees, lending your deposits or performing other non-interest bearing services. Step, as a financial technology company and not a bank, makes money by collecting a portion of the interchange fees paid by the ‘merchant bank’ facilitating the transactions made with the card.
When you use your card, the network processing your transactions made on your card will collect a fee. Step gets a percentage of those interchange fees. This means that the Step app does not have to charge traditional fees and you can enjoy the savings.
- Chase First Banking Account and Debit Card for Kids Review
- Axos First Checking Account Review [Free Checking + Debit Card]
- 30 Best Side Hustles for Teens [In-Person + Online]
Disclaimer: Step is a trademark of Step Mobile, Inc.
Terms and Conditions for Fidelity Youth™ Account