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You can (and should!) talk to your kids about money management skills, but nothing replaces hands-on experience. That’s why I’ve long been an advocate of debit cards for kids.

But when you’re dealing with kids and money, you need to use kid gloves. You don’t want to simply give your child (or even teen) access to your debit card and the bank account connected to it—unless you’re prepared for the possibility that your account might get drained at the local GameStop.

There’s a better option: opening a debit card specifically designed for kids and teens. These cards feature most of the basic spending features of traditional debit cards, but they also come with parental controls—like spending limits, card locking, and more—as well as features designed for kids, including allowance, chores, and education.

If you’re here, I’m going to confidently guess that you have your eye on both Step and Copper, and you’re not sure which one to choose. I don’t blame you! They’re both solid choices and enjoy high ratings here at WealthUp. It’s also possible that you’re wondering if there’s a better option than both of these cards.

If you read on, you’ll find that I’ve got you covered.

Today, I’m going to do a detailed rundown of both Step’s and Copper’s debit cards. I’ll start with an overview, then provide a breakdown of costs, key features, and other information you should know. And if you still worry that neither cards are right for you and your family, you can check out my thoughts on other worthy debit cards.

Step vs. Copper Comparison


step logo transparent symbol thin leftAffiliate CTA Apply Nowcopper logo transparent text thin leftAffiliate CTA Apply Now
WealthUp Rating☆ 4.7 / 5☆ 4.4 / 5
App Store Rating☆ 4.7 / 5☆ 4.9 / 5
Price*No monthly feesCopper: $4.95/mo.
Copper + Invest: $7.95/mo.
BillingN/AMonthly
Special OfferN/AFree 30-day trial
Allowed Cards Per Subscription15
Minimum Age**No6
Features That Make This Card Stand ApartBuilds credit; highest APY of any debit card for minors; points-based reward systemEarn money by filling out surveys

Basics

step logo transparent symbol thin leftcopper logo transparent text thin left
SpendingYesYes
SavingYesYes
InvestingYes (Stocks, ETFs, and Bitcoin)Copper: No
Copper + Invest: Yes (ETF-only smart portfolios)
Giving/DonatingNoNo

Funding

step logo transparent symbol thin leftcopper logo transparent text thin left
Funding Source(s)Bank account, debit card, third-party app, cashBank account, debit card
Direct DepositYesYes
AllowanceYesYes
ChoresNoYes
GiftingNoNo
Cash Reload FeeFirst 2 deposits free; $3.95 reload fee thereafterN/A (No cash reload)

Saving/Spending

step logo transparent symbol thin leftcopper logo transparent text thin left
Savings APY5.00%Copper: 2.0%
Copper + Invest: 5.0%
Round-UpsYesYes
Other Savings FeaturesNoneDivvy
ATM NetworkAlliance Plus (30,000+ ATMs)Allpoint (55,000+ ATMs)
ATM Transaction Fee$0 (Operator fee may apply at out-of-network ATMs)$0 (Operator fee may apply at out-of-network ATMs)
Card NetworkVisaMastercard
Compatible Mobile WalletsApple Pay, Google PayApple Pay, Google Pay

Parents

step logo transparent symbol thin leftcopper logo transparent text thin left
Parental ControlsLow (Card lock)Low (Card lock, auto-blocks "inappropriate content")
Parental MonitoringYesYes
Parental NotificationsYesYes

Other Features

step logo transparent symbol thin leftcopper logo transparent text thin left
Cash BackYes (Amount varies based on expenditure)No
Builds CreditYesNo
Customization optionsNoNo
Refund PolicyN/ANo refunds given, month-to-month pricing
Affiliate CTA Apply NowAffiliate CTA Apply Now
* Prices do not include processing fees when applicable.
** Many cards have different suggested minimum ages. We are only listing any hard-and-fast minimum age requirements.

Step Overview


Step savings signup

The free Step Visa Card is a unique “hybrid” secured credit card that’s tailor-made for kids and teens. It has the safety of a debit card, but it functions like a Visa credit card—including the ability to build your child’s credit history.

Parents, who sponsor the card for their child, add money to this FDIC-insured account and can determine how their child can spend. A regular Step account allows a child to have both a physical spending card as well as a virtual card in the Step app, while a Parent Managed Account only allows the child to spend via a physical card. Either way, they can use their card anywhere Visa is accepted.

Children can also use their cards to withdraw money from more than 30,000 ATMs for free. And parents needn’t fear that their child will overdraft—they can’t spend any money they don’t have.

Further, the Step Card comes protected by Visa’s Fraud Protection and Zero Liability guarantee. That means if your teen’s card gets lost or stolen, or misplaced and fraudulent charges crop up, you can dispute the charges within a certain time frame to avoid liability for paying.

Step also has fantastic savings benefits. Kids earn a high annual percentage yield (APY) on their money and can boost savings even more with Savings Roundup.

Step even features an “invest” function that allows children age 13 and older to buy and sell Bitcoin for a small transaction fee. The app is not a pure crypto wallet, however—your kids currently can’t spend Bitcoin directly at vendors.

Step has no age requirement, but anyone under 18 will need a parent, guardian, or trusted adult to sign them up.

Related: 5 Best Under-18 Investment Accounts [Invest as a Minor]

Step Plans + Costs


Step is as free as free debit cards get. There are no monthly fees, no subscription fees, and no account minimum fees. Members can use more than 30,000 fee-free ATMs. Step doesn’t even charge commissions on stock trades. Step primarily makes money through “interchange” fees paid by the merchant bank, rather than charging customers. So it’s very easy to use Step and never pay a dime.

PlanMonthly FeeFeatures Offered Under Plan
StepN/A

    - Step Card
    - Option to build credit
    - High APY on Savings Goals
    - Parental Controls
    - Allowance
    - Instant Transfers
    - Savings Roundup
    - Investing

Now, Step isn’t perfectly free—no card is. There are a few situations where you could incur small fees, though most of these are par for the course for (or less than) comparable products.

For instance, merchants charge $3.95 per cash deposit—Step covers that charge for your first two deposits, but after that, you’re on your own. Same goes for card replacements—Step offers up to two free card replacements for lost physical cards. After that, there is a $5 charge for each additional card replacement. (Fortunately, you can always use Step’s virtual card for free.)

Step also charges a small fee when withdrawing funds out of a linked debit card. It costs 35¢ for transfers less than $20 or 1.75% of the transfer amount for transfers of more than $20. And when buying cryptocurrencies, buy and sell prices include a 2% markup that helps cover Step’s costs.

Step also warns about a couple of other third-party fees:

  • If your child chooses to use an out-of-network ATM, Step won’t charge any fees, but the ATM operator may charge a service fee.
  • Step doesn’t charge commission fees for stocks, but the government does charge a pair of small fees—a FINRA transaction activity fee (TAF) and a Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) fees—that account for a marginal percentage of your sale. Each fee is calculated as total transaction amount * $22.90 / 1,000,000, rounded up to the nearest cent, so a $1,000 trade would come out to just 4¢ in total fees.

Just keep in mind that both of the above fees are typical of just about any financial institution that offers those services.

Again: Step is as free as it gets.

Related: How to Make Money as a Kid [25 Ways For Any Age]

Step Features


parents son kid online debit credit card account

Step Card

The Step Card is a Visa-branded card that can be used anywhere Visa is accepted, which is … well, at 44 million merchants in 200-plus countries and territories, that’s just about anywhere credit cards are accepted. It can also be used to withdraw money for free from 30,000-plus ATMs. (Note: Withdrawals are capped at $250 within a 24-hour period and $1,000 within a 30-day period.)

Remember: The Step Card is technically a secured credit card. But in practice, the Step Card acts just like a prepaid debit card. Parents fund a kid’s account, and the kid can spend up to however much is in the account—but not a penny more.

Parents have several options for how to fund a Step Card, including directly through a linked bank account, a debit card, direct deposit from an employer, or payment apps like PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App. You can even deposit cash from 70,000-plus retail locations.

Lastly, the card is protected by Visa’s Fraud Protection and Zero Liability guarantee. You can dispute fraudulent charges within a certain time frame to avoid having to pay for those charges.

Credit Building

I said it in my Step review, and I’ll say it here: Step’s credit-building feature is by far and away the platform’s biggest draw.

Virtually all secured credit cards let you build credit. 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.

Also helpful? The card’s Smart Pay feature automatically pays off purchases every month from funds in the deposit account. That keeps kids from ever missing a payment.

Savings Goals

Lots of kids’ debit cards give different names to their de facto savings accounts: With Step, it’s called a Savings Goal. Kids can have multiple Savings Goals where they can save toward individual goals such as buying a bike or a laptop.

Users earn a competitive 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.

To qualify, the user must have a direct deposit of at least $500 per month, and the benefit extends for as long as the direct deposits continue. So even if your teen just holds down a summer job for three months and meets the qualifying direct deposit, they can still enjoy three months of high interest. (Other perks of making a qualifying direct deposit? Bonus points on dining, food delivery, charitable donations, specific merchants—and you can get paid up to two days early.)

Savings Roundup

Step also has a round-up feature: Savings Roundup. With this feature, small purchases are rounded up to the nearest dollar figure, and that extra money is put toward a Savings Goal.

Let’s say your child buys some candy for $2.75. Step will round that purchase up to $3.00 and put 25¢ toward a predetermined Savings Goal.

Investing

Step gives kids the opportunity to invest in more than 1,000 stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), as well as cryptocurrency. Within Step, a child needs a stock account to invest in stocks and ETFs, then a separate crypto account to invest in cryptocurrency.

Parents must open and approve these accounts for their child. Also, kids can only invest in stocks or funds their parents have recommended for them.

Kids can invest with as little as $1 through Step thanks to fractional shares. Also, stock and ETF trading is commission-free, but Step does charge a 2% markup on crypto prices to help cover its costs.

Step’s selection of more than 1,000 stocks and ETFs is technically much smaller than the thousands of stocks and funds they could access through a traditional broker, but it’s more than enough for beginner investors—and in fact, even intermediate investors could easily build a portfolio out of Step’s holdings. The crypto offering is extremely limited, though, with only Bitcoin offered at present.

Instant Transfers

Parents and other Step members can immediately send money to (and receive money from) one another with just a few taps. And while people rarely scoff at free money, you can include a note so the recipient isn’t scratching their head as to why you sent it.

Parental Controls

Most parents would prefer to dip their child’s toe into the money management pool rather than throw them in. Parental controls can help. Step allows you to monitor your child’s spending and freeze the card if you fear it’s lost or stolen (or fear your kid is being too irresponsible with it).

Allowance + Recurring Payments

Parents can easily set up allowance payments for their kids. You can set up recurring payments for regular chores, or one-time payments to reward your kid for spot chores, a good credit card, or otherwise doing something worth celebrating.

Related: Best Allowance and Chore Apps for Kids

Smooth Transition to Financial Adulthood

Step isn’t just for kids—adults can use it as well! Once your child turns 18, they can keep the same credit card number and account. Step will handle getting them appointed as the legal owner of the account and make it an independent account. Everything stays the same from the cardholder’s end. They can continue to use the card and keep building their credit history.

You can sign up for Step here.

Related: 30 Best Side Hustles for Teens [In-Person + Online]

Copper Overview


copper banking

Copper Banking is a fintech app with a prepaid debit card that provides digital banking for minors. While Copper Bank is entirely online, customer deposits are FDIC-insured through their banking partner, Evolve Bank & Trust.

Copper 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.

Copper is available to kids age 6 and older. A parent can add up to five kids (and thus five Copper Cards) with each subscription.

Related: 25 Best Jobs for 15-Year-Olds [In-Person + Online]

Copper Plans + Costs


child kid debit credit card swipe

Copper has two plans to choose between:

PlanMonthly FeeFeatures Offered Under Plan
Copper$4.95

    - Copper Cards for up to five kids
    - Earn 2.00% on savings
    - Smart savings with Divvy and RoundUps
    - Automatic allowance
    - Instant P2P money transfers
    - Parental controls
    - Built-in financial education
    - Mastercard Zero Liability Protection
Copper + Invest$7.95Everything under the Copper plan, plus:

    - Investing for kids
    - Earn 5.00% on savings
    - Priority support

In addition to a monthly fee, other fees may apply. For instance, you will incur a $4.95 fee any time you load cash onto the card via the Green Dot network of retailers. You will also incur a fee for instant debit transfers; the fee is 2.5% of the total amount + 30¢ per transaction.

Related: 7 Best Investments for Kids [Investing for Children]

Copper Features


parents teen debit credit card payment

Copper Card

The Copper Card is a Mastercard-branded debit card that can be used for shopping at physical stores or online, as well as for withdrawing cash at more than 55,000 fee-free ATMs. This means your kid can spend virtually anywhere—Mastercard is accepted in more than 210 countries worldwide—with the exception of any vendors flagged for “inappropriate content.”

Parents can put money onto their kids’ Copper Cards for free from their Copper wallet. Parents have two ways of funding their Copper wallet:

  • Bank transfer: Transfers from a linked bank account are free and take three to five business days to clear.
  • Debit card transfer: These transfers cost 2.5% of the total amount +30¢ per transaction and the money instantly hits accounts.

You can manually initiate transfers or set up Auto-Reload to add money any time funds fall below a predetermined threshold.

Kids with Copper accounts can also send money to each other. So if a sibling borrows money, it’s easy to pay it back.

Cardholders benefit from Mastercard Zero Liability Protection. This means you and your child aren’t held responsible for any unauthorized transactions as long as you used reasonable care to protect the card from loss or theft and promptly reported any fraudulent charges to Copper.

Savings

Copper accounts also have a savings area. Kids can create savings goals and put money away toward those goals. Copper will help that money grow faster by paying interest in any money saved. The annual percentage yield (APY) varies by plan: Copper users get a 2% APY on savings, while Copper + Invest users get 5%.

Parental Controls + Card Limits

Copper has adequate parental controls. Parents get real-time alerts on children’s transactions, so they’re always up-to-date on kids’ spending habits. The adults also have the option to freeze the card at any time to stop spending.

Copper has its own card limits in place as well, including the following restrictions:

  • Daily deposit limit (debit card or ACH): $500
  • Monthly deposit limit (debit card or ACH) $2,000
  • Daily spending/transfer limit: $2,000

You can, of course, instruct your child that you have stricter limits, if you so choose. But no matter what, your kid won’t be able to exceed these limits, even if there’s an emergency.

Copper also has a “merchant shield” so your kids can’t make purchases with any vendors flagged for inappropriate content.

Investing (Copper + Invest Only)

With Copper + Invest ($7.95 per month), your child also gets access to an easy starter investment platform that uses automatically curated smart portfolios built with their preferences in mind. While I personally prefer self-directed investing (you pick whatever stocks and funds you’d like), smart portfolios allow people with little investing knowledge to start putting their money to work in an effective way. Thus, they’re perfect for children.

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 by accessing the Support chat.)

Your child 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.

Allowance

Parents also can pay their kids an allowance using Copper. You have the choice of an automatic allowance or one-time payments when your kids need or request them. (And if you set up an automatic allowance, but your kid hasn’t exactly been on their best behavior, you can skip payments as needed.)

Tasks + Earn

Copper also has a chores feature called Tasks. To teach your kids the concept of earning, you can set up Tasks, such as cleaning, homework, or babysitting. Once the Task is marked as complete, the child gets paid. Tasks can be set up on a one-time basis or made to repeat.

Kids can also get paid through the Earn feature. When they complete surveys, they collect “creds” that can be cashed in for real money. (Parents don’t have to foot this cost—Copper covers it!)

Related: 40+ Ways to Earn Money as a Teenager

RoundUps

Copper’s round-up feature, RoundUps, helps children and teens save money every time they make a purchase. It’s simple: Every purchase is rounded up to the nearest dollar, and the change is put toward your kid’s savings goals. (Example: If your child spends $2.50 on candy,  50¢ will be put into their savings.)

Financial Education + Literacy Development

Copper wants kids to build the financial literacy skills they’ll need to succeed. To help them, it has hired financial literacy experts to develop their literacy development content, including:

  • Liz Frazier, Copper’s Executive Director of Financial Education. Frazier is the author of the book Beyond Piggybanks and Lemonade Stands.
  • Lily Lapenna, Copper’s Financial Literacy Advisor. Lapenna has been recognized by Queen Elizabeth and the World Economic Forum for her work in personal finance.

Money Moves

Learning financial skills is helpful, but the process isn’t always fun. But Copper keeps things light via its = Money Moves—short videos that are organized into the following categories:

  • Debt
  • Budgeting
  • Investing
  • Saving

Each video answers a question children are likely to wonder about, such as “How do debit cards work?” and “What is the lottery?”

Direct Deposit + Divvy

Teens with their own jobs can take advantage of the direct deposit feature. Their paychecks will be instantly deposited into their Copper accounts—and by using direct deposit, they can get paid up to two days early.

Copper also offers a feature called Divvy that allows you to automatically put aside a percentage of each paycheck toward savings and/or investing.

You can sign up for Copper here.

Related: 7 Best Teen Checking Accounts [Bank Accounts for Teenagers]

Step vs. Copper: Our Editors’ Choice Is …


In a side-by-side comparison, Step is … ahem, steps ahead of the competition here. (Sorry.)

The biggest difference—and one that puts Step ahead of virtually all of its competitors—is that Step can help kids build a credit history, whereas Copper can’t. Credit building is an extremely valuable feature that can save kids money once they reach adulthood and need to start taking out loans, purchasing insurance, and more.

Step also offers a 5% APY on savings for everyone—you can only get that on the more expensive Copper + Invest plan. Also, Step’s investing options are more robust—Step allows for stocks, ETFs, and Bitcoin, while Copper + Invest only provides its smart portfolios of ETFs.

Perhaps most appealing, Step is completely free. Copper costs $4.95 per month—and if you want investing capabilities and that 5% APY, you have to pony up $7.95 per month for Copper + Invest.

Copper isn’t without its upsides. Most notable is Copper’s Tasks feature, which makes it easy for kids to see the connection between work and pay as they complete Tasks. It also allows kids to get paid for taking surveys. And its broader set of features is plenty useful for your average family. Lastly, while Copper is a paid plan (and Step is not), Copper does allow five cards per subscription—so if you have a full household, the monthly fee isn’t nearly as prohibitive.

All that said, Step is our top choice here. If you’re interested in trying it out, you can sign up for Step here.

Our Pick: Step
Runner-Up: Copper
4.7
4.4
Our Pick: Step
Runner-Up: Copper

Related: 26 Best Online Jobs for Teens [Earn Money at Home, Age 13+]

Other Debit Cards for Kids to Consider


If you’re still not convinced on Step or Copper, you might want to look at these other highly rated options:

AppApple App Store Rating
+ Best For
FeesPromotions
greenlight transparent logo thinGreenlight☆ 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.)Free 1-month trial
copper logo thinCopper Banking☆ 4.9 / 5
Teen financial independence
Copper $4.95/mo., Copper + Invest: $7.95/mo.30-days free
gohenry logo thinGoHenry☆ 4.6 / 5
Accessible customer service support
1 month free. Individual: $4.99/mo. Family (supports up to 4 children): $9.98/mo.1 month free
revolut logo thinRevolut <18☆ 4.7 / 5
Parent-paid bonuses
No monthly feesNone
Axos Bank logoAxos First Checking☆ 4.7 / 5
Teens ready to learn about money management
Free (no monthly fees)None
*Apple App Store Rating as of April 1, 2024.

Related:


Step Disclaimer

Disclaimer: Step is a trademark of Step Mobile, Inc.
About the Author

Riley Adams is the Founder and CEO of Young and the Invested. He is a licensed CPA who worked at Google as a Senior Financial Analyst overseeing advertising incentive programs for the company’s largest advertising partners and agencies. Previously, he worked as a utility regulatory strategy analyst at Entergy Corporation for six years in New Orleans.

His work has appeared in major publications like Kiplinger, MarketWatch, MSN, TurboTax, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, The Globe and Mail, and CNBC’s Acorns. Riley currently holds areas of expertise in investing, taxes, real estate, cryptocurrencies and personal finance where he has been cited as an authoritative source in outlets like CNBC, Time, NBC News, APM’s Marketplace, HuffPost, Business Insider, Slate, NerdWallet, Investopedia, The Balance and Fast Company.

Riley holds a Masters of Science in Applied Economics and Demography from Pennsylvania State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Finance from Centenary College of Louisiana.