Navigating the world of finance can be tricky, especially for young people. Of course, you want to help your child understand how it all works before they have to manage their money on their own.
A question I often hear parents asking is, “How old does my kid need to be to get a debit card?” The answer is not as straightforward as you might think, as it depends on factors like your child’s maturity level and your financial institution’s policies.
Here, we’ll look into all aspects of debit cards for children and teens—how they work, what to look for in a debit card, when to get one for your child, and the best debit cards currently available for young people.
Let’s dig in.
What is a Debit Card for Minors?
A debit card is issued to you by your bank or financial institution and is primarily to make purchases with the funds from your checking or savings account. Debit card purchases can be made in-store or online; the money comes out of your account almost instantly.
Don’t confuse a debit card with a credit card. With a credit card, you have a set line of credit to use that you must repay later, unlike debit cards that immediately withdraw your funds when you make a purchase or use an ATM.
There are debit cards specifically designed for children and teenagers. These cards are often connected to a specific account created for your child and usually come with parental controls.
These accounts aim to help children and teens learn financial responsibility, budgeting, and money management skills while giving parents the tools to monitor and guide their child’s spending habits.
How Old Do You Have To Be To Get a Debit Card?
The age when your child can get a debit card varies between financial institutions. Many banks and credit unions will allow children ages 13 and older to open a joint account with a parent (or legal guardian), which can include a debit card. Some offer specialized debit card accounts designed precisely for children, starting as young as six.
However, until a child reaches 18, a parent or guardian must own or co-own a child’s debit card account. After that, they can open a savings or checking account independently.
When Is the Right Time To Get a Debit Card?
Sometimes age shouldn’t be the determining factor before adding this new, hefty responsibility onto your kid’s plate. Before you make any financial decisions with or for your child, ask yourself, “Is my child truly ready for a debit card (and the responsibilities that come with it)?”
If you’re unsure, here are a few factors to consider when deciding whether or not to open a debit card account for your child:
- Allowance: Does your child earn an allowance? If so, some debit card accounts for children and teens make it easy for you to transfer an allowance into their account.
- Employment: Does your teen have an after-school or weekend job? If so, they can keep their earnings safe in a checking or debit card
- Independence: Does your kid go to the movies or restaurants with friends? A debit card supports these baby steps toward freedom while allowing you to monitor their spending.
- Interest: Does your child show interest or ask for the opportunity to manage their own money or make their own purchases?
- Responsibility and Maturity: Can they keep track of their belongings and handle money responsibly? Have they had a little experience with handling cash, counting change, or making small purchases? Do they understand the importance of budgeting and saving?
Keep in mind that every child is different. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to when they might be ready for a debit card. After considering these factors and having an open and honest conversation with your child about money, you can make an informed decision that works for your family.
Pros and Cons of Having a Debit Card
As with most things, there are pros and cons to having a debit card, especially for young folks just beginning to navigate the world of personal finance. Let’s take a closer look at both sides of the coin.
- Free and easy to use: Unlike credit cards, which often come with fees and interest charges, most debit cards are free, making them a more accessible option for young people just starting to learn money management.
- Convenience: Debit cards can be used for purchases in-person, online, and through mobile apps. You can even sync your debit card to a digital wallet like Apple Pay or PayPal—much easier than worrying if you have cash on you.
- Money management skills: By using a debit card, your child can learn valuable money management skills, such as budgeting, tracking expenses, and saving, and develop healthy financial habits.
- Rewards programs: Some debit cards offer rewards programs, such as cashback or points you can redeem for cash or gift cards. This is a nice perk if your child or teenager plans to use their debit card
- Identity theft/fraud: Debit cards are linked to bank accounts, making them vulnerable to identity theft and fraud. Kids must be taught how to protect their personal information and monitor their account activity regularly.
- Overdrawing your account: If your teenager spends more than what’s in their account, they may incur overdraft fees. Look for a debit card specifically developed for kids and teenagers, as many do not charge overdraft fees.
- Fees: Some banks charge fees when you use an ATM or if you dip below a minimum daily balance in your account. Again, look for a bank that offers fee-free ATM use, and always keep track of your child’s account balance.
- No credit-building benefits: While debit cards can help young people learn good money habits, they don’t offer any credit-building benefits.
Why Should You Consider a Debit Card For Your Child?
According to T. Rowe Price’s 2022 Parents, Kids & Money Survey, of the parents surveyed, 57% were reluctant to discuss financial matters with their kids. But an overwhelming 83% of children ages 8 to 10 and 70% of ages 11 to 14 said they took their parents’ advice regarding money over any other source!
With financial literacy education severely lacking, parents have the power to teach kids how to manage, save, and use their money. A critical step in learning financial literacy is to get a debit card for your child and teach them how to use it.
Some valuable lessons your child can learn by having a debit card include the following:
- Responsibility: While a debit card makes spending easy, it does the same for overspending. With every swipe, your child will learn how quickly their balance can dwindle with irresponsible purchases. Further, they will learn how to keep their card safe and the measures necessary to lock and get a replacement card if they mess up (as we all have!)
- Creating (and sticking to) a budget: Schedule some time each month to put a budget together with your child. Factor in how much they have in their account and how much they want to spend. Help them categorize their expenses (such as food, entertainment, and transportation). That way, they can see exactly where their money is going.
- Track expenses: Help your child track their purchases with a written log or a budgeting app. Did they stick to their budget? Reinforce that they need to be accountable for their purchases.
- Saving: Once they begin to manage their account, discuss the rewards of budgeting for savings, and the benefits of having money saved for the future, whether it be the short term or long term. Teach them how to plan ahead for big purchases, such as a new phone or a trip with friends, and the importance of not relying on a credit card.
As a parent, you know how important it is to balance protecting your child and giving them the freedom to grow and learn independently. That’s where a debit card can come in handy.
A debit card can be an excellent tool for your teen to learn good money habits while also giving them some financial responsibility. Plus, as a parent, you can have peace of mind knowing that you have some control over their spending and can keep an eye on their account activity.
By getting your teen a debit card, you’re helping them take a step towards financial independence and teaching them essential life skills. Win-win.
What Features Should You Look For in a Debit Card?
If you’ve decided to open an account for your child, you’ll want to consider the following features when looking for a debit card.
Minimum Age Requirement
Check with the institution you are considering for its account age requirements or special offerings for young folks. Many traditional banks require a child to be at least 13 years old before opening a bank account and debit card.
This is the most critical aspect of your child’s debit card and bank account. You’ll want to choose a card with robust parental controls so you can monitor and regulate your child’s spending habits and ensure they aren’t going outside of their budget.
Ideally, you’ll want to be able to manage the following with your child’s account:
- Set spending limits (Daily, weekly, or monthly)
- Monitor their purchases (Whether in real-time or through monthly statements)
- Receive real-time mobile notifications (Like when your child makes a purchase or withdraws money from an ATM)
- Approve or decline specific purchases (in real-time)
- Restrict merchant categories (Including fast food, video games, online shopping, etc.)
- ATM withdrawal controls (Set limits or disable their ability to withdraw)
- Account funding (Choose how to transfer funds to your child’s account)
- Chore and allowance management (Create and assign chores, track completion, and financially reward your child)
Low (or No) Fees
Look for a debit card with zero or low fees, particularly when it comes to monthly maintenance fees, ATM withdrawal fees, or transaction fees. Some debit cards and bank accounts designed for young people offer a more affordable fee structure, making it easier on your child and family’s budget.
On the other hand, you might be able to justify monthly fees if your child’s debit card account comes with rewards, bonus features (like savings goals), or educational resources.
For your own peace of mind, make sure the financial institution you choose has flawless security features, primarily regarding fraud protection. Look for features like two-factor authentication, EMV chip technology, account monitoring and alerts, encrypted online and mobile banking platforms, and SSL encryption. You’ll want the ability to temporarily lock or freeze your child’s account if it’s lost or stolen. Ensure they respond quickly if there is a case of suspicious activity.
Further, choose an FDIC-insured bank—that way, any deposits you make are protected (up to $250,000) should your bank fail. (NCUA-insured if you opt to use a credit union).
Talk to your child or teenager about banking safely. They should never share their PIN or banking password with anyone, and they must keep their card number and information secure and use caution when purchasing something online.
Mobile Banking App
Choosing a teen checking account or debit card with online banking and a mobile app is advantageous for several reasons.
Primarily, a mobile banking app offers convenience, as they can easily access their account information, check balances, and monitor transactions from their smartphone, laptop, or tablet—anytime and anywhere.
Further, many banking apps come with budgeting tools, real-time notifications, and parental controls, all promoting responsible money management habits. Typically, it also offers security features and digital wallet integration for an added layer of protection.
You may have to compensate for financial knowledge your child doesn’t get in the classroom. Look for a bank or credit union that offers educational resources or an app for kids with financial lessons built in. If your child is a novice in understanding money, this can be a fantastic tool for them.
5 Best Debit Cards for Kids & Teens
If you’re ready to open a debit card and bank account for your child, here are my top recommendations for the best debit cards for kids and teens:
1. Chase First Banking
Chase First Banking is an all-in-one bank account designed for children ages 6 to 17 whose parents are Chase Bank, account holders. Parents can manage both their and their child’s accounts through the Chase mobile app (available for iOS and Android devices). Chase has convenient how-to videos on its website to walk parents through using the app.
This account offers a comprehensive solution to help kids develop good money habits. Parents can set spending and ATM withdrawal limits, contribute to savings goals, and manage their kid’s chores and allowance. You can also monitor account activity and receive real-time alerts when your child uses their Visa debit card.
There are no monthly maintenance fees or minimum deposit requirements for your child’s account or debit card, and they will have access to over 16,000 fee-free ATMs.
- Free debit card and banking app
- Few fees
- User-friendly mobile app
- Large ATM network
- Easy for both parents and kids to navigate
- No direct deposit
- Funds can only be transferred from a parent account
- No savings APY
- No education resources on the mobile app
Open a Chase First Banking Account
Greenlight is a user-friendly debit card and mobile app designed for kids of all ages to teach money management and provide parental support. Parents can easily monitor their child’s spending through the Greenlight app, set limits on specific categories and locations, link a child’s chore list and allowance, and approve or decline transactions in real-time.
Greenlight debit cards are prepaid cards funded by parents, ensuring kids don’t exceed their spending limits. If a child requests extra money, they can take a photo of what they want to buy and receive immediate parental approval (or rejection!)
With no minimum age requirement, Greenlight is an exciting tool for children to learn about saving, spending, and earning money. Greenlight provides debit cards at no cost; however, a basic “Core” family account (covering up to five children) costs $4.99 per month.
If you want to add a brokerage account to your child’s account or earn a higher interest rate on their savings, you can enroll in Greenlight Max for $9.98 per month. For location sharing, SOS alerts, and crash detection, enroll in Greenlight Infinity for $14.98 per month.
- Excellent financial education resources
- Chore management and allowance payments
- Subscription tiers allow for more special features
- Parents can add a brokerage account
- Best perks require higher monthly fees
- Accounts can only be funded digitally
- No reimbursements for ATM fees
Copper is a banking app developed for teenagers ages 13 to 17, with the goal of creating a financially successful generation. With Copper, parents are involved in their child’s banking while allowing teens to still feel in control of their finances.
With the Copper app, parents can instantly set up a one-time or recurring funds transfer to their teen’s accounts. Additionally, teens can set up savings goals (i.e. college, new car, etc.), and add money to them over time.
Your teenager can use their Copper debit card through a digital wallet like Apple Pay or Google Pay and access over 55,000 fee-free ATMs. Parents can monitor these ATM withdrawals and all of their child’s financial activity within the app.
To open a Copper account, you’ll need a minimum opening deposit of $10; however, there is no ongoing balance requirement. The app is highly rated on both Apple and Android platforms and praised for its sleek design and ease of use.
Parents can add up to five children to an account, and each child receives a debit card for $4.95 per month. While Copper is designed primarily for teens, kids as young as six can have a Copper account as long as they can access the app.
- No overdraft fees
- Extensive educational resources
- Access to a network of 55,000 fee-free ATMs
- Highly-rated, user-friendly app
- Up to five children can be added to one account
- Limited parental controls
- No chore management feature
- Monthly fee ($4.95) for debit card
GoHenry is tailored toward children ages six to 18 and offers one parent account that is linked to a child’s account. Every child receives their own Mastercard debit card, which is customizable with over 45 designs and patterns your child can choose from.
Like a prepaid debit card, parents fund and control the available balance. GoHenry ensures that your child can only spend what they have in their account, teaching the importance of budgeting (and preventing overdraft fees!) These cards allow easy access to Google Pay, Apple Pay, ATM withdrawals, and more.
The GoHenry mobile app allows parents to access real-time spending notifications, set spending limits, assign chores and tasks, block debit card use, and invite friends and family members to deposit funds into their child’s account. (GoHenry will automatically block transactions with unsafe retailers and send parents a notification).
To use the GoHenry app and debit card (and for access to their extensive financial lessons), you can begin with a one-month free trial. After that, there’s a monthly fee of $4.99 per child.
- One-month free trial
- Zero liability protection
- App blocks unsafe spending categories
- No overdraft fees
- Monthly fee for each child
- No investment option
- Accounts don’t earn interest
- Can’t cancel through the app
FamZoo is a digital, family-focused banking platform that offers a parent-controlled, prepaid debit card for children. Parents can add funds to their child’s card via transfer, direct deposit, or cash deposit.
The entire family uses a single FamZoo banking dashboard with their own individual login. Children can only access their accounts, while parents have control over the entire family’s banking system.
Parents can receive spending alerts and activate and deactivate their kid’s cards at their discretion. They can also set up automatic payments for weekly allowance, parent-paid interest, rewards for good grades, and other incentives for their children. (Payments can also be withheld if your child doesn’t complete their chores!)
FamZoo comes with an IOU option, meaning parents can transfer funds into an IOU account to save for their child if they aren’t quite ready for a card yet.
FamZoo offers several payment options to cover your entire family, starting with a monthly fee of $5.99. You can also prepay monthly fees in 6, 12, and 24-month installments. FamZoo debit cards have no overdraft fees and are accepted anywhere Mastercard is accepted.
- Parent-paid interest option
- One or two-month free trial
- IOU account option
- No overdraft fees
- No free account option
- Parents cant restrict spending on the prepaid card
- Subscription fees are high
Frequently Asked Questions
Do banks allow kids under 18 years old to have a debit card?
Yes, however, until a child reaches 18, depending on the bank, a parent or guardian must own or co-own a child’s debit card account. After that, they can open a savings or checking account independently.
Is a debit card for my teen the right decision?
Whether a debit card is the right decision for your child or teenager will depend on several factors, including your child’s level of maturity and responsibility, their desire to understand money management, and what you hope to achieve by introducing them to a debit card.
When you open a checking account and debit card for your teen, you are opening the doors for them to learn financial responsibility. However, keep in mind that risks are involved, too—the possibility of fraud or identity theft, overspending, and potential overdraft fees.
Are debit cards for children safe?
Debit cards for children can be safe. While children need to be responsible with it, parents also need to play their part in ensuring that their child is using their card correctly.
Further, before enrolling, ensure you go with a bank or credit union with superior security features and proper response time to deal with fraudulent activity.
Should I get my child a credit card or a debit card?
When choosing between a credit card and debit card, you should know what each offers along with the pros and cons. With debit cards, parents can usually set a spending limit, and children will be inclined to learn how to budget. While there is no risk of debt, there is no option to build credit, either.
With credit cards, there are no spending limits and a much greater chance for your child to incur debt. However, many credit cards offer rewards and cashback programs that could prove beneficial. If they use their credit card responsibly, they will build credit which will be useful for future financial endeavours like renting an apartment or applying for a loan.
What fees are associated with a debit card for teens?
The fees associated with a teen debit card or checking account can vary across providers. There may be fees for monthly maintenance, ATM withdrawals, transfers, or transactions. You’ll want to research the provider you want to use and ensure the fees are not detrimental to your child’s monthly budget.