You're probably tired of having to run to the ATM every time you want to give your children cash as an allowance, or getting crumpled dollar notes back from friends after they have bought snacks. It's about time to give them their own debit card.
Debit cards for under-18-year-olds are available from banks, credit unions and financial technology firms. Children and teens can learn money management skills while being protected by a variety of parental controls.
It can be difficult to choose the right card for your children. The cost of using different cards, along with the perks and safety features, can vary. Our top-rated debit cards are perfect for kids and teens. Whether you're looking to limit spending, teach budgeting or invest--or just stop your children from treating you as a cash-machine--we have you covered.
Cashback up to 1% on all debit purchases
Why we chose it: The debit card from financial technology company Greenlight stands out because of its comprehensive suite of parental controls. It also has an easy-to use app and educational resources that meet K-12 standards for financial literacy. This card is the perfect choice for parents who want to give their children some financial freedom, while still guiding them in their money choices.
Greenlight gives children a debit card that has their name printed on it. The card is linked with a prepaid balance that can't be overdrawn. This saves you money and gives your child the opportunity to learn how to manage their finances. Your child's money will be stored at Community Federal Savings Bank which is FDIC-insured.
Parents can choose to receive notifications in real time every time their card is declined or used. The app allows parents to access account information, turn on or off the card, set spending limits by store or category and limit ATM withdrawals.
Greenlight simplifies allowance as well. Parents can set financial rewards for completing recurring tasks or one-off chores. You can also set up automatic payments of the same amount weekly, biweekly, or monthly. Teens who are working can have their pay directly deposited into their account.
Greenlight accounts can be divided into three buckets: saving, spending and giving. Greenlight has a roundup function that moves change from purchases to savings. Parents can also contribute by paying an interest rate they choose on the balance of a child.
Greenlight is a kids debit card that offers a lot of customization options. It also stands out from other cards because it includes educational games and tools in its app. These challenges are designed to teach children about money in bite-sized lessons.
Greenlight Core is the cheapest option, costing $4.99 per month, for up to 5 children. This plan comes with a free one-month trial. Other premium plans, which cost $9.98 or $14.98 per month, include investing functions and ID theft protections as well as more generous interest rates and cash back.
According to the plan that you choose, up to $5,000 can earn you 1%, 2.5% or 2% in interest. Greenlight's Max and Infinity plans offer kids 1% cashback on debit purchases. This is added each month to their savings.
There is a $4.99 monthly fee to use the Greenlight card. Additional fees apply for premium features. Greenlight charges the same fees as its competitors, so it's not that expensive to let your child use your money. There are also free options, which you will see highlighted below.
The best free debit cards for teens
Why we chose it: If you want to give your child the freedom to manage money without constant supervision, Capital One's Money teen checking accounts offer a free debit card. The account is designed for teens and has no monthly fees, minimum balances, subscriptions or overdraft charges.
It offers benefits that other accounts do not, especially for teens who are responsible and work part-time. Teens receive their own checking account that pays 0.1% on all balances. They also get a debit card, and access to over 70,000 ATMs without any fees. They can also set up direct deposits and make mobile checks.
Parents can get text or email alerts about card transactions. Capital One's app allows them to track their account activity, lock their debit card, and autopay allowance. Zelle is available to teens 13 and older, but they must have parental consent. The default account setting is $500 per day for ATM withdrawals and purchases. Parents who wish to lower this limit can contact the company.
Capital One debit cards are also great because parents don't have to open an account at the bank in order to obtain one for their child. Other free checking accounts for children usually require that an adult first have an account and keep it open to allow the child access.
There are some limitations: The card does not have the usual parental controls that come with debit cards. For example, you cannot set limits on spending at certain retailers, or block usage of your card in specific stores, or reward chores. The account is available to all children aged 8 and older. However, it is better suited for teens with experience in managing money who require less supervision.
The best free debit card for young kids
Access to over 15,000 ATMs without charge
Why we chose it: If you're looking for a way to give your child more control of their spending, without having to spend any money yourself, Chase's First Banking Account debit card is the perfect solution.
Chase does not charge a monthly maintenance fee or subscription fees. It also doesn't have a minimum balance requirement to keep the account open. However, if obtaining one for a child, he/she must already be enrolled in e-commerce with Chase and maintain an active checking account.
Parents can set up customizable controls to limit how much and where their children can spend. They can also receive alerts when their child uses the card. Parents can set up alerts to notify them when their children use the card. They can also limit where and how much they can spend. They can even autopay an allowance, or assign a one-time task with a specific payment.
Parents can designate a particular merchant or a general category of spending for a certain amount. You could use this if you want to ensure that your child is only using the $20 per week you give them to buy food at school. This account does not allow users to setup Zelle or Direct Deposit and only allows $100 in daily ATM withdrawals.
Chase First Banking Debit Card is not suitable for older children due to limitations on Zelle, ATM use and direct deposit. This card is not a good option for teens who have a part-time gig or need to pay friends back regularly for meals or gas.
The Best Credit Building Tools
Earn up to 1-3 points on purchases made with direct deposit
Why we chose it: The Step Visa is unique in that it can boost your teen’s credit score, a feature offered by no other competitor and which can help set up your child for a successful financial future. The Step Visa Card does not function as a debit card but it is very similar.
It's actually a secured card. The Step card is a secured credit card, which means that users cannot overdraft or overspend, nor can they accrue interest on unpaid balances. The Step card, while designed for teens to help build credit, can be used by anybody who wants to establish a good credit history. It is also one of Buy Side’s top picks for secured credit cards.
Step states that the average teenager has a credit rating of 723 when they turn 18. This is a high score, which could lead to a lower rate of interest on a car or student loan.
Teens who are employed and set up a monthly direct deposit of at least $500 can benefit from a variety of benefits.
Savings up to $250,000 will earn them 5% on their money. Like a credit card the Step Visa also offers points that can be converted to cash. Step offers three points for every dollar spent on specific merchants, which change each month; two points on dining, charitable donations, and food delivery; and one point on streaming, games, and entertainment. Each point is equal to 0.01 cents. 500 points are $5.
Teenagers can track their spending and send money to friends and family. They can also withdraw money from ATMs at no cost. Step does not charge a monthly fee or require a minimum amount.
Warning: Children can't begin building credit on their own until they turn 18. Step will not report your child's card payment history to TransUnion, Experian or Equifax until they turn 18. This account is best for teens who are older and whose credit score will be affected by their card usage.
A sponsor must also be willing to set up a Step account. This adult must also be over 18 years old. Parents can view and track all account activity as a sponsor. They can also add money to an account, create recurring payments, freeze or unfreeze the card, and monitor account activity. The ability of parents to control how much their teens spend and where they go is severely limited.
The Best Investments
Parents who want to help their children learn more than just basic money management should consider Fidelity Youth accounts. This option is available to teens aged 13-17. It combines a debit card with a brokerage account owned by the teen, which allows them to save, invest and spend all at once, without cost.
Some other children's accounts offer investing as well, but most charge an extra fee for it. Greenlight, for example, requires that you upgrade to the $9.98 per month plan in order to gain access to investing.
Fidelity’s stock market exposure comes without any subscription fees, account charges, trading commissions, or minimum balance requirements. The company will also add $50 to the account as a bonus, and reimburse domestic ATM fees. The parent must already have a Fidelity account in order to open an account for the teen.
Teens have the freedom to invest as little as $1, and they can use it however they want. This isn't a joint account or a custodial one, so teens don't have to depend on an adult for management. Fidelity provides some safeguards to prevent teens from engaging in riskier behavior such as trading after hours, short-selling or participating in Initial Public Offerings. Certain types of securities, such as penny stock and cryptocurrency, are restricted.
Parents can monitor all debit card and trade transactions and receive alerts. The account must be opened by an adult. They can cancel the card or close the account at any time.
Fidelity offers an online Youth Learning Center and an app for its customers that explains common money topics like ETFs, mutual funds, stocks and why diversification is so important.
Caution: Due to the lack of parental control and the risk that teens may lose their investments in whole or part, this account is better suited for responsible children who are familiar with the risks of investing and have the ability to budget themselves.
Parents should be aware that if they set up a Fidelity youth account, their teen can see any information on other Fidelity Accounts in which they are a beneficiary (such a a Uniform Gift to Minors Act Account) or were created for them (such a Roth IRA). Your teen will not be able to make changes or do anything with these accounts, but they can learn about any college savings or inheritances that you haven't shared yet.
How we pick
We looked at all the options for those under 18 years old to choose Buy Side's Best Credit Cards and Debit Cards. This included prepaid debit cards as well as checking account-linked cards, secured credit card and brokerage account linked debit cards. The fees for opening or maintaining the account, along with the parental controls and any other benefits offered such as rewards, interest payments or educational tools, were the most important factors in choosing the best cards. We chose cards that are easy to get and have a good app for parents.
The editorial team at Buy Side from WSJ has provided the advice, rankings, or recommendations in this article. They have not been reviewed by or endorsed our commercial partners.