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As a parent, you may think cash is the best way to hone your kids’ spending skills. Debit cards are also a smart option, as they have several unique features and advantages that cash can’t offer.
Even if cards are a great financial learning tool for kids, some key questions remain unanswered. What makes a debit card good for kids? And when should your kids get their first debit card?
Important features of kids' debit cards
When choosing a debit card for your kid or teen, you may think that any card will do, like a prepaid card. However, some cards have features that make them better for kids than others.
Debit cards for kids vary in features depending on the company that provides them. Still, they all function like a conventional debit card – the money your child withdraws or uses to make purchases is deducted from their cash account. Other features explicitly found in kids’ debit cards, include:
- Parental control to monitor and decide how much money to deposit in the account.
- Notifications to both parents and children whenever purchases are made to track and regulate transactions.
- Reduced monthly fees and child-friendly access to other investment opportunities such as stocks and bonds.
- Dashboards that contain a report and snapshots of your kid’s total spending.
- Financial literacy resources for kids to help them become thoughtful spenders.
These features can help your kid grow into a more financially-responsible adult and provide them with valuable insights into how the world works. There are other shorter-term benefits that we’ll discuss below.
Pros and cons of debit cards for kids
Debit cards are an excellent way for your kids to take their first step toward financial literacy, but they have advantages and disadvantages. The table below summarizes the pros and cons of debit cards for kids.
|Secure- require a PIN to access the funds even when the card is lost.||Possible age limit restrictions.|
|Compared to credit cards, debit cards teach kids to be more prudent spenders since the money is directly deducted from their funds.||Kids may overspend because of how easy debit cards are to use.|
|Immediate access to funds in case of an emergency.||Kids may become targets of online scams and other forms of fraud.|
|Easy to connect and transfer between checking and savings accounts.|
When should your kids get debit cards?
Knowing when to introduce your kid to a debit card is important, and it depends on when you become comfortable with the idea. Some experts recommend getting your kid their first debit card as early as possible, which means by age 13 when teens can open their first teen checking account.1
However, the decision shouldn’t depend on age alone. Parents should also consider the depth of their kids’ understanding of debit cards and the value of money in general, as well as the associated risks of giving them this type of financial freedom for the first time.
How to tell if your kid is ready for a debit card
Here are a few signs you can use to help you decide whether your child is mature and capable enough to start handling their finances:
- Shows initiative by saving their spare money over a considerable period of time.
- Carries their own wallet and keeps it safe when they’re out.
- Doesn’t ask for additional allowance money due to overspending.
- Has developed other life skills and performs them well (helping with groceries, household chores, etc.).
- Is more open to discussions about spending wisely and has shown the motivation to save.
- Sets financial goals and has saved enough to achieve them at least once.
Your kid doesn’t need to hit every one of these items to prove they’re ready for their first debit card. No one knows your kid better than you, so what matters is that you trust them to use the debit card wisely and not as a way to show off to their friends.
If you decide they’re ready, the next step is choosing the right card.
Best debit cards for teens and kids
The best debit card for your kid is the one that empowers your child and provides the education necessary to help them adjust to managing their own finances. Here are two good options to get you started.
Greenlight is a solid debit card for young starters. It’s a great fit for both kids and parents because it allows parents to monitor and control their child’s spending while offering a personal finance app you and your child can use to manage their money.
Parents have control over the amount of money being transferred and what stores and locations that money can be used in. You can even see the specific items your child is spending money on.
Fidelity Youth Account Debit Card
Another good option is the Fidelity Youth Account, a dedicated account for children with a no-fee debit card for teens. There are no monthly fees or account minimums, which is good news for parents who want to get their child a debit card without worrying about the costs of maintaining one. Fidelity also offers a Youth Learning Center, which provides additional support for children to help jumpstart their financial lives.
Both these cards are good options for your kid’s first time owning a debit card. Assuming they demonstrate good spending habits as they grow older, they can transition to a Chime Visa® Debit Card when they turn 18 to take advantage of the full set of features we offer.
What debit card is free for kids?
Many debit cards offer fee-free transactions for kids. These cards include the Step Visa Card, Revolut, and Till Financial’s debit card. Each card has unique features that can help your kid acclimate to the benefits of using debit cards, but choosing the best card for them comes down to their behavior and the specific financial areas where they need support.
Can I give my 12-year-old a debit card?
This depends on how ready your child is to take on this responsibility and the bank in question. Giving your 12-year-old a debit card is fine if they demonstrate the maturity and ability to handle money responsibly. However, it may not be a good idea if they still need help managing their savings or if they lose their wallet frequently.
Most banks require kids to be at least 13 to open a teen checking account, through which they can get their own debit card. If you want to start their debit card journey at 12, you may be limited to prepaid debit cards.
Can I get a debit card for my child?
Many banks today provide the option for parents to apply for debit cards for their kids. It’s often easier to apply for a debit card for a child because the parent can just open a joint checking account to get started. However, parents should also be mindful of the age limits and other specific requirements that may hold them back from getting a debit card for their kid. In most cases, the minimum age is 13.
Is a kids' debit card a good idea?
Introducing debit cards to kids can be a good idea because it teaches them about spending habits and helps them become more mindful spenders in the future. On the flip side, debit cards may enable overspending and blur kids’ internal lines between their needs and wants. You can avoid this with guidance and transaction monitoring while your child learns how to use their debit card.
Managing money is part of growing up
Teaching your kids to manage their finances is an important step in preparing them for their adult life. Starting with debit cards can propel them toward financial literacy. However, getting a debit card for your kid requires frequent guidance and support, as it’s different from cash.
Education is key to becoming financially literate. If you need additional resources to help your child learn about how debit cards work, check out our full debit card guide.