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Debit Cards for Kids


My twin daughters turn 11 this month and are very much in the “tween” stage of life. Too old for “little kid stuff”, but still not mature enough for some of the freedoms and privileges of older teens. Recently, I’ve seen a lot of growth in the area of financial management and I’d like to nurture this important life skill. It used to be that whenever the girls received money (as birthday gifts, etc.), they’d INSTANTLY spend it. ALL of it. Like it was burning a hole in their pocket.

We’ve had some serious financial conversations and the girls each have their own 529 college savings account. They’ve learned when they receive money to save some, spend some, and give (donate) some, and the difference between shorter-term savings versus longer-term savings.

Given these recent developments, I think it might be a good time to dip our toes into the use of kid-friendly debit cards. I looked at a couple and wanted to share my own list of comparisons and what I have decided to go with in the end:

Comparing GoHenry vs Greelight

Monthly Fee$4.99 for 1 child;
$9.98 for up to 4 kids
$4.99 for up to 5 kids (Core)
$9.98 for up to 5 kids (Max)
$14.98 up to 5 kids (Infinity)
Options for InvestingNoYes, with Max or Infinity plans
App AvailabilityYesYes
Money TransfersYes - instant from parent accountYes - instant form parent account, and possible direct deposit from child's job
Budget BreakdownYes - gives report on spending historyYes - gives report on spending history
Parent OversightYes - parents decide where and how much kids can spendYes - parents choose where kids spend and set up spending limits
Cash RewardsNo1% on savings (Core);
1% cash back; 2% savings (Max);
1% cash back; 5% savings (Infinity)
Customizable CardCustom Card available for $4.99Custom Card available for $9.99
Card protectionNoYes, for Max and Infinity plans

There are a lot of similar features, but the big differences are that Greenlight offers more options (cash back and savings rewards, in addition to investing options). The other big thing, for me, is that Greenlight offers card protection on its Max and Infinity plans.

In the end, I decided to sign up with Greenlight’s Max plan. I get my first month free, and then it will be $9.98/month after that. I am hoping this app can grow with my kids, so they can learn more about saving and wisely spending (and even investing!) while they are young and still in my care. I love that I can track all their transactions and set limits on how much they can spend and where.

If anyone else is interested in trying the app, I have a code where you can earn $30 when you sign up.

Has anyone else used a similar app to help manage kid-friendly debit cards? What were your thoughts or experiences?


  • Reply Jenn |

    We used Capital One teen checking for our 10 year old. There’s an app for the kid and an app for the parent. No fees.

      • Reply Misti |

        Came to say the same thing we loved the capital one for teen account. I could monitor online with my app and when they became adults they could turn it into an adult account. the plus was I could easily transfer money to their account if they needed it. Best of all this was a free checking account. You should definitely check it out before you make a decision.

  • Reply AS |

    With all due respect, are your children spending enough on a debit card that it’s worth $120/yr in fees? Would they rather you give them the equivalent amount of cash instead right now? I think when they turn 13 you have more options ahead, such as a Fidelity kids account. Have not looked into this personally though.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I definitely don’t see this as a forever thing (like you mention, lots of additional options become available at 13) and yes I 100% think they would prefer for me to give them $120/year! 🙂 That said, I really feel like I want/need a heavy level of involvement and oversight right now at this age. They’re good kids, but I have seen from how “click happy” they are just with adding things to their Amazon wish list how easy it might be for them to fall into the trap of buying junk just because they can. Online shopping can be addicting! I want to be able to give them an opportunity to learn how to responsibly use a debit card while still having all the parental protections and ability to limit transactions, etc. so this feels like a good middle ground compromise for the time being.

  • Reply rb |

    We really like FamZoo. It can be more complex than some of the competitors because it allows you to set it up however your family values dictate. It has both virtual IOU accounts and debit-linked accounts. You can set up chore lists that automatically deposit to give/save/spend accounts in any combination. You can even set up chores that penalize when expired. It also supports savings goals that gain interest (that the parent pays) to encourage them to put funds in the save account. Once the child turns 13 the debit account becomes a real bank account that they can direct deposit to.

    You get 4 debit accounts free (one is the “master” parent account) and can have additional accounts for a fee. You can have an unlimited number of virtual IOU accounts and savings goals. We pay $59.99 for a two-year subscription but they have other pricing options as well.

  • Reply Sheila Y Abbott |

    Check with your bank or credit union. My kids have accounts that are under my account so I can supervise and see all transactions. There is no fee for this. Spending that much per year in my opinion is not teaching them anything. Another thought is that kids need to learn that once the money is gone you can’t replace it. Let them spend but at the same time don’t give out for other things. My son is heavily involved in baseball. We bought his first couple of bats but he now saves money to buy both bats and gloves. He does not like the options I give him so he buys his own. He is 13.

  • Reply Rachel |

    It sounds like your girls are ready for this step! I can’t speak to recent apps, but I can tell you what my family did when I was young. When each kid started middle school, our allowance went from weekly to monthly and we got a joint checking account with our parents. We were then responsible for gifts, lunch money, and socks and underwear. This was the mid 90’s, so checks were still the dominant way to pay for things. We also in theory were responsible for doing our own laundry starting then, but that never really worked out in practice, there would have been too many way too small loads. That way by the time we went to college, we had 6 years of practice managing money and household tasks and wouldn’t be helpless once we lived on our own. It was pretty unusual at the time, but kids have more independence a lot earlier now.

So, what do you think ?