We can all agree that one of the best lessons you can teach your child is how to handle money. While talking together and reading about it are both a great start, kids need to have a hands-on approach, especially before entering the real world.
While handing them cash for chores is excellent, they don’t get a feel for the real world the same way they do with using their own debit card. So, how old do you have to be to get a debit card? And which is the best option?
Can an 11-, 12-, 13- or 14-year olds get a debit card?
It depends. The age of getting a debit card will vary by bank or credit union. For starters, minors cannot have an account on their own. They must have a parent or legal guardian on the account. Most banks will allow kids 13 or older to have a debit card with a parent account holder. However, some limit it to 15 or 16, or even 18. And others allow kids as young as 6 to get a debit card, so you can see that it varies greatly!
For more specifics, let’s look at several card issuers to see what they allow:
- Chase Bank allows kids ages 6 – 17 to open a debit card with parental controls through a program called Chase First Banking.
- Wells Fargo has a Clear Access Banking account for kids 13 to 24 with a debit card.
- The Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Banking® checking account has a debit card available for students under 25.
As you can see, the age limits vary significantly from bank to bank.
If you’re not sure a debit card is the right fit for your child, let’s discuss the pros and cons next.
The Pros and Cons of Debit Cards for Kids
Debit cards can be a great tool to help your kid learn how to keep track of their spending before they end up signing up for a credit card in college. However, there are some pros and cons to owning a debit card – especially at a young age – that we should cover before discussing specific debit card options.
- It can be easier to pay them for chores. (I never have any cash on me!)
- It teaches them how to keep track of their spending and know how much is in their account, as well as general money management concepts.
- It’s easier for them to make purchases.
- They’re less likely to misplace a card.
- They can’t do the same damage that overspending on a credit card can (which hurts your credit score as well as your bank account)
- They learn how to handle money before leaving home.
- It’s a great teaching tool to help them learn the ins and outs of online banking.
- They could lose it. However, most have an app to instantly lock/unlock the debit card.
- If the card is lost, they have to pay a fee to replace it.
- If kids aren’t careful, they can make overdrafts and cause fees (which can be a valuable lesson).
- They can be a target for fraudulent activity.
Is Your Kid Ready for a Debit Card?
If kids as young as six can get a debit card, how do you know if your kid is ready? While knowing if they’re ready or not isn’t black and white, there are some good indicators to help you decide:
- They can keep track of their stuff. Some kids are better at keeping track of their things than others, so this can vary significantly from kid to kid. If they can hold on to – and know – where their cash is, they’ll most likely be ok with keeping tabs on a debit card.
- They have income. Whether your kid earns money from chores, as birthday presents, or has a part-time job, they have some form of payment that they can deposit.
- They understand the concept of saving and spending. Bonus points if they can put a bit of money away each time into savings to start building it up. A kid ready for a debit card will understand the limits of what they can and can’t spend and how to save up for what they want.
If you’re still unsure, it can be worthwhile to give it a couple of months and try again. Kids change a lot, and if they’re not ready yet, they will be before you know it!
Which Card is Right for your Kid?
Now that we’ve answered how old do you have to be to get a debit card, let’s talk about debit card options. There are many fantastic options, many with apps and parental controls. There are some features that you should look for when choosing which financial products to go with:
- Low fees
- Card alerts
- Overdraft protection
- Spending limits
- Easy transfers
- Direct deposit
- ATM access
- Mobile wallet compatibility
- Mobile banking / online banking
I’ve taken the best kids’ debit cards I’ve found to compare features, fees, and capabilities side-by-side:
|Greenlight||goHenry||FamZoo||USAA||Chase||Bank of America||Wells Fargo|
|Ages||All ages||6 – 18||All ages||13+||6 – 17||Up to 25 (must be a student)||13 – 25|
|Monthly/Annual Fee||$4.99/month||30 days free, then $3.99/mth||As low as $2.50/mth||None||None||None||$5/mth|
|Type of Account||Card & App||Card & App||Prepaid & IOU accounts||Checking & Debit Card||Card & App||Checking & Debit Card||Checkless Checking & Debit Card|
|Spending limits||Set by parent||Set by parent||$500/day||Yes||Yes||N/A||N/A|
|ATM Access||Set by parent||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Digital Wallets||Apple Pay & Google Pay||No||Apple Pay, PayPal, Square, Venmo||No||Zelle||No||Zelle|
|Savings Interest Rate||Parent-paid interest||None||Parent-paid interest||0.01% over $1,000||None||None||None|
|Get Paid for Chores||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||No||No|
|Customer Service||Email & Phone||Email, Phone & Website||Website||Website, Chat, Phone & Email||App, Website, Phone, Email, & Social Media||Website, Chat, & Social Media||Website, Phone & Email|
|Mobile App||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes – child access after the age of 13||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|More Information||Learn more||Learn more||Learn more||Learn more||Learn more||Learn more||Learn more|
My daughter has the Chase First Banking card, which Greenlight Card runs. We’ve found it’s one of the best debit cards – it’s easy to use, I can transfer money quickly for chores done, and she loves having her very own card. It helps her feel more in control of her money and spending, and it’s teaching her to think about the important things to think about before spending every dime she has.
No matter what financial institution you select to get a debit card at, it’s a good idea if they have parental controls or access so that you can be sure to spot any issues to help them through. Also, a bank that offers financial literacy to teach them about spending and money is always a great bonus as well!
Other Options to Consider: The Difference Between a Debit Card, a Prepaid Debit Card, and a Credit Card
I know – that’s a massive range of different banking products, but hear me out. While they all seem very similar, some significant differences between them are worth noting before digging further into debit cards. Let’s talk about the different aspects of each product so you can best decide what works for your family member:
- Debit card: This card is generally attached to a checking or savings account. Not all checking accounts have check-writing abilities (weird, I know). A debit card uses the existing funds in that bank account, and once the funds are spent, you can’t use the card until the account has more money. However, there is still a chance of overdraft if purchases are slow to process, so knowing how much you have available is essential. Debit cards can also be used for online purchases (though not recommended for security reasons) and to withdraw cash at ATMs.
- Prepaid Debit Card: This card is similar to a gift card and is not linked to a bank or checking account. They have a set amount of money loaded on them. Once spent, you can reload them online or at specific stores.
- Credit card (think American Express): The minimum age requirements for a credit card is 18, since you’re borrowing money you currently don’t have. The only way to get approved for one younger is to become an authorized user on a parent’s account. These work as a loan of sorts, where you borrow money before you’ve earned it to spend. You’ll then pay interest on that borrowed money if it’s not paid off within the month billing cycle.
A prepaid card can be a fantastic option for kids who struggle with overspending. It can help them keep better track of spending and avoid overdraft fees. Another option is to consider adding them as an authorized user on your bank account, though it has some pitfalls if you’re concerned about overspending.
Now that we’ve answered how old do you have to be to get a debit card, you can read more about my Greenlight card review here. Also check out these great financial literacy resources for kids to help them earn financial independence.
After reading this, have you decided if a debit card is right for your child? Do you have specific concerns we didn’t talk about above? Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments below!