Teens deserve a bit more financial independence compared to younger kids. Plus, just like adults, teens are switching away from cash payments and prefer paying with a card. Debit cards are a safe and easy to control alternative to cash. But which is the best debit card for teens? Read on to find out.
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Getting a debit card for your teenager isn’t difficult, you have two main options. First, you can open a checking account for your teenager. Checking accounts are usually available for kids aged 13 to 18 but note that these are effectively joint accounts, as parent or guardian you must co-sign the application with your child.
Your other option is to get a prepaid debit card. Prepaid cards for teens typically come alongside very smart apps which let you manage your teen’s allowances and spending from the comfort of your smartphone. That said prepaid cards are not bank accounts so don’t quite carry the financial education benefits that a full-service checking account does.
On the flipside, traditional checking accounts for teenagers don’t always allow the same control over spending while also exposing you to fees and charges if your teen handles the account badly. Once you’ve picked between checking accounts and prepaid cards you need to pick an institution that you think meets the needs of you and your kids best. We’ve taken a look around for you and found five of the best choices.
Great for older teens who can be trusted with a full-service checking account, the Capital One 360 Money Account doesn’t charge any fees and does not have an account minimum. It offers a basic level of account tracking where parents can opt to get text messages or emails whenever a transaction is made. Just like any checking account today the Money Account comes with a debit card.
Remember, this account is just the same as a checking account, with the distinction that it can be opened jointly by you and your teen. As a checking account, you should watch out for overdraft fees, for example. Nonetheless, it’s a good option, particularly where your kid may be working part time as their employer can deposit their salary directly into your kid’s Money Account.
Capital One offers an app for both mobile platforms that gives teens closer control over their checking account. The Capital One Mobile app for Android scores (4.7 / 5) with most users pretty happy with the functionality. Over at iOS the Capital One Mobile app scores (4.7 / 5) too, few complaints arise though one user had problems with automatic transfers.
Another good option for parents that want their older teens to experience what it’s like to manage finances as an adult, the Wells Fargo Teen Checking Account is available to teens aged 13 to 17, but their parents or guardians must sign as a co-owner of the account. There is a minimum deposit to open the account of $25, but no ongoing services fees.
Just like the Capital One Money Account, Wells Fargo’s Teen Checking Account also comes with a debit card, but Wells Fargo brings extra control by letting parents set spending and withdrawal limits. Teens will like the included money management tools, such as My Spending Report and Budget Watch.
Wells Fargo also does a good job with their mobile app, scoring (4.8 / 5) in the App Store with iOS users calling it simply the best banking app out there. Android users are mostly happy too, with an average score of (4.4 / 5), but a couple of Android glitches surface, including one user complaining about problems with fingerprint authentication.
If you have younger teens, say 15 and under, you might want to check out FamZoo. A prepaid debit card, FamZoo comes with stacks of money management options that help you control how your teen manages money. It comes with a handy app that gives you full visibility into how each of your kids spend their money.
Because it’s not a checking account FamZoo takes away the risks of hidden fees such as overdraft charges. However, that does mean that it’s not a great option for older kids who are in part-time employment and who need an account that can accept payments.
FamZoo is free to try for a month and free to top up. Ongoing use is charged at $5.99 or $30 a year if you pay in advance. The fee covers the whole family. Any US family can apply for a card and unlike a checking account, you can just order it online, instantly, with no credit checks or anything like that.
According to iOS users Famzoo’s app is rather good, with an average review of (4.6 / 5) but for the moment the review pool is small, with only 93 ratings in total. Android users are enthusiastic too, giving FamZoo (4.4 / 5), however one user complained that the FamZoo app lacks features, suggesting that it is better to use the FamZoo website.
Greenlight is another option if you want a bit more control over how younger teens spend their cash. Just like FamZoo, Greenlight is a prepaid debit card so it doesn’t have either the pros or the cons of a standard checking account. Costs are similar to FamZoo at $4.99/month for the whole family but there is no advance-payment option so FamZoo can be less expensive.
You also get a solid app which allows you to control spending for each individual child. Greenlight goes a bit further than FamZoo by offering the ability to set a budget down to the level of an individual retailer. So, you can specify how much your kid can spend at Starbucks, Walmart, etc.
Another unique Greenlight feature is the ability to set a custom interest rate for your kid’s funds. This can help teach your kids the value of savings and investing. Note however that you will pay the interest that you set – Greenlight itself does not pay interest on the account. Overall Greenlight is a more advanced if potentially more expensive prepaid debit card when compared to FamZoo.
Note that in contrast to FamZoo, Greenlight has a much wider mobile user base. Over 13,600 iOS users rated the Greenlight mobile app, awarding the app an average score of (4.8 / 5). Greenlight is more widely used on Android too, scoring (4.4 / 5). However some users complained about registration issues on Android.
Parents leading busy lives might not have the time or the inclination to set up apps like FamZoo and Greenlight. If that’s you consider the Chase Liquid Card, particularly if you have just one teen you want to give a card to. Chase’s Liquid Card is a straight forward option, but you don’t get a sophisticated app with detailed spending control settings, for example.
Instead, you get a single debit card in exchange for a service fee of $4.95/month. Chase doesn’t charge you a fee to open the account and you won’t pay to top up the card either. If your teen is under 18 you’ll need to apply for the account on their behalf, but because this is a prepaid card and not a checking account you’re not on the line for overdraft charges or other hidden costs.
Just like Capital One and Wells Fargo, you access your Chase Liquid account via the all-purpose Chase Mobile app for iOS and Android. Chase Mobile is popular on iOS, with 1.6m reviews averaging to (4.8 / 5). Android users also have few complaints about Chase, reviews average to (4.6 / 5).
We’ve given you plenty of good options, but how do you go about choosing a card? First, consider the age of your teens. If they’re 15 and under we recommend one of the fun apps such as FamZoo or Greenlight. Try both apps to see which fit your needs best.
For older teens, we suggest a checking account as it is a great way for older children to learn what managing finances is really about. Both Capital One and Wells Fargo’s teen checking accounts include notifications and alerts so you can keep an eye on your kid’s spending. However, Wells Fargo does have an advantage thanks to its bundled budgeting tools.