Parents don’t really want their kids carrying around a lot of cash. It’s much better to give your child a debit card so that they can make payments and withdraw cash. But what’s the cheapest and safest way to get a card for young children? We’ve done the research to find the best cash card for kids.

Prepaid cards for kids

Really young children are best served with a simple product such as a prepaid card. With prepaid cards parents are only liable for loss to the amount that the card has been preloaded. Prepaid debit cards are a great option for young people who won’t be spending all that much.

You get two types of prepaid cards. First, classic cards such as the NetSpend Prepaid card, the Chase Liquid Card and the Walmart MoneyCard offer you straight-up debit card functionality in exchange for a monthly fee. You top up the card and your child’s spending is cut off once funds are used up. These cards don’t offer anything along the lines of fancy allowance management or anything like that.

Next, there are a couple of interesting prepaid debit cards that are made specifically with families in mind. FamZoo and Greenlight are top examples. Both these apps let parents closely control the way kids spend preloaded money. Just like the basic prepaid cards these apps charge a monthly fee, but you do get the opportunity to get several cards for a single fee which makes these apps top value. Let’s take a look.

FamZoo

Want to closely control how your kids spend the money you preload on their debit card? FamZoo is a good option. It costs $5.99/month or $39.99/year if you pay up in advance. The fee gets you enough cards to cover all your kids. There’s no credit check and adults are not liable for overdrafts or debts, your kid can only spend the amount you have loaded on to the account.

The app shows you how much each of your kids are spending while giving parents full visibility and control of all the cards from a single app. You can easily move money between family members too, there are no charges for topping up your card via direct deposit or PayPal.

You will be using the FamZoo app a lot so it’s worth checking out user reviews. Apple users like FamZoo, scoring it 4.6 / 5 with one user saying it’s made their life a lot easier. Over at Google Play FamZoo scores highly too, averaging 4.4 / 5 with one user liking the fact that they can set up automatic transfers for their kids’ allowances, though another user complained that the app had basic functionality compared to the FamZoo website.

Greenlight

Another great app for parents with younger children is Greenlight. It’s similar to FamZoo but adds the ability to restrict spending by store. For example, you can give your child the ability to spend their allowance at Starbucks and at Walmart every month, but nowhere else. Top-ups are free via debit card or ACH and the monthly fee is a fixed $4.99.

App store reviews for Greenlight are positive. Google Play gives Greenlight 4.4 / 5 with plenty of praise for customer support, but one customer mentioned they struggled with device activation. The app scores even better on the Apple App Store with an average of 4.8 / 5, with users happy with how easy the app is to use. One user liked the fact that Greenlight did not make it difficult to cancel the card.

Prepaid debit cards for under 18

Parents with children in their late teens might want to think about giving their kids a bit more financial responsibility. It’s also common for kids in their late teens to be earning a part time income and employers might prefer to transfer pay into your kid’s bank account. That’s why we think getting older children a checking account instead of a prepaid card is a good idea.

That said, teens can’t get a checking account on their own. You would need to co-sign the checking account as an adult which does mean you are liable for expenses, including overdraft fees. Nonetheless most banks offer plenty of opportunities for adults to monitor the use of teen’s debit cards. Here are two accounts we think are worth considering:

  • Capital One 360 Money Account. Free to open and with no account minimum the 360 Money Account can be a great way to get your teen started with full-service banking. Your teen’s employer can also deposit funds directly into the account. The account does not charge a monthly fee, but watch out for overdraft charges if your child spends more than the balance of the account.
  • Wells Fargo Teen Checking Account. Wells Fargo offers another solid option for teens, and it offers a few extras as the Teen Checking Account lets parents set specific withdrawal and spending limits. Again, this account is a good option if you want to teach your teen financial responsibility, but you may be faced with fees and charges if you do not actively control spending.

Overall checking accounts are a good option for older children, but we suggest that parents with younger kids go for one of the prepaid debit cards. FamZoo and Greenlight are particularly good choices if you have a couple of kids which means you can get several cards for one monthly card fee.