It’s unfair to expect kids to pay with cash when adults are giving up the habit. But children can’t open bank accounts, never mind open credit card accounts. So, what’s the best way to get your child a payment card? Read on to learn the best options to get a debit card for 12 year old and younger children.

Kids credit card

By law children below the age of 18 cannot open a credit card account on their own. The only way kids can get access to a credit card is for an adult credit card holder to add the young person as an authorized user to the adult’s credit card account.

There is solid reasoning behind the law, of course. Financial education is a life-long journey and children do not have the skills to understand the consequences of building up debt on a credit card. Nor can financial institutions enforce repayment from minors. But what about a debit card?

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Can a 13 year old have a debit card

The real hurdle for engaging with financial services providers is set far above the age of 12. Kids 13 and older face the same options: get an adult as a joint bank account owner or get added as an authorized user to an adult’s checking account.

It is only at the age of 18 and over that options start normalizing for young people. Once your child is over the age of 18 they will get a wider range of options, including the choice to open their own checking account or, alongside a regular income, the option to open a credit card account.

Child bank account with debit card

Though children are unable to open checking accounts or credit cards on their own, many banks offer products that are focused on kids – even if opening the account requires an adult to co-sign. For children around the age of 12 and younger these are typically savings products, rather than checking accounts.

Savings accounts are more appropriate for children around the age of 12. First, because kids that young really benefit from learning about the advantages of saving money. Next, savings accounts offer more basic features compared to checking accounts. No overdraft fees, for example, which the co-signer would be responsible for. Let’s look at two savings accounts for children around 12.

Bank of America Minor Savings Account

Like all accounts for children, the Bank of America Minor Savings Account must be jointly owned by an adult parent or guardian. The minimum opening deposit is $25 and Bank of America supplies a fully functional debit card with the savings account.

Your child can make up to six withdrawals a month free of charge. Bank of America is FDIC insured, so your kid’s money stays safe. The bank supplies both fully-featured online banking and a mobile banking app with the Minor Savings Account. This way your kids can learn how a real bank account works.

Bank of America’s mobile app is a great example of mobile banking, scoring a whopping 4.8 / 5 from iOS users, while over at the Google Play store Bank of America’s app gets 4.5 / 5, with past complaints about fingerprint authentication issues now solved.

Capital One Kids Savings Account

Just like the Bank of America savings account for kids, Capital One lets adults open a joint savings account for a nominated minor. Capital One’s Kids Savings Account pays 1.00% APY on any savings balance, a great way to show kids the benefits of savings.

The bank’s Kids Savings Account also comes with a debit card, the option to make up to six withdrawals per month at no charge and is fully FDIC insured. Capital One’s online banking and mobile app offers a bit more though: the bank promises strict parental controls. For example, kids are unable to transfer money out of their account without the consent of the adult, joint account holder.

You also get a few additional kid-friendly perks in the Capital One mobile app. For example, you can set savings goals for your kid to encourage them to build up a savings balance. People like the Capital One Mobile banking app, it scores 4.7 / 5 in the Apple App Store and 4.7 / 5 on Google Play, a glowing score for an Android app.

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Alternative kids debit cards

Does opening a joint bank account for your child simply sound like too much hassle? Don’t like the idea of adding your young child as an authorized user to your credit card? Well, there’s an app for that. In fact, there are a couple of apps. Here are three of our favorites:

Greenlight debit card and app

For tech-savvy adults, Greenlight offers a terrific way to manage kids’ finances while obtaining a debit card that your kids can pay with. The product is appropriate for young children (e.g. aged 12) because it’s not a checking account or credit card: Greenlight is in effect a prepaid debit card with a fancy app.

It’s a useful app too, giving parents a lot of control over kids spending down to individual stores, all for $4.99/month for the whole family. The app is popular too, scoring 4.4 / 5 with Android users enjoying the fact that there’s a kids version of the app that keep adult’s data safe. Apple App Store reviews average to 4.8 / 5, with particular praise for friendly Greenlight customer support.

American Express Serve prepaid debit card

Looking for a fuss-free prepaid card from a provider that you’re familiar with? There’s no Greenlight-like flexibility with the Serve product from American Express, but the card offers all the essential functionality. Each card is $4.95 per month and you can reload it free of charge. Note that Serve cards are only accepted where American Express is accepted, but for most major stores this is no problem.

Serve comes alongside an app that lets you view transactions, transfer money, and more. Android users are content with the Serve app, scoring it 4.3 / 5 on average with one customer praising how American Express credited an erroneous charge. Serve is getting some complaints from iOS users, scoring 2.8 / 5 as reviewers complain about technical glitches. Nonetheless, if you just need the card, Serve can be a good choice.