FamZoo is a prepaid card that can help you teach your kids about managing money responsibly. In our FamZoo review, we’ll explain why it’s specially designed with this educational component in mind.
Teaching children about money can get complicated. Trying to decide how many piggy banks they should have for saving, spending, giving, what money goes where, and monitoring their spending can be quite a chore.
What if you could just give your children prepaid cards, completely control how they are used, not have to worry about them running up a thousand dollar bill, and be able to monitor every transaction on the card?
That’s exactly what FamZoo gives you. Through prepaid cards, parents can send money to and receive money from each child’s card. This lets parents teach good money habits by controlling the flow of money to and from their children.
Table of Contents
FamZoo in a nutshell:
- Prepaid cards for the whole family.
- A flat monthly fee for the whole family and no transaction charges, prices as low as $0.63 per month per card for a family of 4. If you have more kids and need more cards, it’s even cheaper.
- First four cards are sihpped free. After 4, there’s a one-time $2 shipping fee for each.
- Monitor all transactions on each card.
Founded in 2006 by Bill Dwight, FamZoo is a prepaid card company that teaches children the fundamental principles of good money management. The company’s team is made up of Bill and three others – a VP of Operations, a visual designer, and a cartoonist. It’s a lean core team but FamZoo partners with TransCard to provide top-notch security, around the clock phone support, FDIC insured accounts and all the necessary financial compliance you need. TransCard is an established card processor.
We asked Bill Dwight why he founded FamZoo and he said “Many years ago, I was looking for a hands-on way to teach our kids the fundamental life skill of personal finance. Schools communicated concepts, if they even offered money management at all, but couldn’t offer the day-to-day experience with real money. Financial institutions offered adult-centric products that lacked the educational component weren’t designed for families and relied on fees that penalized inexperienced consumers. I built FamZoo to fill those gaps for parents. Our offering has put family and youth financial literacy first from day one.”
How FamZoo Works
FamZoo turns parents into bankers for their children. It does this by using a network of prepaid cards for every family that subscribes to FamZoo. Each family receives a primary card, which is controlled by the parents, plus any number of additional cards for your children. Think of the primary card as the bank. Children receive cards but these are typically funded by the primary card. The primary card is funded from the “outside world.”
Your kids’ cards can also be funded from the outside world, which is handy for kids who hold down summer or part-time jobs. Each card has its routing and account number, which you can use to set up direct deposits or bank transfers.
Children can receive several cards each. This is similar to having several piggy banks, in which the child uses different piggy banks for different spending goals. The custom label embossed beneath the cardholder name can be used to identify the goal – like “Suzy’s Saving”. [NOTE: See here about how cardholder and label work for pre-teens]
FamZoo does not require a credit check. Besides the per-family subscription fee and the one-time shipping fee after the 4th card, there are no additional fees imposed by FamZoo. Some service providers may charge a fee for reloading, but most banks have dropped their external transfer fees and loading by direct deposit, Apple Pay, or PayPal is free. FamZoo offers several plans to reduce the subscription fee. Paying in advance provides the most savings.
Here are the per-card numbers for a family of four, each with one card:
- $5.99/month per family paid monthly. ~$1.50 per month per card.
- $4.33/month per family billed at $25.99 in advance for 6 months—$1.0825/month per card.
- $3.33/month per family billed at $39.99 in advance for 12 months—$0.8325/month per card.
- $2.50/month per family billed at $59.99 in advance for 24 months—$0.625/month per card.
The bigger your family, the bigger the savings.
Reloading your card directly from your employer or government agency is free. If that is not an option, there are several other ways to get money onto your card but at a cost.
- Bank Transfers: takes 1-3 days business days, $0 to $3 fee but most banks have dropped this fee.
- PopMoney: takes 1-3 days business days, $0.95 fee.
- MasterCard rePower, GreenDot @ the Register,GreenDot MoneyPak: takes minutes, $4-$6 fee.
- Apple Pay: takes 1 business day in most cases, Free. This is one of the most popular load options.
- PayPal, Square Cash App: takes 1-3 days, Free.
- Direct Deposit: takes 1-5 days, Free.
The FamZoo Bank
FamZoo teaches good money habits by simulating a bank. Parents are the bank, and the children are its customers. A parent adds money onto their primary prepaid card from the “outside world” using any of several funding sources. This loads the bank with cash.
Different rules can be set up to get money onto a child’s card. Parents can move money manually or set up automatic payments to a child’s card. Manual payment from the bank might be an incentive for completing a task, whereas an automatic payment may be similar to a payroll (i.e., allowance).
Money can move from the child’s card back to the bank. If the child incurs a penalty, maybe for not cleaning his room, the bank can deduct the penalty directly from the child’s card.
Recurring payments to a child’s card can be split. For example, an allowance can go to a savings account, a donations account, or a spending account. One-off deposits say a birthday gift from a relative, can also be split across different categories/accounts. In FamZoo, this feature is called Split Credit.
Every transaction made on the primary and child cards is available to view from the FamZoo website and mobile apps. The desktop website will provide the most detailed experience when viewing transactions.
FamZoo is fully mobile compatible. They have iOS and Android mobile apps but if mobile apps aren’t your thing, you can access FamZoo.com through a traditional browser and you’ll see the mobile compatible version.
If you’re in a hurry, you can even text or email commands to FamZoo if you can’t don’t want to use the mobile app.
For text commands, just send a text message to 41411 with the message “famzoo [quick-command]” and you’ll get a response. There’s a quick command reference guide that lists every single command you can use. There’s a short version and a long version, so once you get good at using it you can get information very quickly.
For example, you can send the message:
famzoo account balance “general spending” emma
And you’ll get a reply that gives you the current balance for Emma’s General Spending account.
The shorthand version is:
famz a b gen em
Here is a snapshot of the two products FamZoo offers – Prepaid Card Accounts and IOU Accounts.
With Prepaid Card Accounts, the first four cards are shipped free. The monthly fees (first month free) are $5.99 per month to $2.50 per month depending on your payment plan. If you need more than four cards, each additional card is shipped for $2 each.
With IOU Accounts, you are tracking funds you’re holding elsewhere for your children. FamZoo will still keep track of them but you handle the transaction of cash yourself and have to tell FamZoo. The fees are the same as a Prepaid Card Account except you get the first two months free.
FamZoo does have customer service through its mobile app, a contact form on its website, and a phone number—1-412-FamZoo1 (1-412-326-9661). If you need to call after hours, there is a 24/7 800 number on the back of the card.
FamZoo prepaid cards are FDIC insured. The maximum daily load limit is $2,500, and the total load limit is $5,000. The maximum ATM withdrawal limit is $510 per day.
Are there FamZoo alternatives?
We take a closer look at Greenlight in our review but you get many similar services with a monthly fee of $4.99 for the whole family (up to 5 cards).
Current is a more recent entrant into the space and comes at a cost of $36 per year per child. It offers a few features that may be useful including transaction notifications, automated allowance payments, chores, as well as the ability to limit transactions to certain merchants.
Should You Use FamZoo?
FamZoo has built out an ecosystem through prepaid cards, giving parents the ability to monitor and control how their children spend money. This parental oversight, coupled with education, teaches children how to develop good money habits.
It’s also a very modern method. Rather than using piggy banks and cash, children use prepaid cards. Unless there is a big change with how we pay in the near future, children using prepaid cards will be more prepared to handle financial transactions daily in the real world.
Famzoo is one of our favorite alternatives to Greenlight, another company that offers a similar service.
For a small monthly fee, FamZoo provides great value for those who want to instill good money habits in their children.