Giving your kid regular spending money can be a pain. You don’t have cash when you need it and you don’t really want your child walking around with a $20 bill in their pocket.
Greenlight has solved this problem with their debit card for kids (it’s one of our favorite debit cards for kids). You can make instant transfers from your checking account to their debit card and have total control over where and how much they can spend. This gives you an easy, safe way to give your kids money and gives them a way to spend money on their own.
These are not checking accounts in the traditional sense, these are all just debit cards. If you are looking for a checking out, here are the best checking accounts for teenagers.
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How Does Greenlight Work?
Greenlight is a debit card, which is an important learning tool since most spending today happens with some sort of card, whether that’s a credit or debit card. You can use it to teach your children how to manage money by spending it more wisely, and even allocating some of it for savings for future goals.
Everything is controlled on the app. Chores are listed, checked off, and paid, and one time or recurring transfers can be set up. Controls and monitoring are all done through the app.
It does this by giving you the following tools:
- Instant money transfers from you to your children
- The ability to turn the card on and off when necessary
- You’ll receive alerts anytime the card is used
- You can set store-level spending controls – to allow you to choose the specific stores where your children can use the card
- Set parent-paid “interest” the show children how compounding works
- Set savings goals, and track the progress
- You’ll have a choice whether your child can use the card at an ATM or not, and if so how much they can withdraw
- A teen with a job can set up direct deposit into the account
- Makes automated allowance payments weekly or monthly – you can even allocate funds between spending, saving, and giving
- Has a chores management feature – more on that below
The Greenlight debit card is a MasterCard that can be used for both online and in-store purchases, or anywhere else MasterCard is accepted. And even though it may not be necessary, the card can be used in more than 150 foreign countries. The card can even be used in conjunction with both Apple Pay and Google Pay.
The Greenlight debit card is issued by Greenlight Financial Technology, which has a Better Business Bureau rating of “B+” on a scale of A+ to F.
How Much Does Greenlight Cost?
You get the first month of Greenlight absolutely free as a trial and then the monthly fee is $4.99 for the whole family. You get up to five cards.
There are no fees for making purchases, withdrawing money from an ATM, requesting a balance at an ATM, contacting customer service (automated or live agent), or an inactivity fee. If you are traveling internationally, there are no foreign transaction fees either.
There are two fees:
- $9.99 for a custom card (completely optional)
- $3.50 for replacing a card ($24.99 for expedited delivery)
If you don’t need a custom card and you never lose your card, all you pay is the $4.99 monthly fee.
- Minimum age. None.
- Minimum account balance. None.
- Chores management. This may be the most interesting feature of the Greenlight debit card. You can set up weekly and one-time chores and tie them to the completion of either allowances or rewards. This can help motivate your kids, and even show them the connection between work and compensation. The kids check off their chores on the app when completed.
- Spending round-ups. You can set the debit cards to round-up purchases to the next dollar, with the change being automatically allocated to savings.
- Greenlight Mobile App. Available on Google Play for Android devices, 6.0 and up, and at The App Store, for iOS devices 11.0 or later. It’s compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
- Customer service. Contact is available by in-app email. No phone contact is indicated.
- Account security. All funds held on deposit are FDIC insured through Community Federal Savings Bank. For the protection of personal information, Greenlight uses reasonable administrative, technical, and physical security measures.
- Greenlight sign-up. You’ll need to provide your email address, mobile phone number, your children’s names, your name, mailing address, date of birth, and your Social Security number. You’ll then need to connect the Greenlight account to a valid debit card or bank account.
- Referral bonus. If you or your child refer someone to a Greenlight debit card, both you (or your child) and the person referred will receive a $10 referral bonus.
Warning: Once you fund your account, there doesn’t appear to be a way to refund your Greenlight balance back to your funding source.
To do that, you need to completely close your account and the refund process takes 5-7 days. You can access your funds via an ATM but you can’t transfer funds back to the funding source.
The Greenlight debit card is not the only debit card for kids available.
Some of the more popular alternatives include:
FamZoo is a prepaid card that works similar to Greenlight. You can send money to your child’s card, and also receive money back from it. This will give you control over exactly how the card is used.
(here’s a head to head comparison between FamZoo and Greenlight if you’re picking between the two)
In the FamZoo universe, the parents are effectively the bank, while the children act as banking customers. The parent/bank adds money to the card, sets rules for how and when it can be received, such as by tying payments to tasks or chores. Alternatively, you could also set up automatic payments to act as payroll or allowance. You can even set up penalties if a child doesn’t follow the rules, such as completing their required chores.
When you use FamZoo, you don’t need to have a bank account linked to your FamZoo account – you can load with cash or fund with a direct deposit from an employer or government program.
FamZoo provides prepaid cards for your whole family at a fee of $5.99 per month for all family members. However, they do offer discounted fees if you pay in advance, as low as $2.50 per month if you pay 24 months in advance. There are no transaction fees and no transfer fees.
One of the benefits of a FamZoo debit card is that each has its own routing number and account number, which means you can set up both direct deposit or bank transfers to the card. You can even set each child up with several cards for different goals, including specific spending goals.
Check out our full review of FamZoo here.
GoHenry also offers a prepaid MasterCard, that can be used anywhere MasterCard is accepted. The fee is $4.99 per child per month (or $9.98 for the Family Plan, which has up to four kids), and you can cancel at any time. You can set up automatic allowance transfers, required tasks and chores to be completed, as well as spending limits. And much like the other cards on this list, you can set the rules for transfer payments, whether that’s through regular allowance payments, rewards for jobs well done, or just simple cash transfers.
You’ll also have a choice over where the card can be used, including specific stores, online, or at ATMs. You’ll receive real-time notifications each time the card is used, and you’ll also have the ability to both block and unblock the card instantly. You can even set savings goals for your child. The entire account is managed from the GoHenry mobile app, which is available for both iOS and Android devices.
Similar to other cards, you can also set savings and spending goals, and even charitable donations.
In addition to the monthly fee, there’s also a $1.50 fee for domestic ATM withdrawals, and $2 for international ATM withdrawals. There’s also an international transaction fee of 2.75% of each transaction. But there are no fees to add money to your child’s account.
Our goHenry review has more details.
Chase First Banking
Chase First Banking is a great option for parents who want to help their teens and kids learn about money management. If you are an existing Chase checking customer, you can open Chase First Banking account for a child ages 6-17 and it has no monthly fees.
Your kids get a debit card and you get the ability to monitor their activity through your Chase app. You can set limitations on the card, such as where they can shop, and monitor their transactions through the app. You can use this to help them set up and maintain a budget.
If you’d like to use it to assign chores and set up an allowance, you can do that as well. Setting up an allowance is really easy too, you schedule transfers from your checking account into the Chase First Banking accounts on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly frequency. You can even choose which day of the week to make the transfer.
The kids get to manage their money through an app as well. They can monitor their spending, check their budgets, complete chores, and even ask you for money through an app. 🙂
The card has a $400 daily purchase limit and a $100 daily ATM limit (for Chase ATMs as well as non-Chase ATMs). You can have up to five Chase First Banking accounts.
The Chase website has a lot of videos explaining exactly how it all works without you having to sign up, which is really nice to see. We also have a review of Chase First Banking.
Revolut is a money management app that includes a checking and savings account (banking services provided by Sutton Bank, Member FDIC) as well as cashback rewards using their Revolut card. It includes an investing component as well, including no commission stock trading, fractional shares, and more.
They also offer a Revolut <18 app that is similar but designed for teens. If your child is 12 and under, they can still use it but you need to create an account for them under your own Revolut app account.
The Revolut <18 is a full featured app that gets them a money management app (including custom limits, spending alerts, in-app card controls), a customizable spending card, savings goals, etc. It’s all set up so you and a co-parent can help sort out family finances with them (up to five Revolut <18 accounts is included).
Current is a financial services company that offers a checking account and debit card through Choice Bank. They don’t charge a monthly fee for the basic service. The account has no minimum balance but also offers a suite of money management tools and debit card rewards. Since it is a checking account, it does not pay interest.
There is a premium level of service with a $4.99 per month fee and if you want to add children to your account, they offer a useful set of tools but it comes at a $36 per year fee. By comparison, Famzoo’s fees get as low as $2.50 per month if you prepay 24 months and that’s for your entire family.
With kid cards, you can instantly transfer money, get spending notifications, set spending limits, and even block specific merchants. You can set and automate allowance payments and set chores for your kids to complete.
As the child, you can use their money tools to help you learn how to better manage your money and set up a budget. You can use your debit card as you would normally, online or in person, and even get access to saving with round-ups and pods.
Earning is accomplished by completion of chores, with “compensation” coming from you in the form of an allowance direct deposited onto the account each Friday. You can even pay bonuses through the card for good performance, like getting good grades or helping with a special project. A percentage of that allowance can be allocated for automatic savings. But the app can also be set to donate a percentage of the allowance as well.
Spending is accomplished through the BusyKid VISA Prepaid Spend Card. The app costs only $3.99 a month (or you can save 20% by paying annually at $38.99) and includes one card each for up to five kids. It is accepted anywhere that takes Visa.
There are a few fees to keep an eye out for – a 3% currency conversion for foreign transactions, a $3 charge when making ACH transfers to the card from a bank account, and a PIN decline fee. Check their fees to stay informed.
The app provides preset allocations between savings, donations, and spending, but as the parent you can customize those settings.
Kid’s Checking Account
If your kids are a bit older another option is getting them their own checking account.
Giving them their own checking account is a great way to start transitioning them into financial adulthood. It’s a stepping stone to their own adult checking account as when the child turns 18 the account will automatically become solely theirs.
These accounts are typically free but do require more responsibility on the child’s part to not overdraft the account.
Kid checking accounts are tied to your own checking account and can be seen when you log into your online banking. This will give you access to see your child’s spending and monitor the balance, but you will not have control over their spending as you do with the kid debit cards.
Transfers from your account to theirs is painless and can usually be done on your bank’s app.
If you have multiple children getting them each their own checking account might be more hassle than it’s worth. If you have a lot of kids this could mean a lot of extra hassle.
Here’s our list of the best free checking accounts.
Prepaid Debit Cards
What’s nice about the debit cards specifically designed for kids is that they pair with an app that gives you visibility and control over your child’s spending. But if you aren’t concerned with that you may be considering a prepaid debit card.
Prepaid debit cards are exactly what they sound like. A debit card that you can load up with money and then spend at will. You can only spend what has been preloaded onto the card. Different cards have different methods of reloading, most accept direct deposit, bank account transfers, mobile check deposits, and loading it from an ATM or in the bank.
So for example, if you wanted to put a set amount on your child’s prepaid debit card each payday you could set that up through direct deposit from your paycheck. Your child would then have a card they could use whenever they wanted.
The drawback is that prepaid debit cards have notoriously high fees. If you go the prepaid debit card route with your child you’ll want to be crystal clear on all the different fees the card can charge before you begin. Sometimes, what can appear as a benefit (overdraft protection) can end up dinging you – here’s a warning about automatic billing overdraft loopholes on debit cards.
Here’s our list of the best prepaid debit cards.
Getting your child their own debit card can take one of those little hassles out of life. Never again will you struggle to pay your kids their allowance, or worry about them losing your cash when they go out with friends.
Plus, a service like Greenlight gives you total control over where they can use their debit card and how much they can spend at particular stores. You also get access to where the card has been used–giving you control and security.
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I’m wondering, tho no mention of it here, I’d like to know if there is a pathway to help your HIgh Schooler to begin building credit, of course so they can begin a life out on their own post HS, through college, first car, etc?
Jim Wang says
If your child is under 18, they are minors and can’t enter into a contract so credit card companies won’t let them be a primary user. You can add them as an authorized user on your account, which can help, but it won’t be as effective as being a primary account holder.
The cards on this list can help your child build good credit habits, under your watch, which is about the best thing you can do. (besides adding them as an authorized user on another credit card)
Mrs. S says
I was just wondering how do you go about setting up a checking account for your children. I tried to use Discover for them an account but I run into the error saying the joint owner can not be under 18. We use Greenlight but they do not offer an option to pay bills online and they charge the fee which has become a nuisance now that I have to watch our budget much more carefully since COVID hit and my husband took a cut in pay. I am asking about the bill pay because I allowed my daughter to buy her own phone but she must pay that payment out of her allowance but you can not pay a credit card online with greenlight.
Jim Wang says
You can’t set up one where they are the only account holder because a minor isn’t able to enter into contracts. This is why a minor can’t get a credit card by themselves.
Excellent analysis of the these financial services! It helps me to make the best informed decision for the 2021 year. Thank you!
Karl Wulff says
There is no way to transfer money from the “parent wallet” back to your bank without canceling the account altogether. The website FAQ and automated phone instructions for cancelling or “making changes to your plan” do not track with the menu options on the current build of the app. I literally had to pull the “I’m a lawyer” card like a regular old Karen and text their customer service with a threat to file both a BBB and an FTC complaint to get a response. They closed the whole account and said that a refund had been issued, but it hadn’t. I followed up and they finally said “Oh, that takes 5-7 days – oops sorry we forgot to mention that”. I am still waiting for my refund (over eight hundred dollars) and yes I actually did file both a BBB complaint (#27802590) and an FTC complaint (#128347036). As a 25-year consumer rights attorney, I strongly warn against using this service.