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. 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.
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.
The Greenlight debit card is hardly 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.
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.
BusyKid is a combination prepaid debit card and chore app. With the app, kids can earn, save, share, spend, and even invest the funds you provide for the account.
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.
With the remaining funds, your child will have the choice to either invest or spend the money.
Spending is accomplished through the BusyKid VISA Prepaid Spend Card. The card has a fee of $7.99 per year and is accepted anywhere that takes Visa. There are a few sneaky 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.
Investing is done through a partnership with Stockpile, which enables the purchase of stock commission-free. Your child can invest in the stock of companies like Apple, Disney, and Netflix. You don’t have to worry if the amount of money invested is insufficient to buy a full share of stock. They can purchase fractional shares in any dollar amount. (If your child will be investing in stock, you’ll need to open a custodial account through Stockpile.)
The app provides preset allocations between savings, donations, investing and spending, but as the parent you can customize those settings.
gohenry also offers a prepaid MasterCard, that can be used anywhere MasterCard is accepted. The fee is $3.99 per child per month, 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 of $3.99 per child (or $4.99 per month for card for a custom card), 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.
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.
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.
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.