Moms and dads who want to teach their kids about money have some trendy tools at their disposal: kid-focused mobile banking apps, many of which come with personalized debit cards. They teach kids how to save and spend (with mom or dad safely supervising account use) and make it easy to give an allowance. But these aren’t your parent's bank accounts — you won’t need to visit a bank branch.
How mobile apps and debit cards for kids work
Youth banking apps are similar to their adult counterparts. Children and parents can access account information online, but children can also log in to their own sub-accounts, generally with limited features. Many come with debit cards, and parents can fund by transferring money from an existing bank account. The mobile apps also let grown-ups monitor, and even limit, purchases — say, by setting a spending max of $20 at restaurants.
Many apps also let kids set aside savings, which can go a long way toward teaching them how to build a good savings plan. Here’s more on four buzz-worthy apps:
Capital One MONEY
Many youth banking apps don’t pay returns, but this one lets children ages 8 and older set up an interest-earning checking account. It comes with a Mastercard debit card and lets kids set aside money for savings goals.
Lorie Anderson of Vancouver, Washington, says her teenage son works part time and uses his Capital One MONEY account to manage spending and save up for a car. “He can see how much money he has, how much he can afford to spend if he wants to reach his savings goal and how much he needs to set aside,” she says.
Anderson adds that the app is similar to her own banking app, which is a plus, since her son doesn’t find it “babyish.”
Requirements: Parents can fund this account by linking it to either an existing Capital One adult account or an external bank account. There is no monthly service fee.
Chase First Banking
The Chase First Banking debit card account is available for children ages 6 and older. As with many youth banking apps, parents can set limits on their children's’ spending. Kids can also set savings goals and track progress. The Visa debit card provides free access to 16,000 Chase ATMs.
Requirements: There is no monthly service fee, but a parent must be an existing Chase customer.
This app may not have a big bank’s branding, but accounts are federally insured through a banking partner. Kids get their own Mastercard debit card, which parents can fund.
“It used to be tedious having to go and get cash every week when it was time to pay the allowance,” says Annie Mueller, a mom in St. Louis with four kids ages 9 to 14, all of whom use the app. “But now our mobile app simplifies the allowance process.”
Kids can set savings goals and parents can enable an optional round-up feature. Purchases are rounded up to the nearest dollar, and the extra change is automatically sent to a savings pocket.
Teens with jobs can also set up direct deposit into their Greenlight card.
Accounts don’t earn interest, but parents can choose to give “parent-paid” interest. They set the rate and the child can see how the interest compounds, or earns more interest, over time. Pro tip: Use a compound interest calculator to show how much a savings balance can grow in a few months or years.
Requirements: Greenlight plans range from about $5 to $10 a month, with features that include basic budgeting tools on the lower end and identify theft protection on the higher end. There is no minimum age requirement.
Another pro tip: Parents can teach kids how to be financially savvy by reviewing the fees and rates on their mobile accounts and comparing them with those of some of the best online savings accounts.
This app can come with a prepaid debit card that lets parents monitor account activity and track balances. It also has an option to create a virtual “IOU” account. With this alternative, the parent or child manually enters transactions for funds held elsewhere — such as cash in a piggy bank. Or they can simply manage virtual IOU money in the app, which might be a good choice for younger kids who aren’t yet ready to handle real currency.
Requirements: A FamZoo subscription is $5.99 a month, with discounted plans if parents prepay. The price is the same whether the family chooses prepaid debit cards, IOU accounts or a mix of the two. Children under age 13 can receive a prepaid card in their parent’s name.
More apps to watch
In addition to the larger banking apps on the market, there are a number of emerging fintech apps from challenger banks. Here are three to watch out for:
Gohenry. This app is popular in the U.K. and has recently expanded to the U.S.
Bankaroo. Good for helping younger kids experiment with virtual currency.
Step. No-monthly-fee debit card for kids ages 13 and older.
Debit cards for kids help parents teach their children about money, and may even help streamline chores and allowances. By making saving and spending easy, they can help kids make smart money decisions and become savvy bank customers.