Kids’ Debit Cards: Everything You Need to Know

A kids’ debit card, in tandem with a children’s current account, can help build trust and responsibility around money while preparing your child for the future. Discover everything you need to know about what they are and how to apply for one below.

Connor Campbell Published on 30 September 2021. Last updated on 08 October 2021.
Kids’ Debit Cards: Everything You Need to Know

It is never too early to start teaching your kids about money. Lessons on spending, budgeting and banking can best prepare your child for when they step out into the adult world on their own.

But what’s better than teaching? Doing! That’s why it is worth considering a kids’ debit card alongside a children’s current account.

Here we take a deeper look at debit cards for kids, how they differ from prepaid cards, and how you and your child can apply for one.

» MORE: Why you should open a kids’ bank account

What is a kids’ debit card?

One of the reasons kids’ debit cards can be such a useful tool in teaching children about money is that they don’t differ from the debit card you would find in your own wallet or purse.

A kids’ debit card can be used in exactly the same ways as an ‘adult’ debit card – in shops (including contactless), at cash points and online.

If your child is old enough to have a part-time job, their wages can be paid directly into their kids’ current account. They can then spend this money using their debit card.

One of the only real differences is that children’s current accounts do not offer overdrafts, meaning you can be safe in the knowledge that your kid isn’t spending more money than they have. It is essentially a very basic current account.

And if there is an instance where a bank has to allow a payment to go through despite a lack of funds in the current account, your child won’t be charged any interest or fees.

» MORE: 7 great ways to teach kids about money

Kids’ debit cards vs prepaid cards

An alternative to a kids’ debit card is a prepaid card. These aren’t attached to children’s current accounts, but rather money apps: one for you, and one for your child. You can dictate how much money is on their card, and when and where they can spend it.

Prepaid cards are available for children as young as six years old, while the lower limit for a debit card tends to be 11. Most prepaid cards will require you to pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee, whereas kids’ debit cards are free.

Kids’ debit cards and current accounts also allow children to accrue interest on their savings, unlike most prepaid cards. Current accounts differ from children’s savings accounts, however, as the child will have easier access to their money via a debit card once they are 11 years old.

» MORE: Prepaid card for kids explained

Pros and cons of a kids’ debit card

Getting a debit card for your child is bestowing upon them a big responsibility. As a parent, you won’t have the same amount of control over their spending as with a prepaid card, and you would need to log into their online bank account to view their activity.

At the same time, this responsibility, and its consequences, can be invaluable. This is especially true if your child is slightly older and wants to take the training wheels off.

Making mistakes and learning from them is incredibly important, even if that mistake is as simple as not having enough money to buy an item you want because you’ve spent it on something else.

And because of the lack of overdraft and its related fees, your child will not be able to get in serious financial trouble with their debit card.

How to apply for a kids’ debit card

Another major difference between kids’ debit cards and prepaid cards is that for the former the child is the one applying for the account.

How they go about applying for a kids’ current account and debit card depends on their age.

If your child is 11 or 12 years old, most banking providers will require them to apply in branch. In some cases, they will need to do this up to the age of 15. Either way, they will need to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

A child may also be required to apply in branch if their parent or legal guardian does not have a current account with the provider in question.

If your child is aged 16 to 17 years old, they will be able to either apply online on their own, or visit a branch without their parent or guardian. Some banks won’t offer children’s current accounts to 16 and 17 year olds, however, and will instead offer specific bank accounts for teenagers.

When applying for a children’s current account and debit card, you will need to provide the following information:

  • Proof of identification for the child, such as a passport or full UK birth certificate.
  • Proof of identification for the parent/guardian.
  • Proof of address for the parent/guardian or child, depending on the age of the applicant.

Once you have opened a children’s current account, you and your child may be offered the choice between a free kids’ debit card, or a cash card. Unlike debit cards, cash cards can only be used to withdraw money from cash machines.

» MORE: Can I open a bank account for my child?

Image source: Getty Images

About the author:

Connor is a writer and spokesperson for NerdWallet. Previously at Spreadex, his market commentary has been quoted in the likes of the BBC, The Guardian, Evening Standard, Reuters and The Independent. Read more

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