Americans have been struggling with consumer debt for decades. Although credit card debt has recently fallen, Federal Reserve data shows outstanding balances were still at $994.7 billion as of July 2020. While several factors affect this outcome, a lack of financial literacy could be making the problem worse.
One way to boost financial literacy is through more hands-on money experience at a younger age. Research shows children may grasp the basics of personal finance as early as age seven, so starting early is a good move. Whether your child is already earning money or starting to make purchases, a debit card for teens may be the perfect way for them to start budgeting under your supervision.
To create our list of the best debit cards for teens, we compared 12 of the top card providers before settling on the five best. We reviewed company history, how each card works, age limits, monthly fees, parental oversight, and more. These are the best options to give your teen some real-life personal finance experience.
The 5 Best Debit Cards for Teens of 2020
Greenlight: Best Overall
Greenlight earns our top ranking because of the product’s robust set of features and value. The company offers the best pricing on our list, including a one-month free trial and minimal extra fees. Both iPhone and Android users can try Greenlight’s mobile app for chore management, instant transfers, real-time notifications, spending controls by store, and more.
$4.99 per month for up to five kids
Store-specific spending controls
First set of replacement cards are free
Customer service complaints
Limited funding options
Lower spending limits
Greenlight is a popular debit card for teens with a mission to help parents “raise financially smart kids.” Founded in 2014, the Atlanta-based company has over a million users. Greenlight is Better Business Bureau-accredited with a B+ rating.
The company offers debit cards for teens, managed by parents. The joint accounts allow you to see your kids’ spending through a mobile app. You can transfer money instantly, turn off the debit card from your app, get real-time spending alerts, set up store-level spending control, automate allowances, and manage chores. There are no minimum or maximum age limits.
Greenlight charges $4.99 per month for up to five kids. The first set of replacement cards is free but you will have to pay $3.50 per card after that. You may get express delivery for a replacement for $24.99. The company also offers a custom card with your own photo or design for $9.99. While Greenlight doesn’t offer interest, you may set up “parent-paid interest” between you and your child.
The company offers a special version of the app for kids to teach financial literacy by tracking balances, work chore lists, and more. Greenlight accounts are FDIC-insured, use state-of-the-art encryption to protect your data, block unsafe spending categories, and don’t allow kids to get cashback.
Greenlight offers the best features, including its simple-to-use mobile app, of all the companies we reviewed. The unique features and pricing make it an easy choice for our top slot.
FamZoo: Best for Education
FamZoo is our choice as best for education because of the company’s extensive financial literacy features and its overall value. FamZoo offers an iPhone and Android mobile app with several unique educational features. The apps offer chore lists, purpose-driven accounts, savings goals, instant transfers, real-time alerts, and more. There are free trials for both the prepaid cards and IOU accounts. After that, you may pay as little as $2.50 per family per month for up to four cards if you pay for two years upfront at $59.99.
Unique educational features
$2.50 to $5.99 per month for up to four cards
More costly than some competitors
Up to $6 for reloads
FamZoo is another well-known product that focuses on teaching kids good money habits. Although the company has been in business since 2006, it doesn’t have a Better Business Bureau affiliation.
FamZoo offers two options for families: prepaid cards or IOU accounts. While the IOU account only keeps track of the money you owe your child, the prepaid cards offer a lot more hands-on money management experience. Parents can make instant transfers and track purchases while retaining visibility and control over four linked prepaid cards. There are no age restrictions on FamZoo accounts.
The pricing for FamZoo ranges from $2.50 to $5.99 per month for up to four cards. The $2.50 per month pricing requires you to prepay $59.99 in advance for 24 months. You can pay a flat fee of $2 for each additional card. The pricing for reloads ranges from free (direct deposit, Apple Pay, PayPal, or Square Cash) to $4 to $6 (MasterCard rePower, GreenDot @ the Register, GreenDot MoneyPak). FamZoo doesn’t pay interest but you may set up “parent-paid interest” to encourage saving.
FamZoo offers a number of features to promote financial literacy through allowance, chores, parent-paid interest, savings goals, family billing, and more. Your card’s funds are stored in a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)-insured account, and the company doesn’t keep your sensitive data on their servers.
FamZoo stands out with its numerous financial literacy features, affordable family pricing, and limited fees. The reload fees make it less appealing than Greenlight, but you may avoid them by reloading money with direct deposit, Apple Pay, PayPal, or Square Cash.
gohenry: Best for Customer Service
gohenry made our list because of the company’s easy access to customer service. The company offers phone support seven days per week, or you may speak with a representative through live chat or by email. There’s a link to gohenry’s contact information at the top of the home page, so you don’t have to hunt for gohenry’s support contact information.
Access to customer service
Possible to use abroad
Less competitive pricing
Limited reloading options
$1.50 ATM fee
gohenry is a U.K.-based company that was established in 2012. The company has over one million customers and has earned a B- ranking from the Better Business Bureau, though it’s not currently BBB-accredited. gohenry's above-and-beyond approach to client support makes it our choice as best for customer service.
The company offers a family banking tool with both iPhone and Android access. You may have a joint account that allows you to set up a weekly allowance, spending limits, savings goals, and more. The age limits are from six to 18 years.
gohenry charges $3.99 per month per child, which is among the pricier options on our list. Luckily, you may try it for free for one month before making a commitment. gohenry also charges $1.50 to use ATMs, $4.99 for a custom card, and doesn’t offer interest. The child’s app offers tools to learn about earning money, budgeting, saving, spending, and giving money to charity. Your accounts are FDIC-insured, and the company uses state-of-the-art chip security with PIN-protected transactions.
gohenry offers the easiest access to customer service, with phone availability seven days per week. You may also email or live chat to speak with their team. The company is also responding to customer inquiries on social media.
Current: Best for Innovation
Current snagged the top spot on our list for product innovation. The company’s teen banking has made waves with features like faster direct deposits, eliminating gas station transaction holds, fingerprint and facial recognition, savings roundups, and EMV chips for more secure transactions. The app is available for iPhone and Android.
Robust security features
Transparent pricing of $36 per year
More costly than some competitors
Customer service complaints
Founded in 2015, Current is a part of Choice Financial Group and Metropolitan Commercial Bank. Choice Financial Group is not Better Business Bureau-accredited but the company does have an A rating.
Current aims to empower teens to make smart financial decisions. Parents and teens can choose separate or joint accounts through Current’s website by entering their phone number for a download link. There’s also the option to allow a co-parent to participate. There are no age restrictions. Some of the features include savings goals and round-up savings, which sets aside extra money in the background. Teens may earn money completing chores, request or send money to friends, and give to charity.
The company offers a free 30-day trial and transparent pricing of $36 per year per teen. There are no other hidden fees but you may pay an extra $20 for faster card delivery. Current does not offer interest for teen banking.
Current offers a number of features to promote financial literacy. Teens may use Current to start budgeting, spending, and even donate money to charity. You may set spending limits, block specific merchants, and there are no risks of overdrafts. You may rely on EMV chips for protection, FDIC insurance, and privacy with fingerprint and face ID lock.
Current’s innovative features make it stand out from the competitors. The modern family may enjoy perks some other products don’t offer—like faster direct deposits and fingerprint and facial recognition for security. Current is a great option for tech-savvy parents and teens alike.
American Express Serve FREE Reloads: Best for High Spending Limits
American Express Serve FREE Reloads made the list as best for higher spending limits. You may add up to $100,000 per year across all accounts, and families can reload cards for no fee at over 45,000 locations. If you need to make a bigger purchase, American Express also offers faster access to direct deposits.
Highest spending limits
Free reloads at over 45,000 locations
$6.95 monthly fee
Must be at least 18
No financial literacy features
American Express, a major financial institution, started with freight forwarding in 1850 and has since expanded to credit cards, deposit accounts, and other banking products. The company is accredited by the Better Business Bureau with an A+ rating.
American Express Serve FREE Reloads is one option in the company’s Serve product line. While the product isn’t specifically made for teens, there are many features parents may like—including online bill pay, free reloads, fraud protection, and mobile apps for iPhone and Android to track spending. There is a big downside, though: Your child must be at least 18 years old.
The pricing for American Express Serve FREE Reloads is $6.95 per month and there is a $5 replacement fee if your teen loses their card. You should watch your balance because American Express may charge you $0.75 for an ATM transaction decline. You won’t earn interest from this account.
American Express Serve FREE Reloads isn’t made specifically for teens, so the company doesn’t offer financial literacy tools like some competitors. But the company does offer FDIC insurance and fraud prevention features, along with 24/7 customer service.
American Express Serve FREE Reloads is a good option for higher-income families who want to offer children experience with larger amounts of money. These families also have plenty of convenient options for free card reloads. Although the product isn’t teen-focused—and lacks the financial literacy features of some competitors—the mobile apps may still give you the chance to monitor your child’s spending.
What Is a Debit Card for Teens?
Debit cards for teens are accounts that give parents the opportunity to supervise their children as they learn to manage money. These debit cards may be linked to your bank account or another funding source. There is a variety of companies in the debit cards for teens space including big banks, neo banks, and fintech startups. The biggest difference between a debit card for teens and a prepaid debit card is the education and financial literacy features. Debit cards for teens allow children to practice the basics of money management without the risk of high overdraft fees or getting into credit card debt. You may set up payments for chores, monitor spending, set spending limits, transfer money, and more from the convenience of a mobile app.
Can a 13-Year-Old Have a Debit Card?
When it comes to eligibility, banks and fintech companies may have different age limits for their banking products, including debit cards for teens. The companies on our list are similar to the rest of the industry, with a range of age requirements. For example, Greenlight and FamZoo offer cards for all ages, whereas the minimum age for gohenry is age six, and American Express isn’t available for kids under 18.
Before signing up for a debit card for teens, ask the company if there are any minimum age requirements. You may also see if the product is appropriate for your child and if other children like using it. By asking these questions up front, it may save you the time and frustration of signing up for a product that your child isn’t old enough to use—or won’t enjoy.
How Do Debit Cards Teach Financial Literacy?
There is no substitute for hands-on experience, especially when it comes to money management. The purpose of debit cards for teens is to give children the opportunity to practice—and possibly make some money mistakes—in a safe environment. They may practice the basics without the risk of racking up credit card debt or getting charged with high overdraft fees. Your child may get the chance to practice budgeting, saving, learning about interest, paying bills, sharing expenses, giving to charity, and more.
By offering your child the chance to practice with a debit card now, they may be more likely to form better spending habits before going to college. It may also pave the way for discussions about other financial products, like building credit or applying for a car loan.
How We Chose the Best Debit Cards for Teens
Although debit cards for teens is a newer concept, there are already a number of competing companies on the market. This can make it difficult for busy parents to make a decision, particularly when so many products offer a similar set of features. Some products also offer less pricing transparency, especially when it comes to extra fees, which can make it difficult to make a true apples-to-apples comparison. To make the selections for the best debit cards for teens list, we started with 12 of the top companies. We compared each company’s history, reputation, features, and how the product works. We also looked at pricing for families and any other fees folks should know about. We reviewed parental controls, education, security, and any other stand-out features to select the best debit cards for teens.
Dartmouth. "Debt Literacy, Financial Experiences, and Overindebtedness." Accessed September 16, 2020.
The Money Advice Service. "Habit Formation and Learning in Young Children." Accessed September 16, 2020.
CrunchBase. "Greenlight." Accessed September 16, 2020.
Better Business Bureau. "Greenlight Financial Technology, Inc." Accessed September 16, 2020.
Better Business Bureau. "gohenry." Accessed September 17, 2020.
Twitter. "gohenry." Accessed September 17, 2020.
Better Business Bureau. "Choice Financial Group." Accessed September 17, 2020.
Better Business Bureau. "American Express." Accessed September 17, 2020.