Want to give your kids a taste of financial independence, but wary of handing over a full-fledged credit or debit card? A prepaid debit card may be the answer. It gives you greater control over your children’s spending with less risk.
But before you make the jump, you’ll want to explore the pros and cons. Keep reading for a rundown of the advantages and disadvantages of kids’ prepaid debit cards, how they work, and how to choose the right card for your child.
Related: What age can you get a debit card?
How do prepaid debit cards for kids work?
Prepaid debit cards for kids work like regular debit cards, except they’re not linked to the funds in a bank account. Instead, you pre-load them with money. So your kids can only spend up to the amount available on their card.
Unlike a traditional bank debit card, kids as young as six years can use a prepaid card to make purchases online or in-store and withdraw cash from ATMs. But unlike a traditional debit card, there is no way your child can become overdrawn and go into debt on a prepaid card.
Moreover, they typically come with features designed to teach kids about managing their money. Plus, parental controls, card protection, and ways to monitor your child’s spending.
Related: How do prepaid debit cards work?
What types of prepaid cards for kids are there?
There are several different types of prepaid cards for kids in the UK
Related: Different types of debit cards explained
What are the advantages of prepaid cards for kids?
A prepaid debit card is a great way to teach your kids about money and prepare them for the digital economy. Here are a few of the advantages:
A prepaid debit card can give your child a sense of financial independence. They can learn to manage their money without relying solely on you.
Your child can use their card to make purchases wherever a debit card is accepted.
Easy to get
As many prepaid cards don’t require credit checks, they’re easy to get. You can usually sign up for an account online and add your child as a user. Then load money onto the card from your own bank account.
No risk of debt
Since prepaid cards aren’t linked to bank accounts, there are no overdraft fees. And as your child can only spend up to the amount loaded onto the card, there’s no risk of overdraft either.
Prepaid debit cards can be a great tool to teach children about money management and budgeting. They’ll learn how to save, spend and track their expenses.
Some cards, like GoHenry, also come with in-app financial education tools to boost your child’s financial literacy.
Participate in the digital economy
Prepaid cards also help your child to participate and learn about the digital economy and the world of money.
Parents can control how much money their kids spend by setting monthly or daily limits. This helps prevent overspending and encourages responsible spending habits.
Some prepaid cards (like GoHenry) alert parents in real-time every time their child makes a purchase. You’ll also get notified if a card transaction is declined.
Prepaid debit cards can be safer than carrying cash as they’re easily replaced if lost or stolen. You can usually block the card in your parent app and unblock it if it’s found again.
Prepaid cards also provide a record of transactions. Which is helpful to help track spending and monitor potential fraud.
Related: Teaching your kids to recognise and avoid online scams
Pay in pocket money and tie it to chores and tasks
You can set up a direct transfer to pay in your child’s pocket money on a regular basis. Plus, some cards let you link pocket money to paid chores or tasks.
Set up direct deposits
Some cards allow you to set up a direct deposit. So kids or teens with jobs can get their paychecks straight to their prepaid card accounts.
Friends and family can give directly to the card
Instead of giving cash or a gift card, friends and family can give money directly to some prepaid cards.
Related: Prepaid debit card vs bank account: What’s the difference?
What are the disadvantages of prepaid cards for kids?
There are some drawbacks to prepaid cards for kids. Such as
You may have to pay to get a card or activate one. There’s often also a monthly maintenance fee. Some cards may charge for making deposits and using ATMs.
Unlike GoHenry, some cards won’t work outside the UK or charge a fee for use abroad.
Some prepaid card issuers restrict how much you can withdraw, reload or spend in a given period, such as a day or month.
No credit history
Prepaid cards won’t help your child or teen build a credit history. Transactions aren’t reported to the credit bureaus.
How to choose a prepaid card for kids
You’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided a prepaid card is right for your child. Now you need to choose one. Depending on your child's needs, what you want from a kids’ prepaid card may differ from what another parent wants. But here are a few things to consider:
- Mobile app. Prepaid cards for kids typically come with an app. One for the child and a companion app for the parent. Check which extra features come with the app. Do you want to pay your child’s pocket money regularly? Do you want relatives and friends to be able to transfer money to your child’s card?
- Look for parental controls. Some prepaid cards come with parental controls you can use to set spending limits, block certain merchants and monitor activity through the app.
- Check where the card is accepted. Make sure the card is accepted everywhere your child may want to use it, including internationally.
- Check the card’s security features. Look for a prepaid card you can freeze if it’s stolen or lost and replace easily.
- Check the fees. Watch out for fees for activation and monthly maintenance. Most prepaid cards will charge fees, but some offer you more features for your money. Like tools to help with your child’s financial education.
- Money management features. Some prepaid debit cards offer great features to help teach your kids how to manage their money. Look out for ones that allow you to set savings goals. Or have chore trackers you can link to your child’s pocket money.
How to get a prepaid card for kids
Applying for a prepaid card for kids is usually straightforward. You either download the app and apply from there or apply online. Typically, you’ll be asked for your child’s name and birth date and your own name and date of birth. You’ll also need to supply a mailing address.
When the card arrives, you activate it online or via the app. Some card issuers require a deposit to activate your child’s card.
A GoHenry debit card is available for kids aged six and up. You can sign up for an account online and add your child as a user. As soon as you’ve activated the card, your child can use it to make purchases anywhere that accepts debit card payments, including overseas.
GoHenry comes with in-app parental controls, so you can set limits on how much your child can spend per item and per week and restrict where they can use their card. (If you want to limit them to ATM withdrawals, for example, or online shopping only.)
You can also monitor their spending as you’ll get real-time notifications every time your child uses their card. Plus, you’ll be able to freeze or unfreeze the card anytime you want and set up regular pocket money payments through the app.
If you want to reward your kids for doing extra chores, you can set paid tasks in-app too. Plus, help your kids plan for future purchases with savings goals.
Teens with jobs can get their wages straight to their GoHenry account. While family and friends can send money straight to your child’s card via Giftlinks. For birthdays, celebrations — or just because.
What’s more, GoHenry comes with Money Missions. An in-app education tool designed to accelerate your child’s financial literacy. Through games, quizzes and videos, they will learn about budgeting, saving, investing, the stock market, and more.
Difference between ATM card and debit card