What age can you get a debit card in the UK?

What age can you get a debit card in the UK?

Your child has to be between the ages of 11 and 17 to apply for a bank account that comes with its own debit card. 


Children under 16 need parental permission for this, and some banks will ask parents to be joint account holders or hold their primary account at the same bank. Teens aged 16 can open a bank account and get a debit card without parental permission.


Related: Children's debit cards 

The ways your child can own a debit card

Two ways for your child to own a debit card are via a bank account or by applying for a prepaid debit card.


Parents can get a bank debit card by applying for a child bank account for their child. The age for this varies, but many banks will issue a child account with a debit or cash card (ATM only) from 11 years.


Parents can get a prepaid debit card for their child from age six. A prepaid debit card is a type of debit card that is preloaded with money in advance. You can use the card to make purchases anywhere that accepts debit cards, but you can only spend the money that is loaded on the card. 


There are many different prepaid debit cards for kids, each with unique features and fees. It is important to compare the different cards before signing up to choose the one that is right for you.



Why do debit cards have age limits?

Debit cards have age limits to protect children as they are more vulnerable to financial scams. By setting an age limit, children are more protected from these risks.


This is also why cards for under-16s need parental permission. It’s important for children to be supervised by an adult when using a debit card as they may not yet understand the financial consequences of their actions, such as overspending.


Prepaid cards have lower limits than bank debit cards, as kids can only spend the money added to the card, plus, many come with parental controls, spending limits and real-time notifications.

When should a child have a debit card?

“Generation Z are the first true digital natives, and they are set to be the first generation of cashless consumers, too,” says Louise Hill, CEO and Co-founder of GoHenry. "If we don't teach kids to use money the way we use money (with debit cards and online payments, as well as coins and notes), we risk bringing up a generation which is at a disadvantage when it comes to money management."


So, what's the perfect debit card age? The ideal age for a child to have their first debit card ultimately depends on when they and the rest of the family are ready. Children typically begin forming money habits before the age of seven, which is when most children start receiving pocket money. Pocket money offers parents the opportunity to build children's money confidence and encourage good money habits from an early age. 


You may decide to give your child a debit card a little later when they begin going out for social activities without you, taking public transport to school or going into town on their own to shop. Debit cards and prepaid debit cards are great ways to empower your children to make considered and responsible spending choices. 

What are the benefits of a child having a debit card?

It's never too early to teach children good money habits, and a debit card can help them learn how to be financially responsible, how to budget, track their spending, and make informed financial decisions. The more experience a child gets from managing their own money, the better they will manage their finances as an adult. 


Related: How do prepaid debit cards work?


 Children aged 6 - 12

There are several benefits for a child having a debit card between the ages of six and 12, including early financial education, financial responsibility and money management. Younger children can learn how to manage their pocket money, budget for sweets and save for toys. The older end of this age group can start learning key lessons about making informed financial decisions and how to save and spend money.


Related: Should you get a prepaid card for your kids?

Teens aged 13+

A debit card can really help your teens become more independent. Not only does having one give teens a sense of responsibility, but it also helps them learn to manage their money while making bigger financial decisions. Debit cards can also be safer for teens than carrying cash. If a debit card is lost or stolen, it can be cancelled and replaced quickly and easily.


Related: Should my teen have a debit card?



Are there any drawbacks to a child having a debit card?

Getting your child a debit card is very much a personal issue and depends on your child and their level of financial understanding. The key argument against giving debit cards to kids is the fear that a child will not use the card responsibly, this is because parents can rarely supervise spending if a child/teen has a bank account debit card.


Perhaps your child may spend more than you want them to, buy items you don’t approve of, or even spend all their money at once. Other fears include the fact many children fall for online scams or are being duped into buying or giving away personal information without realising it. 


The good news is unlike bank account cards, prepaid debit cards tend to come with a parent app (check when you sign up)  that allows you to always see what’s happening, set spending limits and be notified in real-time when your child uses their card.


How to choose the right debit card for your child

There are a few important features to look for when buying a debit card or prepaid debit card.

  • Online shopping: Consider whether you are happy for your child to make purchases online, and if necessary, choose a children's debit card that lets you limit online spending and where they can spend.

  • Spending limits: Search for debit cards that allow you to put a cap on your child's daily spending, block specific retailers or set limits for cash withdrawals.

  • Debit card fees: Most traditional debit cards don't incur fees; however, it's standard for prepaid debit cards to have a monthly or annual fee.

  • Simple transfers: Check that you can make quick and easy transfers to your child's account or card.

  • Parental controls: While they give you added peace of mind, they also ensure a safety net to support children in making decisions about their money.

  • Spending notifications: Find out if you can monitor spending and set up transaction alerts when your child has made a purchase, from where and for how much.

  • Mobile wallet compatibility: Check if the account is compatible with mobile wallets.

  • Financial education: Those under 18 can benefit from having a debit card that provides access to financial education resources such as interactive videos and quizzes.

  • Saving goals: An important part of learning good money habits is to learn the importance of saving. The more a child can take responsibility for their money, the better they will manage their finances in adulthood. 

How to apply for a child/teen debit card

Applying for a current account with a debit card is slightly different from applying for a prepaid debit card.


Related: Prepaid debit card vs bank accounts


11 - 15 years old:

If your child is between 11 and 12 years old, most banks will require them to apply in the branch or via a video appointment with a parent (these need to be set up in advance via an online application). Some banks require teens to do this up to the age of 15 years old. Either way, children will need to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian who holds an account with the same bank.


16 - 17 years old:

If teens are 16 to 17 years old, they can apply online or visit a branch on their own.


When applying for a current account with a debit card, you'll need to supply the following information:

  • Proof of the identification, such as a full UK birth certificate or passport

  • Proof of the parent's identification

  • Proof of the parent's address (or for the child, depending on their age)

Once your child's current account is set up, you and your child may be offered a cash or debit card. Your child can only use a cash card to withdraw money from an ATM, while they can use a debit card to make online or in-store purchases. From the age of 13, your child can typically get either a contactless debit card or a cash card.


Related: Cash cards vs debit cards


Applying for a prepaid debit card

Applying for a GoHenry prepaid debit card couldn't be simpler. Parents simply visit the GoHenry website and click ‘Get Started’ or download the free app. You don't need to provide any payment details, and your children will receive their cards within the next five to seven days. Once the prepaid debit cards have arrived, you can activate your parent account and the cards by going online or by using the app and making a minimum £5 deposit.





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Written by GoHenry Published Jan 15, 2024 ● 3 min. read time