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

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

A debit card can be a great way to help teach children about money. When children have responsibility for their very own debit card, it teaches them about budgeting, spending and saving. This prepares them for managing their money in adulthood and helps them take an active role in the digital economy. 


Children's debit cards aren't any different from the debit card you have in your wallet. They’re used in exactly the same way—to make in-store and online purchases and withdraw cash from ATMs. 


How old do you have to be to get a debit card?

You can get a debit card from the age of 13 at most US banks when a parent or guardian opens a joint checking account on the child’s behalf. These typically come with a contactless debit card or a cash card they can use to make ATM withdrawals. 


Alternatively, a parent can give their child access to a debit card as an authorized user on their account. You have to be 18 to open an individual checking account in the US. 



However, prepaid debit cards like GoHenry are available to children from age six. These work just like a traditional bank debit card and can be used for in-store and online purchases, and make withdrawals at ATMs.


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, COO 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  who are 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, and it’s at this age when most children start receiving an allowance. An allowance 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, using the bus or subway, or going to the mall on their own. Debit cards and prepaid debit cards are a great way of empowering 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. The more experience a child gets managing their own money, the better they’re likely to manage their finances as an adult. There are different types of debit cards where a traditional debit card can teach your child about:

  • Basics of money management and budgeting

  • Spending versus saving

  • Tracking spending

  • Differences between wants and needs

  • Learning from mistakes.

GoHenry prepaid kids debit cards are slightly different from traditional debit cards and offer even more account benefits. They are not connected to a current account and can be used to teach your children important life lessons about money management and budgeting. They also give you more control over your children's spending habits.


With a prepaid debit card, parents can also:

  • Set limits on their child's spending, including where they can spend their money and what they can buy

  • Monitor their children's spending

  • Set tasks for their children to complete

  • Credit the card with birthday and holiday money, an allowance and money earned from chores.

Most major retailers accept children's debit cards and prepaid debit cards. There's also no overdraft facility, so there's no risk your child will spend beyond their means.



How to choose the right debit card for your child

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

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

  • 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 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 such as Google Pay, Samsung Pay and Apple Pay.

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

  • Saving goals: 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.


Applying for a checking account debit card


13-17 years old

If your child is between 13 and 17 years old, most banks will require them to apply in the branch. Either way, children will need to be accompanied by an adult or legal guardian.


When applying for a joint checking account with a child, you’ll need to supply:


  • Your child’s name, birth date, and social security number 

  • Your own social security number and a valid picture ID (like your passport or driver’s license)

  • Your address, email, and phone number.


Once your child's checking account is set up, you and your child may be offered a cash card or a debit card. Your child can only use a cash card to withdraw money from an ATM. They can use a debit card to make online or in-store purchases too. 


18 years old

At age 18 your child can open a checking account with a debit card without a parent or guardian. They can apply online or visit a branch.


Applying for a prepaid debit card

Applying for a GoHenry prepaid debit card couldn't be simpler. Just 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 deposit of $5.


A GoHenry prepaid debit card is a great way to give your child the responsibility of looking after their own money. Even better, through our in-app Money Missions your kids can learn how to budget, save, invest and more. All through fun, bite-sized interactive games and quizzes.  




Written by GoHenry Published Feb 23, 2023 ● 5 min. read