What is an ATM card? Explaining to kids & teens

What is an ATM card? Explaining to kids & teens

In this guide, we'll talk about ATM cards. This includes the pros and cons, whether or not your kid should have a card, and the basics. Let's start at the beginning by answering, ‘what’s an ATM card, and how do they work?’.


Related: What age can you get a debit card?


How does an ATM card work?

Let's start with an ATM card definition - though you can find different types of ATM cards from different providers, and they will work in different ways. All types of ATM cards only let you access money that you have in an account. This is the opposite of credit cards, which let you borrow money when you use them.


Some ATM cards will only let you withdraw money using a bank or ATM machine. Some types of ATM cards will also let you make purchases either online or in stores. You should look at the details of whatever ATM card you are considering to see where your child could use it.

What is the difference between an ATM card and debit card?

A debit card or checking card is similar to an ATM card. You can get a debit card for most checking accounts, and sometimes you can get them for savings accounts. All debit cards can be used to make purchases, while not all ATM cards can be used in shops or online for purchases. You might also get a debit card for an account that has an overdraft, letting you borrow money from the bank, but this is explained when you open the bank account. Otherwise, most ATM cards and debit cards are similar.

What are the pros of an ATM card?

The main benefit of an ATM card is that you can't use it to spend more money than you have in the account. This means that there's no risk of going into debt by using the card. This can give parents great peace of mind.

What are the cons of an ATM card?

Since some ATM cards only let you withdraw money, you might find that you can't pay for items online and have to carry around cash to purchase items in shops. However, you can avoid this by getting an ATM card that allows payments and purchases.


How old do you need to be to get an ATM card?

The age requirement varies depending on what type of ATM card you want. For example, a GoHenry prepaid debit card is available for kids aged 6 or older. To get a card from a bank, your kid would usually have to be 11 or older, and you would have to open a bank account for your child.

What types of ATM cards can you get in the US?

There are various different ATM cards available in the US. Some of the most popular options for kids are:

  • Prepaid debit card: This lets you add money to the card, which your child can now spend. With a prepaid card, your child will only have access to the funds on the card, meaning that they cannot go overdrawn or get into debt. Most prepaid debit cards are accepted online and in stores.
  • Debit card: A debit card has a higher age requirement than a prepaid debit card because it links to your child's bank account. These cards are generally accepted in all shops and online stores, just like prepaid debit cards.
  • Gift card: This is a special type of card where the money can only be spent at certain places. These are usually disposable and can't be topped up after they're spent.

Should I get my child an ATM card or debit card?

Giving your child a card can be beneficial for their financial education, but it can be tough to know when your kid should have a card, and what type to get them. Choosing a prepaid debit card means that your child can have their own card from age 6, which is a great time to start them learning about finances. Plus, there's no risk of them going into debt.

Give your child more financial independence with a GoHenry prepaid debit card

If you think your kid is ready for their first ATM card, try the GoHenry prepaid debit card. As well as giving your child financial independence, GoHenry has loads of great features to help make sure your child handles their money wisely.


Our in-app Money Missions are great bite-sized lessons on all types of financial literacy, including spending wisely, budgets & plans, saving habits, and money safety. With fun quizzes and more advanced lessons for older kids, this means you can rest assured that your kid will be able to handle their prepaid debit card safely.


Our parental control also lets you set spending limits, or get alerts when your kid uses their GoHenry card in your GoHenry app. 


Learn more about the GoHenry prepaid kids debit card today and see how GoHenry can help your child with financial independence.



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Written by GoHenry Published Oct 25, 2022 ● 4 min. read