There are two types of spending accounts for teens: prepaid cards and children’s bank accounts. Both can be a good way of teaching kids about managing money. You might be wary about giving your teenager a bank account with a debit card, but it’s not possible to go overdrawn with a children’s bank account. Our guide explores all the advantages of bank accounts for teenagers, explains how they differ from prepaid cards and what to look for in a bank account for an under 18. If you are 18 or over, you are eligible for a standard current account.
Latest bank account and prepaid card reviews for teens
Your teenager might not be a child, but until they turn 18, they can only have a children’s bank account or prepaid card.
About parental control and privacyWe’re referring to teens as those aged 11 to 17. Once they turn 18 they’re eligible for an adult bank account. The different types of account offer different amounts of control to parents and the teens in question, so it’s worth thinking about your child’s age and discussing with them how much control you should have over their account. Learn more about bank accounts for children under 11 years of age.
Features of a children’s bank account
- No fees in UK. These accounts are typically free to open and use in the UK.
- No overdraft. Your child isn’t going to get into debt.
- Recognised brands. Your teenager might want to choose a card with a recognisable brand their friends have.
- Real life learning. Giving your teen an account like this gives them a lesson in money management. They can see the benefits of saving and realise the value of money.
- Mobile banking app. Many accounts offer mobile banking so kids can see their transactions and balance.
Features these accounts don’t have
- Parental controls. You can’t control your child’s spending with these accounts. The accounts naturally come with restrictions on overdrafts and fees, but you can’t stop them from spending at specific sites or stores.
Children’s bank account fees
Most of these accounts don’t have fees except for spending or withdrawing cash abroad. They aim to get their customers in early to hopefully keep them for life.
How to choose the best bank account for teens
- Talk to your teen. It seems obvious, but start by discussing the features you want and choose an account that has these features. If you choose to go with a prepaid card, consider choosing a date in the future to reassess and move them to a proper bank account.
- Think about fees. Prepaid cards usually have fees associated with them so work out how much it will cost for the use your child will get out of it.
- Interest. When it comes to children’s bank accounts, there’s not much between them except for the interest they offer. This isn’t going to make a huge difference to your child, but it can help them learn about how interest works.
Best bank accounts for teens
There’s not much between these accounts, except for the interest rates, so that’s what we’ve gone with to rank them.
Best interest rate: TSB
TSB’s Under 19s account has the best interest rate, at 2.5%, meaning that your teens will see some interest on what they put in it.
They receive a debit card with the account which means that they can spend money in shops and online.
For a digital bank: Starling Bank
Older teens can sign up for Starling from the age of 16, which gives them pretty much the same experience as with the adult account. You can get an interest rate of 0.05% and all the bells and whistles of the adult Starling account (except for the lending facilities).
Using prepaid debit cards as an alternative
These cards are like a mix of a gift card and a regular debit card. A prepaid card can be topped up and used like a debit card, but once the balance reaches £0, it can’t go any further. Any transactions attempted at that point will be declined, so the child can’t end up in debt. We have a dedicated guide on the best prepaid cards for children and teens.
Best prepaid cards for teens
These cards all let you manage your child’s transactions, and block payments at blacklisted sites and stores.
For parental controls: gohenry
gohenry is the most expensive of the prepaid cards, and it’s available to kids from the age of 6 to 18, but it might be more suited to younger teens. It has good controls, notifications and safeguards in place, including an automatic limit on payments to your child’s chosen gaming platform. Kids can earn extra from doing chores you set via the app.
For educational tools: NatWest Rooster Money
NatWest Rooster Money costs £19.99 a year for the card and app. It lets you limit stores visited, ban blacklisted stores and has a dynamic CVV, which gives more fraud protection for online sales. It also offers a wealth of educational resources for kids to learn about money. You can set chores for your child via the app, too.
What features are on offer for prepaid cards?
- See the transactions. You can see where your children are spending their money.
- Set limits and allowances. You can set up a monthly allowance, freeze the card and set spending limits for your child. With some, you can control where they spend, and bar cashpoint withdrawals.
- No direct debits. Your kids can’t set up a direct debit.
- Text message alerts. Most providers pop you a text message or notification when your child spends.
- Age-restricted vendors. Your teen won’t be able to use the card to gamble, go to the pub or pay to see adult sites.
Annual or monthly fees
Most children’s prepaid cards have annual or monthly fees. There’s often a promotional period that’s free or heavily discounted.
Some charge fees to top up, withdraw money or use the card beyond certain limits, especially when used abroad.
Is a prepaid card right for my teen?
These cards are more suited to a younger teen than an older one. As your child starts to work part-time and earn their own money, you both might find it overkill that you get a notification about every transaction, and your child might want a bit of privacy. The best way to decide is to just chat to them and agree on what will work for you both.
Are prepaid cards safe for my teen?
As a parent you may have some concerns that a prepaid card and digital app may leave your teenager vulnerable to financial scams, spending on inappropriate items or gambling.
Cards from providers like gohenry and Rooster Card automatically place blocks on products and services designated as being for ‘over 18s’.
Rooster card blocks vendors classified by a Visa-developed scheme as being in any of the following categories:
- Money transfers
While this filtering system isn’t completely fool-proof (for example, it may allow an under-18 to buy alcohol from a vendor classified as a ‘general retailer, as opposed to an ‘off licence’) it’s certainly sophisticated.
These safeguards should help offer parents reassurance that their teenagers will have enough financial independence while staying safe.
Compare prepaid cards and bank accounts for teens
We update our data regularly, but information can change between updates. Confirm details with the provider you're interested in before making a decision.
Pros and cons of having a bank account for teens
- Freedom. Your teenager doesn’t need to pester you for pocket money and they can spend their money how they like.
- Education. Having a bank account as a teenager can provide a huge amount of education in money management.
- Privacy. At last, you can receive a birthday present from your child that’s a surprise! Your child might feel that they have more privacy, which can improve feelings of trust between you.
- Letting go. Your child will always be your baby, but you might have to overcome that feeling and let them go out into the world.
- Fees. Some prepaid cards have fees to use them.
The bottom line
So long as the bank account comes with no overdraft or fees and a decent interest rate, you can’t go too far wrong. Sticking with a reputable bank is always advisable, as well as reading the small print. Parental controls won’t apply, so be sure to give your teen a stern talking to about spending and saving before they’re set up. Alternatively, if you’d still like to keep tabs on their spending, a prepaid debit card will allow you to manage transactions and even block payments.
Frequently asked questions
Kids' accounts news & launches
Digital challenger relaunches its offering for kids aged 6 to 17 with a refreshed app and card design.Read more…
NatWest has rebranded and relaunched the Rooster Money kids’ debit card with a special offer for NatWest Group banking customers.Read more…
Don’t think gohenry is quite what you’re looking for? Here are some other money services for children that might be right for you.Read more…
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