You usually can’t open a children’s bank account in the UK until your child is at least 11 years old. You may want your child to have access to some money to spend before they reach that age, or you might feel that your child doesn’t need a current account until they hit their later teenage years. Either way, you’d like them to have their own payment card before that.
In those situations, there is a range of prepaid debit cards for kids now available on the UK market. They come with an accompanying mobile app which is there to help teach them good financial skills and help you as a parent keep an eye on their spending.
Debit and prepaid cards for kids
GoHenry - with free custom card and one month free
gohenry is designed for children aged six to 18, and is managed digitally through an app for a monthly fee. It consists of a parent and child bank account combination, which sees parents use their account to top up the child’s balance and set limits on their spending.
The child can check the available balance in their account and spend the money they’ve been given using a prepaid Visa debit card. Its free to use the card to make purchases online and in-store, as well as to make ATM withdrawals in the UK. But you only get one free money load from the parent’s account to the child’s account each month – after that it’s 50p per top-up.
Full parental control thanks to instant notifications and spending limits
One-month free trial
It can be used by children as young as six
Reward system for completed tasks
Children learn about personal finance in a controlled environment
Relatives can also send money to the children
You can manage up to four child accounts from the same parent account
Apart from the monthly fee, fees to use the card abroad and to top up also apply
RoosterMoney has a big emphasis on keeping track of pocket money – and the chores that kids do to earn it.
RoosterMoney comes in two parts. The first is a free app, designed for children as young as four, to earn stars for small jobs they’ve done or things they’ve achieved. They can then see these stars add up and turn into rewards, such as their weekly pocket money, which parents will need to hand over in cash.
The second part of RoosterMoney (which involves a yearly subscription) will let you order a prepaid card for children aged eight and over. Parents can then load it with money, and set controls in the app on where that pocket money is spent using the card.
Great educational value; a slick app with lots of features to personalise the way you teach your children about finance.
Children as young as four years old can use it (eight for the card).
Total control over where your children use the card and how much they can spend.
Safe and secure. The card can be frozen from the app.
No fees for using the card (including abroad).
One-month free trial.
Annual fee to access the full range of features.
You cannot top up the account using cash.
No interest paid on the account balance.
Card delivery fee
Card transaction fee
Cash withdrawal fee
Free for up to 3 per day and 10 per calendar month
This is a children’s current account that is available at high street bank Santander.
For children aged 12 and under, the 123 Mini is just a basic deposit-holding account, which must be opened in a branch by an adult (trustee) and then be managed by that trustee.
But for kids aged 13-18, they can apply online to open the account themselves. They’ll get a Santander contactless debit card or a cash card (the latter can be used for ATM withdrawals only). These teenagers can also use Santander’s online and mobile banking services to manage their account. So apart from deciding what money to put in for their kids to spend, there’s not as much in the way of parental controls with this account.
Account is free to open and operate (no monthly fee).
Interest is paid on the account balance.
The bank has a large branch network.
Contactless debit card available for children aged 13 and over.
Children aged 13 and over can apply for the account themselves online.
Children aged 13 and over can manage the account through online and mobile banking.
For children aged 12 and under, the account must be opened in branch by an adult (who must also have a Santander current account).
No card available for children aged 12 and under.
No specific app (just the regular mobile banking one) to monitor transactions or help children learn how to budget.
For children aged 13 and over, there are few parental controls on the account (outside of not putting money in it).
This financial tool aims to help parents show their children how to save, budget and be organised with their money.
It’s an app that’s linked to a prepaid card, which also involves a parental account linked to a child’s account. Children as young as eight can use the kid’s account, as well as the associated prepaid debit Mastercard.
A parent can see what their child is spending by receiving real-time notifications of card transactions through the app, and like with many similar digital providers, they are able to block certain merchants altogether.
There’s a monthly fee with nimbl, but card purchases, top-ups and ATM withdrawals are all free.
Full control on how children spend their money thanks to spending control settings and instant notifications.
Children as young as eight years old can use it.
It helps you to educate your children to manage their finances.
You can turn off online payments or cash withdrawals.
Safe and secure. The card can be blocked online.
You can handle more than one Child Account from the same Parent Account.
You get a one-month trial for free.
While most mainstream children accounts are for free, nimbl charges a monthly fee.
You cannot top up the account using cash.
With nimbl, children earn no interest from their savings.
Challenger banking brand Revolut offers an account for kids called Revolut Junior. Aimed at children aged from seven to 17, as a parent you must already have a Revolut bank account in order to open a Revolut Junior one.
You can then add money to the child’s account and use the mobile app to set controls on how much they can spend and where, using the accompanying payment card.
There’s no monthly fee for Revolut Junior, although transaction fees will mirror those of whatever tier of Revolut account the parent has (Standard, Premium or Metal). The exception to this is ATM withdrawals, which are only free for the first £40 taken out each month, after which a 2% fee applies across the board.
A parent can digitally top up their child’s account with spending money.
Instant parental notifications are generated whenever the child makes a purchase with the prepaid debit card.
Parental controls mean rules can be set on where the child’s card can be used.
The child gets their own account and payment card, which helps teach them financial skills.
The dedicated Junior app lets kids check their account balance and transactions.
The parent has to be a Revolut account holder.
If you have more than one child and want more than one Revolut Junior account, you’ll have to sign up to one of the fee-charging Revolut accounts.
There are charges for ATM withdrawals exceeding £40 per month.
Card delivery fee
Card transaction fee
Cash withdrawal fee
Replacement card fee
Features of a kids’ debit card
Spending controls. Many children’s debit cards come with spending control limits that parents can set within the linked mobile app.
Card lock. Parents can also lock the debit card via the app.
Choose how your child can spend. Parents can choose if the debit card can be used at ATMs, online or for in-store purchases.
Spending tracking tools. Many of the apps offer spending tracking tools and features to help your child learn how to manage their money.
How to choose the best prepaid debit cards for kids
Compare the following features when shopping around for a debit card for your kids:
Check the fees. The costs can vary between different cards. Most prepaid accounts will have either a monthly or yearly fee.
Spending limits. Look for cards that let you cap daily spending, set limits for ATM withdrawals or block specific stores.
Shopping online. Consider whether being able to buy online is a benefit or a downside, and opt for a kids’ debit card that can restrict or block online spending if needed.
An easy and fun way to pay your kids pocket money and teach them good money habits
gohenry is a debit card and app with unique parental controls for young people aged 6 to 18.
gohenry costs just £2.99 per child per month, and you can cancel at any time.
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Many debit cards for kids are prepaid cards. You can load money onto them from the parent’s bank account using a mobile app that accompanies the physical card.
A lot of these cards and apps come with extra features, like the ability to see how your child spends their money or the option to pay them pocket money for doing their chores.
At what age can my child get a debit card?
Prepaid cards can be available for kids as young as six.
You can let your child keep their prepaid card as they get older, or help them open a current account for teenagers when they’ve outgrown the prepaid card.
What is the difference between a kids’ debit card and a children’s bank account?
Debit cards are available with both the app-based digital accounts mentioned in this guide, as well as with traditional children’s bank accounts. So the difference is actually between the accounts themselves.
Children’s bank accounts are current accounts, operated by traditional banks in a similar way to adult current accounts, although they don’t have overdrafts and sometimes have spending limits. There’s usually not a fee involved for having the account, and kids can use the accompanying debit card to make purchases and ATM withdrawals. Obviously children will need money in their bank account in order to do this, and you can add funds as a parent, have family members pay monetary gifts in, or they can even have some wages from a part-time job paid in if they’re old enough to be working.
With the app-based accounts, usually run by digital-only providers, the kids’ debit cards are prepaid, so you’ll have to load money onto them. Often it’s only the account owner, which is the parent, who can do this. There’s sometimes a subscription fee associated with these accounts, but in return you get more digital features and innovative ways to manage the account through the app (including parental controls and digital notifications), than you would with a traditional children’s bank account. This type of digital account plus card is also available for kids who might be too young to open a traditional bank account.
What are the pros and cons of debit cards for kids?
Before you get a debit card for your child, consider these features and drawbacks:
Control. Keep track of your child’s spending online and cap the daily limit as you see fit.
Security. You can monitor your child’s spending in the mobile app and see where they’re shopping.
Safety. Because you can quickly and easily lock the debit card if it’s misplaced, debit cards are often safer than carrying cash.
Good practice. Using a debit card will teach your child how money works digitally, as well as create good budgeting habits.
Not a current account. These types of debit cards are prepaid cards and not actual current accounts.
Not good for large purchases. The spending limits on these prepaid debit cards for kids are generally much lower than those found on traditional adult debit cards.
Account fees. Many of these cards and their associated apps come with a monthly or annual fee.
No interest. These types of prepaid accounts usually don’t pay interest.
Age limits. Each debit card or app can set its own age limit.
A prepaid debit card that comes with a mobile app can help your child learn how to manage money responsibly, plus it lets parents track their kids’ spending so you can see if they’re meeting that goal. If this is the route you want to go down, there are a number of products available in the UK – our guide on gohenry and similar alternatives explores these more.
However, prepaid debit card accounts aren’t designed to be full current accounts or savings accounts, so you’ll have to weigh up what type of financial account you’re looking for for your child. Check out our guides on current accounts for children and savings accounts for children to help you decide.
Summary: Finder’s best debit and prepaid cards for kids in the UK 2020
This is completely up to you and your individual experience. You might consider giving your child a debit card when:
They start going out for social activities without you present.
When they start secondary school, or if they take public transport to get to school.
They start wanting or needing to buy things when you’re not with them.
Fraudulent transactions, including those where a thief stole and used the card or where the seller didn’t deliver what they promised, can often be reversed by contacting the card company.
You can’t request that the card company reverses a transaction unless you can prove the transaction was fraudulent. But you can keep an eye on your child’s spending via the card’s accompanying mobile app. And in many cases, cards can be frozen from the app so that your child can’t continue to spend if you aren’t happy with their purchases.
If your child’s debit card is definitely lost or stolen you need to contact the account provider to cancel the existing card and order a replacement. Some of the app-based accounts will also let you freeze the card via the app if it’s lost, and then you can unfreeze it if you find it again.
If the kids’ account and debit card you’ve signed up to has an age limit of 18, then your child will no longer qualify to use it when they reach adulthood. But rather than a blunt cut-off point on their 18th birthday, they’ll usually be able to use the debit card until it reaches its expiry date (and then it won’t be renewed). At that point you’ll also need to contact the provider to cancel the account, especially if you’re paying a subscription fee for it.
You won’t need a credit check for most of these app-based kids’ accounts and prepaid debit cards. However, providers are likely to do an ID check to verify your identity and address, in order to issue and send you the payment card.
These types of app-based kids’ accounts and prepaid debit cards are often operated by financial providers that are not licensed banks, so they are not specifically covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
However, in order to offer these types of financial products the providers will need to be registered and regulated in the UK, which means they are obligated to ring-fence and safeguard customer funds (usually by holding them on trust at a licensed bank).
Matthew Boyle is a mortgages and home services publisher at Finder. He has a 7-year history of publishing helpful guides to assist consumers in making better decisions. In his spare time, you will find him walking in the Norfolk countryside admiring the local wildlife.
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