How old do you have to be to get a debit card?
You can get a prepaid debit card for a child from as young as 6 years old.
Most high-street banks will let children open a children’s bank account when they are 11 years old, with their parents’ permission. The child and parent will have to visit a local branch together to open the account. In some cases, the parent may have to already be a customer of the bank.
Most high-street banks will let children open a children’s bank account at 16 years old without their parent’s permission. Often, they won’t have to visit a branch to do so either. Online-only banks won’t allow under-16s to open a children’s account at all.
However, in recent years, a lot of financial companies have begun offering prepaid debit cards to children from the age of six. These are mostly app-based companies, which require a parent to sign up for the card. The prepaid accounts aren’t as flexible as children’s bank accounts either.
The benefits and drawbacks of getting a debit card at age 6–10
The main argument against giving a debit card to a six-year-old is: they are not responsible to use one. However, the main argument for giving them one is that it teaches them how to be financially responsible.
Is this a lesson that a 6- to 10-year-old child really needs to learn?
Well, a 2013 study, authored by behavioural analysts at Cambridge University, suggested that humans begin to understand and form money habits at age seven.
Indeed, it’s also the age that most children begin to receive pocket money, even if it’s only for trivial things like chocolate bars or trading cards.
And the more experience that a child gains from managing their own money, the better they are likely to become when they start living independently.
A prepaid card gives parents enough control to prevent their child from being reckless with their finances. It is up to the parents to top up these cards and it is impossible to go overdrawn. If there is not enough funds to complete a transaction, the purchase won’t be cleared.
At the same time, these cards usually come with apps that allow children to view their balance and previous transactions. This could prove to be a useful aid to teach them basic numeracy, plus simple financial lessons, such as “when the money is gone, you can’t buy anything else”.
The benefits and drawbacks of getting a debit card later on
Once a child reaches the age of 11 – old enough to open a children’s bank account with your permission – the items they want to spend money on tend to become more complex and more expensive.
Perhaps they see the newest video game or fashion items that their friends have and begin pestering you for the same things.
This is potentially a great opportunity for parents to teach their children an early lesson about saving for the future.
Instead of splashing out on their every whim and desire, you can perhaps arrange a standing order into their bank account. Then, your child will begin to learn what it’s like to wait (and work hard) to be able to afford luxury items.
This is a lesson that every child needs to learn before they are sent out into the adult world of complete financial independence, unless you want them to keep pestering you for money into early adulthood and beyond.
A debit card will allow them to make online purchases and set up direct debits, so they don’t have to bother you to do this for them either.
At the same time, parents still have the option to choose an account that lets them monitor what your child’s pocket money is being spent on. Many digital banks and online account providers already block payments for age-inappropriate products and services, like gambling, from these types of accounts as standard.
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