Debit cards have definitely become an integral part of virtually all of our lives. While there was a time not all too long ago where the idea of a debit card for kids was practically unheard of, these days it’s actually quite common. However, knowing when it’s appropriate to get a debit card for the kids can be a little tricky for many parents.

Whether you have kids right now or you plan to in the future, the decision to give your child a debit card is a practical one, when done for the right reasons and at the right time.

Money Management Skills

With each passing year, checks are being used less and less as we’ve replaced checkbooks with online banking. The days of “balancing a checkbook” in order to avoid writing a “bad check” are fading fast as debit and credit cards are supplemented with direct, digital transactions from our home computers and smartphones. A practice doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. 

As such, the earlier that your children learn to use debit cards and digital banking, the better prepared they will be to manage a lifetime of electronic accounting as an adult.

Debit Card or Prepaid Options?

With the overdraft fees that can be levied on a debit account, some parents are instead opting for prepaid banking cards for their children. This option allows parents to preload a set amount and the general consensus seems to be that a prepaid card can give them access to money in the event of an emergency while also setting responsible limits on spending.

However, selecting a prepaid over debit card for kids can actually be a costly mistake. Prepaid cards inherently include a number of fees, including: transaction fees, ATM withdrawal fees, monthly fees, bill payment fees, cash reload fee, paper statement fee, balance inquiries, and more. This can make it a costly option and can be extremely hard to “balance” their accounts. When it comes to checking and savings accounts for minors, banks require a joint signer, which allows you to control their available balance even better than you can with a prepaid card. 

As opposed to simply filling a prepaid bucket that is subject to expensive fees, a debit card for kids will teach them the entire account management process. Debit cards are tied to the checking account that you have oversight of and in addition to the card, they’ll learn about using actual checks, documenting and tracking deposits and withdrawals, how to use ATMs, and get an introduction to working with banks and bankers. 

Simply put — prepaid cards do not offer the benefits that a debit card for kids does.

The Right Time

While each child and situation is different, numerous parents are finding that getting a debit card for their kids is a practical decision. Your child may have situations where they require one earlier, but when they enter high school, get their driver’s license and first job, it makes sense for them to have a checking account and debit card.