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Resources > Education Center > Can a Minor Have a Debit Card? Eligibility Criteria Explained

Can a Minor Have a Debit Card? Eligibility Criteria Explained

A debit card is more than a convenient way to make payments. It can teach your child about saving, budgeting, and various other aspects of financial management. If you want your child to move away from cash and replace their piggy bank with a checking account, you may wonder, “Can a minor have a debit card?”

The short answer is “Yes,” but that doesn’t mean it’s time for a trip to the bank. Getting your child a debit card requires some planning, so this guide will show you what to consider before making the final decision.

When Can a Child Get a Debit Card?

A self-owned checking account with a debit card is typically reserved for legal adults (18 and over in most states). The good news is, you can open a joint account with your child sooner.

Most banks allow joint accounts once your child turns 13. You’ll have access to the account and its funds, which can be useful until your teen becomes more independent and financially responsible.

Note that some financial institutions have higher thresholds, so contact your bank to get the most accurate and up-to-date information. If you want your child to have a card before 13, you can sign them up for a popular alternative—prepaid cards.

Prepaid vs. Debit Cards

Source: Kindel Media

A prepaid card is similar to a standard debit card, except it’s typically not tied to a bank account. The parent obtains a card in their child’s name and loads it with funds directly. Some options allow transfers from third parties, which makes them a great introduction to the mechanisms of a regular card.

Age requirements for prepaid cards are typically low, with some providers imposing no restrictions at all. This is because the parent has full control over the account and can closely monitor their child’s spending. Most options come with various handy features, such as:

  • Spending limits
  • Chores lists 
  • Vendor restrictions

If you want your child to develop healthy spending habits early in life, a prepaid card is an excellent first step. When the time comes, they can graduate to a regular debit card—if you believe the benefits outweigh the pitfalls. 

Should Teens Have a Debit Card?

There are several advantages of giving your child a debit card:

  • It lets them practice self-accountability and offers more freedom than cash
  • They can manage their income more conveniently once they get a job
  • Some debit cards come with perks and rewards to encourage healthy spending behavior

Still, none of these benefits matter much if your child doesn’t have the right perception of money. Transitioning from cash to “virtual money” can enable overspending as your child can’t see the money going out.

This is why you should only get a debit card for your child when you’re sure they’ll use it wisely. Teach them about the importance of saving and have a firm grip on their spending until they’ve proven themselves reliable.

How To Find The Right Debit Card for Your Child

Source: Avery Evans

All debit cards look the same at first glance, so you might think there’s not much difference between different banks and their products. This isn’t necessarily true, so you should do thorough research to find the best option for your child.

The following table breaks down the main factors for selecting the best debit card:

FactorWhat To Look For
Balance requirementsChoose a card without minimum balance requirements—accounts imposing them charge fees if the amount drops below the threshold
Overdraft protectionSome banks let users spend more than their available balance and charge hefty fees for overdrafts. Find an option that won’t let your child expose themselves to debt
Mobile banking and app supportYour child’s card provider should offer at least some of the following options:Mobile banking through the bank’s appDigital wallets (Apple Pay, Google Pay)Peer-to-peer transfer apps (Venmo, CashApp)
RewardsMany debit cards support cash back, points, and similar rewards, so look for the perks your child will benefit the most from

After you compare different options and choose the most suitable one, the hard part is over. All that’s left to do now is visit the bank with your child and request to open the account. The process shouldn’t involve more than a single trip to the bank, and your child should get the card within a few business days. When it arrives, it’s time to teach your child how to use it properly.

How To Educate Your Child on Debit Cards

It may take some time for your child to get accustomed to a debit card, but you shouldn’t have trouble showing them the ropes. Start with the basics, such as:

  • Fees
  • ATMs
  • Mobile transfers
  • Contactless payments

After checking the above boxes, you should use the card as an opportunity to teach your child about financial management. Give them a certain amount of money each month and see how they spend it. Once the initial excitement has worn off, your child should start being frugal with their money and show some responsibility.

The main reason this matters is that a debit card is only the beginning of your child’s relationship with banks. They’ll need discipline and proper spending habits to take their independence to the next level and obtain another common financial product—a credit card.

When Should Your Child Get a Credit Card?

Source: RODNAE Productions

Credit card use among teens is on the rise, so there’s a high chance your child will want one at some point. Before this happens, you need to make sure they understand the responsibility credit cards carry, as seemingly small spending mistakes can have long-term negative consequences.

Debit cards don’t impact your child’s credit score, so credit building is an important topic you’ll need to cover before your child gets access to a financial product that does. You should have ample time to teach them all they need to know, as your child may not be eligible for a credit card before turning 21.

Because of the CARD Act of 2009, anyone under this age must prove they can repay the debt independently to be considered for a credit card. Alternatively, they need to have a co-signer over 21 who can be held accountable for it.

Some parents add children as authorized users of their cards to get around this limitation and help them build credit earlier in life. While this method does give a child access to a credit card, it’s dangerous for three key reasons:

  1. If the child isn’t responsible enough, their credit card use can damage the parent’s credit score
  2. The parent is liable for all charges and risks exposing themselves to significant debt
  3. The child doesn’t build an independent credit profile as an authorized user. When they’re removed from the card, they have to start from scratch because all credit history associated with the card gets deleted from their file

To help parents avoid these issues and support their children’s future in a risk-free way, Austin Capital Bank offers FreeKick. 

FreeKick—Parent-Sponsored Credit Building and Monitoring

FreeKick combines a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-insured (FDIC-insured) deposit account with credit-building services to let parents prepare their children for adulthood in two ways:

  1. Helping them build credit
  2. Monitoring their credit profile

How FreeKick Builds Children’s Credit Without Risks

If your child is 14–25 years old, FreeKick can build a credit history for them and report it to credit bureaus to help them establish a profile sooner than they could independently. The process doesn’t require any ongoing action on your part and happens in three steps:

  1. Create Your Account—Make a one-time deposit and choose the plan that fits your budget:
FDIC-Insured Deposit AmountPlan Fee
  1. Set It and Forget It—Once the account is open, FreeKick will take over and build 12 months of credit history for your child. It will be reported to the three major credit bureaus immediately if your child is of legal age. If they’re a minor, reporting will be done when they come of age, as credit bureaus only accept credit reporting for adults
  2. Keep Growing—You don’t need to limit your child to a 12-month credit history. Renew the account when the 12-month term ends to keep building their credit and help them secure a more stable future, or close the account and get your deposit back

You can cancel before the 12-month term ends, but note that if you do it while the child is still a minor, no credit can ever be reported for the account.

Let FreeKick Watch Over Your Child’s Credit Profile

Besides credit building, FreeKick offers credit profile monitoring to let parents enjoy peace of mind. Monitoring lowers the chance of the child’s information being misused and keeps the profile free of errors.

Make a wise investment in your child’s financial future and ensure their credit profile is in good hands—sign up for FreeKick.

Featured image source: Leeloo Thefirst