We’ve reviewed and ranked the best prepaid debit cards for teens in 2018. Here are all the details, including the features, fees, and limits important to parents and teens.
For both teens and parents, making the best choice among teen cards requires being informed about the differences. We’ve researched the options to provide you with that information.
In making our recommendations, we’ve looked at prepaid cards that are marketed explicitly as teen prepaid cards. But we’ve also looked at other cards that provide features that make them a good fit for teens or students.
In ranking the cards, we’ve evaluated (1) convenience, (2) parental controls, (3) additional features that would be useful to parents and teens, (4) card limits, such as card balance and spending limits, and of course, (5) fees to use the card.
Best Reloadable Prepaid Debit Cards for Teens
FamZoo Prepaid CardFamZoo prepaid card show a thoughtful approach to the money-management needs of families with teens. The FamZoo card offers educational tools to help teens develop good habits. Those features, along with its low cost, are why it tops our list of the Best Prepaid Cards for Teens.
With FamZoo, parents can automate allowance payments from their primary card. Or parents can link allowance to chores or other behaviors they want to encourage. They can even charge their teens a penalty for incomplete chores (ouch!) or put their teen’s account on hold altogether (double ouch!).
For teens, FamZoo provides many benefits. Teens can set savings goals. And parents can reward savings by paying interest or even matching funds. Teens also benefit from receiving transfers from their parents’ card instantly. And they can request reimbursement from their parents. Helpful for things like school fees that they’ve advanced.
The cost of the FamZoo prepaid card depends on how you pay. For a month-to-month subscription, FamZoo charges a monthly fee of $5.99 for up to four cards, including the primary (or parent) card. This fee drops to $3.33 for a 12-month subscription, and even lower to $2.50 per month for a 2-year subscription.
FamZoo offers some free methods to load funds on the card, including direct deposit. There are no purchase fees. And ATM withdrawals are free at any one of MoneyPass’s 24,000 ATMs.
FamZoo offers a 30-day free trial allowing parents to take it for a spin before making any commitment.
Here are the details:
Convenience: Account control through website or mobile phone Apps for Apple and Android. Direct deposit and other free reload options. Free MoneyPass ATM Network. Broad payment acceptance with the Mastercard network.
Parental Controls: Total control of deposits to teen cards. Real-time monitoring of spending. Ability to suspend teen card use.
Additional Features: Budgeting tools. Ability to set savings goals and even award interest. Incentives (and penalties) to reinforce good habits. Instant transfers between family cards. Reimbursement requests, all through the mobile app or online.
Limits: $5,000 total card balance and spending limit up to the full balance of the (primary) card.
Fees: Monthly fee as little as $.63 per card ($2.50 per month for 4 cards with a two-year subscription). Free transactions, no activation fee, free ATM in-network withdrawals. Direct deposit, bank transfers and some other reload options are free.
American Express Serve®American Express Serve card is one of the lowest cost prepaid cards available. Its low fee structure, along with the ability of Serve users to create up to 5 subaccounts, make it our second choice for Best Teen Prepaid Cards.
American Express provides three versions of the Serve card–the basic Serve card, Serve FREE Reloads, and Serve Cash Back. All three versions offer the same subaccount features, but they differ in fees.
The basic Serve card charges only $1 per month for the primary card. There are no monthly fees for the subaccounts and no activation fee. ATM withdrawals are free through the MoneyPass network. The Serve card offers free reload options–direct deposit, in-app check deposits, and transfers from a bank account. The Free Reloads card charges a monthly fee of $4.95 for the primary account. But it offers a large network of free cash reload options through retailers like Walmart and CVS.
Parents remain in control of all funds that go to the subaccounts and have real-time access to monitor spending on their teen’s cards. Teens have any time access to their balances through the mobile app.
The American Express Serve card provides the basic features to be a good option for families with teens. But it lacks the savings, budgeting, and incentive features that parents and their teens might find important. And Serve cardholders will still occasionally run into retailers that don’t take American Express.
Here are the details:
Convenience: Account control through website or mobile phone Apps for Apple and Android. Direct Deposit. Free MoneyPass ATM Network. But has lower merchant acceptance as an American Express card and fewer free reload options than the FamZoo card.
Parental Controls: Total control of deposits to teen cards. Real-time monitoring of spending. However, no ability to temporarily suspend teen card use.
Additional Features: Beyond the basics of setting up subaccounts, it lacks many additional features such as budgeting tools, savings targets or incentives for teens and their parents.
Limits: Generous limits of up to $100,000 for the primary card balance and $15,000 per month for spending adds value for parents using Serve as their primary spending card. But it adds little additional value for its use as a card for teenagers compared to the other lower limit cards on the list.
Fees: Monthly fee of $1 for the primary card with no additional fees for the subaccount cards for teens. Direct deposits and bank transfers are free, but reload fees to add cash at retailers can be up to $3.95. The American Express Serve Free Reloads card offers the additional benefit of free cash reloads. But it comes with a higher monthly fee of $4.95. Free transactions, no activation fee, free ATM in-network withdrawals.
Current Prepaid Visa CardCurrent Prepaid Visa card is a newer offering targeting families with teens. It shows. The features of the card would make it a contender for our top pick. But the lack of a free ATM network and absence of FDIC insurance puts Current in third place.
Current provides parents with many tools to manage their teens’ accounts, including some features similar to FamZoo. Parents can schedule automatic transfers to their teens’ cards, attach payments to chores, review spending, and suspend a teen card.
Current doesn’t have the FamZoo feature of recovering “penalty” amounts from the teen card. But it does have the ability to block or limit spending at certain stores or even specific categories. That means parents can preempt purchases rather than address them after the fact. It’s a unique feature that we particularly liked.
Teens can use Current’s mobile app to see balances, track spending, and set savings goals. They can even use the app to donate to directly to charity.
Current’s card balance limit is plenty adequate at $10,000. The daily spending limit is the lowest of the cards on the list–$2,000. Suitable for teen cards to be sure, but worth noting if parents will use the Current card as their primary spending card.
The Current prepaid card has no activation fee with a monthly fee of $3 for the first teen card. Additional cards carry an extra $1 monthly fee per card. The Current card doesn’t provide a month-to-month subscription. The monthly fee is billed annually. There are no transaction charges, and Current doesn’t charge any ATM fees. However, it doesn’t have a free ATM network, so ATM withdrawals are still subject to the ATM operator’s charges.
Like FamZoo, Current offers a free 30-day trial to check it out.
Here are the details:
Convenience: Account control through website or mobile phone Apps for Apple and Android. Direct deposit and bank transfers. Broad payment acceptance with the Visa network.
Parental Controls: Total control of deposits to teen cards. Real-time monitoring of spending. Ability to suspend teen card use, and ability to block spending by store or category.
Additional Features: Ability to set savings goals. Set incentives to reinforce good habits. Instant transfers between family cards, all through the mobile app or online.
Limits: $10,000 total card balance and a spending limit of $2,000 per day.
Fees: Monthly fee of $3 for the first card and $1 for each additional card, billed annually with a yearly subscription. Free transactions and no activation fee. No charges by Current for ATM transactions, but subject to ATM operator fees. Direct deposit and bank transfers are free.
AkimboTM Prepaid Mastercard
Akimbo describes its prepaid Mastercard as a budgeting card and a card for teens. The AkimboTM Prepaid Mastercard can be used for either or both. With its $0 monthly fee and its budgeting and savings features, it ranks fourth on our list. It doesn’t rank higher because Akimbo doesn’t offer a free ATM network. ATM fees make the cost of using the card is less predictable. And it could result in higher costs than the other options on the list. Teen cardholders might show less restraint in the number of trips to the ATM.
The Akimbo prepaid card has some features like the FamZoo and Current cards. Parents can set up automatic transfers to their teen’s card for allowance track spending. Parents can also transfer money back from the teen card. Something like the “penalty” in the FamZoo card. Parents can even suspend the teen cards. Good features, but less tied to the types of clear incentives that FamZoo or Current provide.
While the Akimbo prepaid card does not have a monthly fee, it does have a one-time activation fee of $4.95. The first subaccount is free. Additional subaccounts have their own $4.95 activation fee per card. As noted, Akimbo charges a fee for ATM withdrawals–$1.98. Without a free ATM network, those ATM withdrawals are also subject to fees by the ATM operator. Signature purchases (when you select credit as your method of payment at the register) are free. PIN purchases cost $.99. Again, for the most part, you can avoid that fee by selecting credit versus debit at the register.
Although there are a couple of significant fees, Akimbo can be a reasonably-priced prepaid debit card for teens. And it has most features that make it a decent choice for parents.
Here are the details:
Convenience: Account control through website or mobile phone Apps for Apple and Android. Direct Deposit. Widely accepted Mastercard network. However, no free ATM network means you have to consider, and control, how the card is used to make this a cost-effective choice.
Parental Controls: Total control of deposits to teen cards. Real-time monitoring of spending. Ability to suspend use of teen cards, and make transfers back from those cards.
Additional Features: Akimbo provides budgeting capabilities by using multiple subaccounts for specific needs in addition to using subaccounts for teens.
Limits: The card balance limit is plenty adequate for most parents at $9,999. The spending limit is $2,500 per day–certainly sufficient for everyday spending for parents and teens, but lower than the other choices on the list. This might be a factor for the occasional big purchase if you use the Akimbo card as your primary spending card.
Fees: No monthly fee for the primary account or subaccounts. A one-time activation fee of $4.95 for the primary account which includes one free subaccount. Additional cards are $4.95 each. Direct deposits and bank transfers are free, but reload fees to add cash at can be up to $5.00 (at Mastercard rePower and Green Dot Reload @ the Register™ locations). Free signature transactions, but PIN transactions are $.99. No free ATM network–they cost $1.98 plus any ATM operator fees.
What are Prepaid Debit Cards for Teens?
Teen prepaid cards are largely the same as any prepaid debit card. Teens can use the card for spending in the same way. But prepaid cards for teens are different in two primary ways. First, the card can be issued to and used by a minor (usually at least 13 years old). Most prepaid cards can’t.
Second, a teen prepaid card is generally a “subaccount” of the primary card account. The primary account belongs to the parent. That gives parents control over funding the teen card and oversight of the spending. Teens still receive their own personalized card with its separate balance. They can use it for spending and ATM withdrawals the same as the primary card. But they’re limited to the balance in their subaccount.
Why Consider a Teen Prepaid Card?
Teens have money. Teens spend money. Enter the choice. The good news is that parents and teens have several choices in managing money and spending.
Of course, teens can just use cash. But cash is more likely to be lost or stolen, and not surprisingly, most teens make purchases online–68% as of 2016. So, for most teens, cash won’t cut it in 2018. Prepaid debit cards are safer to carry. Visa, Mastercard, and the other payment networks protect against fraud and unauthorized purchases. And teens can use prepaid cards for online purchases.
A separate checking account with a debit card can be a good option, particularly for teenagers that have a job. However, low balance bank accounts can have more fees than prepaid cards–particularly those in our list.
Checking accounts can also increase the risk of overdrawing the account–a risk that might be greater with teens. Overdrawing a checking account can be a costly proposition. Often banks charge up to $35 for overdrawing the account. And they tack on a daily charge of $2-5 until the account balance is positive. Teens can’t overdraw a prepaid card. They can only spend what they’ve loaded on the card.
Credit cards are an option for older teens–some options are available for 16-18 year-olds. Of course, those cards require parents to open the accounts. As a result, parents’ credit is exposed to the risk of late or missed payments.
And some parents object to teens using credit cards on principal. A credit card can teach teens that they can fund their spending with high-interest debt. Not a great lesson for responsible money management. Prepaid cards can help reinforce the idea of spending only what you have.
The Bottom Line
Today’s teen prepaid debit cards offer families a viable financial management tool. They’re safer than cash. They sidestep some risks of a checking account. They avoid funding spending from debt. And they suit how teens spend money in 2018.
We’ve provided our best recommendations with all the details. Now, as we parents like to tell our teens, make good choices.
Best Teen Prepaid Cards–The List
|Prepaid Card||Activation Fee||Monthly Fee|
|1||FamZoo Prepaid Card||$0||$2.50|
|2||American Express Serve®||$0||$1|
|3||Current Prepaid Visa Card||$0||$3|
|4||AkimboTM Prepaid Mastercard||$0||$0|