Can My Under-18 Have a Debit Card?

Giving a child a card for their spending can be a good way of teaching them about managing their money and monitoring their spending. It can also help teach them about banking in general, as it will be linked to a children’s bank account.

A card is also a safer option than carrying cash around, as if it is lost or stolen you don’t necessarily lose the money.

What Kind of Card Can My Child Have?

Most children’s bank accounts come with the option to choose either a cash card (which can only be used for withdrawing cash from an ATM) or a debit card, which works just like a debit card on an adult bank account.

If you choose the debit card option, your child will be able to use the card anywhere that accepts payment by card, as well as using it to withdraw cash from their account.

What Are the Pros?

As above, giving your child a debit card reduces the need for them to carry physical cash around, which can easily be lost, misplaced or stolen.

It also gives your child greater visibility of what they are spending their money on, and you can use their statements or online banking facility to teach them how to keep track of their spending, and the importance of doing so.

Because the debit card will be linked to a children’s bank account, there is no danger of your child being able to spend more than they have. This type of account won’t be offered with an overdraft facility, so they’ll only be able to spend money that’s physically in their account.

What Are the Cons?

Your child’s debit card won’t come with any parental controls. This means you’ll only have visibility of where they are spending their money if you’re able to see their statements.

You won’t be able to temporarily freeze the card, set spending limits or prevent them from drawing out all of their cash (up to the £300 daily cash-machine limit).

Because the card will be accepted anywhere that takes card payments, in theory your child could use their debit card at places like gambling sites, off-licences or adult stores (though of course the proprietor should be abiding by the legal age restrictions).

Are There Any Alternatives?

If you think your child isn’t ready or mature enough for a debit card, or you’d simply prefer more control, you could opt for prepaid card instead. Prepaid cards are currently available for children aged 6 and over (sometimes 8 and over) in the UK from RoosterMoney, Nimbl, Osper and GoHenry.

With this option, you open the account and receive a Visa or Mastercard debit card you can give to your child. You put cash into the account and this gives the card a balance for your child to spend – it works exactly like a debit card and is accepted by most retailers in the UK, with payments made via chip and pin or contactless payments.

Prepaid cards come with an app that can be downloaded by both the child and the parent. The app gives you, as the parent, the ability to freeze the card temporarily, set spending limits and monthly allowances, and see exactly where and when money is spent. You can even set up text alerts when the card is used.

Certain places (e.g. gambling sites, off-licences, adult stores) are blacklisted, which means the prepaid card simply won’t work at those places.

The main drawback with a prepaid card is that they have fees attached. Usually there is a monthly or annual fee (usually between £15 and £40 a year) and sometimes there is a small fee (around 50p) for drawing cash out at an ATM.