Greenlight Debit Card for Kids Review (2023)
When I first heard about the Greenlight debit card, I was skeptical. Very, very skeptical. The idea of this app, and handing a kid a debit card, felt like the equivalent of giving them an entire cake and fork. (It can’t end well for either of you!) So, I decided to check out as many Greenlight card reviews as possible before completely dismissing the idea.
I always thought cash was best because it’s something real you can hold in your hand and would be more “painful” to spend. It made sense that using cash would be how we’d dole out allowances and teach our kids about money since they’re very visual and grasp the concept that way.
However, now that they’re a bit older, I’ve realized several things: I never have cash on me and always owe my kids payment for chores (like organizing the playroom) until I can hit an ATM. This also means I never use money in front of them – just a debit or credit card.
So when my nine-year-old asked, I explained the differences between cash, credit cards, and debit cards. While my kid said that she understood, the look on her face told me otherwise. I realized that kids don’t always connect the cash in hand and the plastic card we’re using to buy groceries.
When I stumbled upon the Greenlight debit card for kids, at first, I was pretty appalled at the idea. A debit card for kids? How do I know when my kid’s old enough for a debit card? What’s next – a nose ring? Tattoos? Unlimited fruit juice?? It felt like it would create bad financial habits and was too crazy of a concept until I started doing some digging into Greenlight card reviews.
What is the Greenlight Debit Card for Kids?
The Greenlight debit card for kids is actually a great way to get your kids to do chores and pay them with the least amount of hassle possible. The parent account controls the payments to the debit card, and kids can use them to spend money at parent-approved stores.
Kids learn how to divvy up their earnings into buckets like spending, saving, and giving, so they’re getting real lessons in money management. They can choose how much to earn and how to use their earnings.
Parents get to teach kids financial responsibility without the frustration of badgering them about chore management day in and day out. The Greenlight mobile app is a fantastic motivator for kids with its in-app chore list and recurring allowance options. They either get the tasks done on the listed and checked off, or you don’t send the money.
Greenlight is not a credit card but a prepaid debit card. They cannot charge anything that they don’t have the cash sitting in their bank account to cover.
Some of the features of the Greenlight debit card are:
- Debit cards for up to five kids
- No minimum age or balance required
- No fees for transactions or overdraft fees
- Every account is FDIC insured
- Kids can round up on purchases to add the change to their savings
- Set savings goals and track progress toward them
- Teens with a job can direct deposit their checks (which is better than cashing them at Walmart)
- Users can add the card to Apple Pay & Google Pay to pay instantly
- Balance tracking
- Family members can send monetary gifts to their cards via the website
- Use anywhere Mastercard is accepted
- Works internationally in 150+ countries with no foreign transaction fees
This way, you’re not only teaching them about spending what they have available, but you’re also able to see where and how it’s spent.
Full Parental Control With the Greenlight App
Tied to the debit card is the Greenlight app that both parents and kids can download.
How much you chose to control your kids’ spending is up to you – but for me, the idea that you can block ATMs, stop them from getting cash back at the register, or prevent shopping in specific stores, and even set spending limits, which is a great idea. (While I don’t have teenagers yet, the very idea of this makes me want to crawl under a rock…!).
You can have as much or as little control of their spending as you like.
Parents can pay kids in multiple ways:
- A specific amount added to the card, not tied to a chore or allowance
- A weekly recurring allowance
- One time chores that pay when completed
How does the Greenlight App Work?
The Greenlight app is a great financial tool for kids to learn about saving. They can create multiple savings buckets to learn how to save up for specific things – much like Dave Ramsey sinking funds.
Parents can have as much or as little control over spending, including alerts when the purchases occur. While helicoptering kids might be frowned upon, making sure they’re not breaking household rules is a huge plus.
Features of the Greenlight app include:
- In-app chore list
- Instant transfers
- Instant alerts when the card is used
- Kids can download the app as well to help them track balances, see chore lists, and create savings accounts
- Turn the card on or off through the app in case it gets lost
- Set savings goals and track progress
- State of the art encryption to protect data
- Block unsafe spend categories and don’t let kids get cash back at the register
- Kids can request extra funds if they’re out shopping
How the Greenlight Debit Card Helps Kids Become Financially Savvy
The Greenlight debit card teaches financial literacy for kids, including compound interest, sinking funds, and budgeting.
Compound interest: Parents can choose to pay interest on the kids’ savings account to teach them about compound interest. Choose the interest rate and show them how savings compound over time. Greenlight shows that kids save three times more than the average using household using their app.
Sinking funds and savings goals: Kids can create various savings accounts for different goals, making it easier to focus and reach their objectives.
Budgeting: An essential part of budgeting is reviewing past spending to see how you did the previous month(s). The Greenlight account allows kids to examine and check their spending to see where the heck their money went and figure out how to adjust in the future.
Giving: Children can make donations by moving money to the Give section. Once moved, kids can choose which charity they’re passionate about and want to support. They can look through categories or search for a specific charity and then be redirected to Charitynavigator.org to make their donation.
Is the Greenlight Trustworthy?
I read through many Greenlight card reviews, and I have to say, I think Greenlight is trustworthy. When I dug through Greenlight’s BBB rating (a B), I saw that they had 36 Greenlight complaints, with all of them addressed by Greenlight customer service quickly.
About a third of them had to do with billing, and 2/3s were a problem with the service. However, 28 of the complaints were satisfactorily dealt with and closed.
Other Greenlight card reviews I read elsewhere were good but wanted a specific tweak to the app for things like two-parent wallets for divorced households and the inability to accept payments from other income sources like Paypal, Venmo, Apple Cash, etc.
Greenlight has a 4.8 out of 5 in the Apple App Store, with over 123,800+ ratings! In Google Play, the average rating is 4.0 with 10,400+ reviews.
Greenlight Card Fees
Let’s get down to the question we financially savvy folks always ask: How much is the Greenlight app? The first month is free, and then it’s $4.99 a month for two parents and up to 5 kids. The first card for each kid is free, and then there’s a small replacement fee ($3.50) for lost cards. You can also pay $9.99 to have your kid’s face put on the card if you’re feeling extra fancy.
Can I remove money from the Greenlight card?
There is no way to move money back into your personal accounts after moving it to the Greenlight app, so tread carefully.
Parents have a Parent Wallet on the Greenlight app, where they can pull funds to pay out to their kids. There are three ways you can fund it:
- Automatically add a specific amount to the wallet whenever you hit a certain low funds threshold
- Automatically add a specific amount on the first of the month
- Add any amount of money now
You can read more about how to transfer funds at Greenlight card FAQ section here.
Who owns Greenlight Debit?
Greenlight Financial Technology is the maker of the Greenlight app. It’s a fintech company that’s secured billions in funding from some significant players to teach kids how to earn, save, and donate money. Investors include Canapi Ventures, TTV Capital, BOND, DST Global, Goodwater Capital, Fin VC, and Relay Adventures. You can read more about their investors here.
Greenlight was started in 2014 but did not launch its debit card until 2017. It now has over 2 million parent and kid users, with savings of over $50 million!
Greenlight Debit Card Pros and Cons
During my research through Greenlight card reviews, I found a lot of pros and just a couple of cons to the card:
- More parental controls than any other debit cards for kids
- Teaches important financial lessons
- Can be paused if lost or stolen
- Parents can block spending in specific categories and stores
- In-app chore list to tie work with a payment
- Encourages savings with the ability to set up separate accounts and savings goals
- FDIC insured
- Ability to earmark funds for giving
- No minimum age for kids to have a card
- Accepted anywhere Mastercard is
- You can’t receive money from other sources such as Venmo or Paypal, Apple Pay, etc.
- The flat monthly fee is higher than other cards; however, those offer fewer features
Greenlight has added the ability to let your kids dip their toes in investing early, and with a educational tools to help them make smart choices. This is an additional part to Greenlight that you have to opt into, and won’t be accessible without your approval.
To try out investing, you’ll need to upgrade your plan. While the plan is a couple of dollars more a month ($9.98), you won’t have to pay any fees to trade. It’s an easy way to teach kids the importance of investing with real money, real stocks, and real money lessons. Also, they’ll learn the value of compound interest, and why long term investments are the way to go!
Greenlight Max opens a brokerage account under the parent’s name, but allows the child access to trade (with parent approval). Greenlight Max allows kids to:
- Buy fractional shares of their favorite companies
- Start investing with as little as $1
- Has no additional trade fees
- Parents approve every trade, right from the app
Interested in learning more? You can read more about the Greenlight Max plan here.
Greenlight Card Alternatives
Surprisingly, there are a decent amount of alternatives for debit cards other than Greenlight, like Cash App.
BusyKid also teaches kids how to earn and spend with an in-app chore list. They can earn, save, donate, invest and spend through the app and card. BusyKid is a VISA and has an annual fee of $19.99 for a family subscription. Replacement cards are $7.99.
BusyKid does not allow ATM access and has fees, unlike Greenlight. Kids are charged 61 cents every time they use the card as a credit card rather than a debit.
All donations, stock, or shopping, have to be approved by a parent, which could prove to be frustrating if you’re not shopping with your child.
Parents can provide bonuses or match their kids’ savings to help it grow. Funds are FDIC insured as well.
FamZoo offers prepaid card accounts and IOU accounts. IOU keeps track of what they’ve earned, and you can pay them out in another method besides the app. Using the IOU account might work better for younger kids who are likely to lose their cards.
With FamZoo, kids can do chores and divvy their money up into buckets by percentages, ensuring that every dollar has a place. Parents can also pay interest on savings accounts and allow kids to dabble in investing as well.
Depending upon how many months you want to pay for, the price adjusts. For six months, it’s $25.99 (or $4.33 a month), for 12 months, it’s $39.99 ($3.33 a month), or for 24 months, it’s $59.99 ($2.50 a month).
GoHenry is an FDIC insured Mastercard that lets your kids spend with no risk of overspending or overdrafts so that they can learn with costly mistakes.
What makes Gohenry different is that parents can set weekly spending limits. As with the other cards, parents can turn the card on and off, limit where it’s used, and receive real-time notifications on spending.
Gohenry has an in-app chore list that’s tied to payment, as well as the ability to set up savings goals. Free for one month, then $3.99 per child per month.
So, what is the best way to prepare kids for the real world of plastic? While using cash previously made sense to me, it’s just not always convenient or suitable in today’s digital world.
With Greenlight, you have a hands-on approach to teaching kids how to earn, save and spend based on how they learn, not how we learned.
Ready to learn more about credit cards? Find out what to do if you end up with a negative balance, or how to get them paid off as quickly as possible!
A forty-ish web designer/developer by day, a budget & financial fanatic by night. I’m a mom, wife, avid reader, and DIY enthusiast who’s tracking our journey to debt freedom. Read More
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