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At What Age Can You Get a Debit Card?

By Rebecca Lake · February 14, 2023 · 9 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

At What Age Can You Get a Debit Card?

The minimum age to get a debit card with a checking account at a bank or credit union in your name only is 18. However, it’s possible for kids as young as age six to get a debit card when opening a bank account with a parent. There are also fintech companies that offer debit cards for kids with no minimum age requirements.

Getting your child a debit card can be a great way to introduce them to the basics of money management, as long as you do so wisely. Here, you’ll learn more about this topic, including:

•   At what age can you have a debit card?

•   What are the benefits of a debit card for a minor?

•   When is the right time to get a debit card?

•   What should you look for when choosing a debit card?

Why Do Debit Cards Have Age Limits?

Debit cards have age limits because the age requirement for a bank account is usually set at 18. When you open a bank account, you’re entering into a legal agreement with the bank. Since minors cannot legally enter into contracts, banks require you to be a legal adult in order to open a bank account in your name.

There is, however, an exception to this answer to “When can you have a debit card?” Minors under 18 can qualify for a debit card if they’re opening a bank account with their parent’s help. In that case, banks may agree to issue a debit card that’s linked to a teen checking account for a minor aged 13 to 17 or a joint checking account that’s shared by the teen and their parents.

The minimum age to open a bank account can vary by bank or credit union and go even younger. Chase, for example, offers a bank account for kids as young as 6 that includes a debit card. Parents must be current Chase customers to open the account, and they will own the account.

If you’re interested in getting your child a prepaid debit card that isn’t associated with a specific bank account, there are platforms that allow that with no minimum age restrictions for kids. You can link your child’s debit card to your account to deposit funds and set controls on when and how they can spend the money.

Do Minors Need to Have a Debit Card?

Whether your minor child needs to have a debit card can depend on their financial situation and your personal preferences. Some scenarios to consider:

•   If your teen has a part-time job or runs their own business, then it may be worthwhile to give them a debit card that’s linked to a checking account. They can deposit their paychecks or earnings into their account and use their debit cards to make purchases.

•   Likewise, you might want your child to have a debit card if they have bills they’re responsible for paying. For example, you might expect your 17-year-old to pay for their cell phone or car insurance. If they have a debit card, they could use it to pay those bills themselves, versus you having to pay them and collect the money from your teen.

•   Some parents want their kids to learn how to handle money and think managing a debit card responsibly is a good step in that direction. Still others may want their child to be able to, say, buy a snack after school without carrying cash.

•   Whether a minor should have a debit card can also be a question of maturity and their sense of personal responsibility. If you have a child who’s constantly losing or misplacing their stuff or doesn’t necessarily grasp how money works, then a debit card might do more harm than good. But if your child seems capable and you want to improve their money mindset, it could be a wise move.

Is It Possible to Get a Debit Card as a Minor?

It’s possible to get a debit card as a minor, but a young person will likely need a parent or guardian’s help to do so. The options for getting a debit card as a minor include:

•   Opening a teen checking account at a bank or credit union

•   Opening a joint checking account with a parent or guardian

•   Getting a prepaid debit card

Getting a debit card that’s linked to a checking account may be preferable if you’d like your teen or child to be able to deposit money without you having to reload a debit card. On the other hand, a prepaid debit card may offer more control.

For instance, you might be able to set limits on how much your child can spend per day or where they’re able to use the card.

You can also control when funds are deposited to their prepaid account. If you want them to complete their weekly chores on time, for example, you could make that a condition of adding money to their card.

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Benefits of Having a Debit Card as a Minor

There are several good reasons to consider giving your teen or child a debit card.

•   Financial responsibility. Having a debit card can be a good way for kids to learn how to manage money, including how to budget and prioritize saving. Even if your child’s only source of income is allowance, a debit card can still be a helpful tool for teaching them personal finance.

•   Convenience. If your child has their own debit card, they can use it to pay for things themselves without having to borrow from you and then pay it back later. Carrying a debit card also means your child doesn’t have to keep cash on them, which could get lost or stolen.

•   Online purchases. Using a debit card online can spare teens the trouble of having to visit their favorite stores to shop. They can also use their debit cards to enroll in streaming services or make in-app purchases with your consent.

•   Emergencies. A debit card could come in handy in an emergency situation if your child or teen needs money unexpectedly. For example, if your 16-year-old runs out of gas, they could use their debit card to fill up if they’re near a gas station, without having to call you for help.

In terms of what are debit cards good for, the short answer is quite a bit. Learning how to use a debit card at an early age can make it easier for kids and teens to master more complex financial concepts, such as a student checking account or a credit card, as they get older.

When Is the Right Time to Get a Debit Card?

The right time to get a debit card for a minor depends on the child’s age, maturity, and financial needs, as well as the parent’s comfort level. Generally, it may be a good idea to get your child a debit card if they have some form of income, whether it’s allowance, cash received for good grades, money from working a part-time job, or income that’s the benefit of a side hustle.

If you’re considering giving your child a debit card, it’s important to talk to them about what a debit card is and how it’s designed to work. Your child should understand that when they use their debit card to pay, they’re spending real money, even if cash isn’t physically leaving their hands.

It’s also helpful to discuss safety so they know how to protect their debit card. For example, you can explain that they shouldn’t share their PIN or debit card number or let a friend use their card. You can also go over how to stay safe when using their debit card online or when withdrawing cash at an ATM.

What to Look for When Choosing a Debit Card

If you’re ready to get a debit card for your teen or minor child, there are plenty of options to consider. As you compare different debit cards for kids, here are a few things to keep in mind.

•   Traditional or prepaid. The first thing to consider is whether you’d like to get a debit card for your teen that’s linked to a bank account or a prepaid debit card option. You might check the options at your current bank first to see whether it’s possible to set up a teen or joint checking account with a debit card before looking at prepaid platforms.

•   Fees. Account fees can nibble away at your child’s balance, so it’s important to check the fees you might pay, either for a traditional debit card that’s linked to a bank account or for a reloadable debit card for teens. The list might include out-of-network ATM fees, reload fees for prepaid cards, or monthly maintenance fees.

•   Access. It’s also important to look at how your teen or child will be able to manage and access their money. This may involve deciding whether to opt for a traditional bank vs. an online bank. If you’re opening a teen checking account at a brick-and-mortar bank, they should have branch and ATM access, along with online and mobile banking. An online bank or prepaid debit card might offer online and mobile banking access only.

•   Parental controls. The level of control you’ll have with a debit card for kids or teens can depend on where it’s issued. Your bank may offer debit cards for minors with parental controls built in. But if not, you might need to search for another card option that allows you the level of oversight you prefer.

Recommended: Debit Cards vs. Credit Cards

The Takeaway

Teens and kids may qualify for a debit card, which can build financial literacy and money skills. However, finding the right one for them, with the level of parental control you like and the lowest fees, can take some research.

Opening a free checking account for your teen can be a great introduction to money, and it’s a simple way to give them access to a debit card. You might also be interested in switching banks yourself if you’re ready to take a break from paying high fees.

With SoFi, when you open an online bank account, you can spend and save in one convenient place, earn a competitive annual percentage yield (APY) and pay no account fees, which can help your money grow faster. Plus, qualifying Checking and Savings account holders with direct deposit can get paycheck access up to two days early.

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At what age can a minor have a credit card?

Minors may be added to a parent’s credit card account as an authorized user as young as 13. Otherwise, they’ll need to be at least 18 with their own income in order to get a credit card in their name without a parent’s consent.

Is it better for a minor to have a debit or credit card?

A debit card can be a good stepping stone for a minor to learn how to manage money, without the risk of them creating debt. Once your child begins to learn the fundamentals of finance, you could add them as an authorized user to your credit card to help them learn how credit works.

Do all banks allow minors to have debit cards?

Every bank has its own policy with regard to who can have a debit card or checking account and whether that includes minors. If you’re unsure whether your current bank or credit union offers debit cards for minors, ask them. If the answer is no, you can look around for other banks that have teen or kids checking accounts that include a debit card. Prepaid cards may be another option.

Photo credit: iStock/jacoblund

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