I’ve seen lots of companies marketing pre-paid debit cards for kids. They seem to position them as a way parents can set spending limits for their children. Do you think these are a good idea? It seems to me they are just a form of conditioning to get kids to rely on cards.
I agree with your assessment. I don’t recommend pre-paid debit cards for children, except in very unusual situations. Let’s say your kid was going on a trip, and you wanted him or her to have something in their pocket for limited access to cash. But if they’re old enough and responsible enough, I’d rather them have a traditional debit card attached to their own account.
What I really want parents to do is teach their children how to work, give, save and spend wisely. It’s all about teaching your children to become good adults, and handling money is part of the equation. How does that apply to something like a pre-paid debit card for a kid? For the child, they’re looking at it like mom and dad are an ATM. They don’t equate it with real money unless they put their cash into the card.
I suggest helping them open a checking account with a debit card attached around age 15 or 16, provided you have taught them – and they have demonstrated – wise money management practices up to that point. Teach them to reconcile and balance the account, and walk with them when they do this so they don’t slip into the idea a debit card is some magical portal to free money!