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Updated on Thursday, September 3, 2020
The Greenlight debit card is a prepaid debit card with an accompanying app that allows you to distribute your child’s allowance while teaching them about basic financial concepts like saving, spending, giving and interest. It’s designed for families who do not deal with a lot of cash on a day-to-day basis, and are comfortable paying a monthly fee to easily distribute their child’s allowance.
The Bottom Line: The Greenlight debit card is a moderately priced prepaid card that helps parents teach their children basic financial concepts.
- Easily distribute your child’s allowance
- Account funding options are limited
- You may want to research Greenlight’s partner bank
- Greenlight debit card features
- Greenlight debit card fees and fine print
- Greenlight debit card pros and cons
- Is the Greenlight debit card safe?
- How to open a Greenlight debit card
- Alternatives to the Greenlight debit card
- Is the Greenlight debit card right for you?
Greenlight debit card features
The Greenlight debit card allows you to issue your child an allowance – whether you want to tie it to a chore list or not. Once your child receives their allowance, they will be able to divvy up their money between their savings, spending and giving categories.
This debit card must be funded with a parent account. If your child is old enough to have a job, they can also fund their card with their paycheck via direct deposit. Your child will be able to use their Greenlight debit card almost anywhere that Mastercard is accepted.
- Make instant transfers: As long as you have funded your parent account, you will be able to make instant transfers into your child’s account via the Greenlight app.
- Incentivize specific chores: You can set one-time or recurring chores for your child, complete with deadlines. If your child completes the chore on time, they’ll be rewarded with a cash bonus paid by you.
- Automate allowance: You can also use the Greenlight app to set up your child’s allowance to be paid weekly, biweekly or monthly, independent of a chore list.
- Receive real-time notifications: Any time your child uses their Greenlight debit card, you will receive a real-time notification, telling you how much they’re spending and where. You will also get notifications if your child’s card is declined for any reason.
- Institute spending guardrails: Because the Greenlight debit card is for kids, it comes with some safety features in place. Your child won’t be able to spend money at certain businesses related to adult entertainment, gambling, securities trading, wire transfers and more. Parents also can set up additional spending and store limits through a feature the app calls ‘greenlights.’
Greenlight debit card fees and fine print
Greenlight’s debit card comes with a monthly fee, which is not uncommon for a prepaid card built to issue an allowance. However, there’s no way to waive or reduce this fee. The Greenlight debit card pays no interest and does not allow for cash deposits.
Outside of the monthly fee, the only other Greenlight card fees are for card personalization and replacement. While Greenlight doesn’t charge any fees for ATM withdrawals, you may still incur fees charged by ATM owners if your child decides to make a withdrawal.
|Greenlight Debit Card Fees|
|Monthly fee||$4.99 per month after the first month|
|ATM withdrawals||$0, though ATM owners may charge fees|
|ATM balance inquiry (in-network or out-of-network)||N/A|
|Card personalization fee||$9.99|
|Card replacement fee||Up to $3.50 for regular delivery
$24.99 for expedited delivery
There are several limitations to be aware of with your Greenlight card, especially when it comes to minimum and maximum load amounts. The first time you load your card, you must fund it with at least $20 from your debit card or via an ACH transfer. After that, the amount you can load will depend on the method of transfer.
There are no age minimums or maximums for a Greenlight card; it can be used for any child, even if they’re no longer a minor.
|Greenlight Debit Card Limits|
|Maximum balance||$5,000 per child account
$10,000 per parent account
|Minimum and maximum load amounts via ACH||$1-$200/day
|Minimum and maximum load amounts via debit card||$20-$500/day
|Minimum and maximum load amounts via direct deposit||$1-$5,000/month|
|ATM withdrawals maximum||$100/day per child account
$500/day per family
|Purchase amount maximum||$1,000/day on point of sale purchases per family
$5,000/month on point of sale purchases per family
Greenlight debit card pros and cons
- Set chores and regular allowance: With the Greenlight app, you can set chores that pay your child upon completion. You can also automate a regular allowance not tied to any specific chores.
- Set meaningful interest rates: Most bank accounts aren’t currently paying enough interest to make a meaningful difference to those with a child-sized bank account balance. If you’re trying to teach your child about interest in a meaningful way, Greenlight allows you to set your own parent-paid interest rate. Bear in mind that you will be paying this interest to your child out of your own pocket; Greenlight will not pay any interest.
- Monitor your child’s spending: Greenlight notifies you every time your child spends, saves or gives money to make it easier for you to keep track.
- Create age-appropriate spending limitations: Because the Greenlight card is built for children, it has protections built in. Your child will not be able to use their card for wire transfers, money orders, security brokers or deals, dating or escort services, massage parlors, lotteries, online gambling, internet gaming, horse or dog racing or getting cashback on point-of-sale purchases.
- Monthly fee: There is a $4.99 monthly fee to use Greenlight after the first month. There is no way to avoid this fee.
- No interest paid by bank or app: While most bank accounts don’t currently pay meaningful interest, they do tend to offer some type of interest. The only interest paid on a Greenlight card is paid out of the parent’s own pocket.
- Partner bank under OCC supervision: The partner bank that holds the money for your Greenlight debit card is currently under the supervision of the Office of the Comptroller for Currency (OCC) due to its past practices. However, payment systems are in compliance and the bank is FDIC-insured.
- Cannot deposit cash: You cannot deposit cash onto your Greenlight card. Greenlight’s suggested workaround is depositing the cash into your funding account, then transferring it to your Greenlight account.
Is the Greenlight debit card safe?
The Greenlight card is safe in and of itself. It is a Mastercard, and any photos or personal information you submit via the app are encrypted. Greenlight has customer service representatives available via email or phone, and its partner bank is compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. All accounts carry FDIC insurance through Community Federal Savings Bank (CFSB), Greenlight’s partner bank.
However, CFSB is currently under oversight from the OCC. The OCC got involved because of what it describes as “unsafe or unsound practices, including those relating to the Bank’s strategic planning processes and earnings.” CFSB has been under this oversight since 2011.
How to open a Greenlight debit card
If you’re interested in opening a Greenlight debit card, here’s how to get started:
- Sign up for the app: You can sign up for a Greenlight card via your online device. You will be asked for the following information:
- Phone number
- Email address
- Legal name
- Mailing address
- Date of birth
- Social Security number
- Add another parent and children: You also will need to provide your child’s or children’s legal name to sign them up for their own Greenlight debit card. You can have up to five children per account. You can also add another parent to the account if you so choose.
- Add money to your Greenlight card: You will need to provide bank account or debit card information in order to initially fund your account as a parent. From there, you’ll be able to allot money toward each child’s account. You can set up auto-funding or one-time transfers.
- Set parent-paid interest: If you so choose, you can add an interest rate to your child’s account. However, this interest will be paid by you as the parent. Neither CFSB nor Greenlight will pay any interest on the account.
- Create a chore list or regular allowance: You will have the option to set up an incentivized chore list for your child, complete with due dates. Alternatively, you can set up an allowance paid at regular intervals independent of a chore list.
After you’ve set up your account, discuss the concepts of spending, saving and giving with your child. Once you have received their Greenlight card, they will be able to allocate their money toward each category.
Generally, you can expect your card to arrive within five to 10 days of signing up. If you pay for expedited shipping, it will arrive sooner.
You can cancel your Greenlight card at any time with no fees by contacting customer service.
Alternatives to the Greenlight debit card
A Greenlight debit card presents a solution for those who want to streamline allowance distribution. But if you’re less concerned about the allowance tools and more concerned about interest, fees or building your child’s credit, there are more appropriate alternatives on the market.
Consider a checking account for kids
The Greenlight app makes distributing an allowance easy, but it comes with several drawbacks when compared to a traditional kids’ checking account. While some financial institutions may charge a monthly maintenance fee for a child’s bank account, you often have the ability to get this fee waived.
A checking account is more likely to pay interest, though the amount of interest may be marginal. Your child will also be able to deposit cash, and is more likely to have access to fee-free ATMs. You may lose the slick interface of the Greenlight app, but you can issue your child an allowance by setting up one-time or recurring ACH transfers from your bank account to theirs.
Check out other prepaid cards for teens
There are other prepaid cards for teens on the market, specifically for parents interested in being able to issue an allowance. Greenlight has two main competitors that also offer debit cards for kids: FamZoo and GoHenry.
FamZoo vs. Greenlight
Card personalization fee
Card replacement fee
|Greenlight||$4.99 per family account||None||$9.99||Up to $3.50|
FamZoo does have a higher monthly fee than Greenlight, but it can be lowered if you pay in advance rather than on a monthly basis. FamZoo does not charge fees for ATM withdrawals and is a part of the MoneyPass network, allowing you to dodge fees charged by ATM owners.
There are no card replacement fees, though if you want more than four cards you will have to pay $2 per additional card. FamZoo offers more ways to get money – including cash – onto your card, though some of those transfer methods do come with additional fees.
GoHenry vs. Greenlight
Card personalization fee
Card replacement fee
|GoHenry||$3.99 per child||$1.50||$4.99||$0-$4.99|
|Greenlight||$4.99 per family account||None||$9.99||Up to $3.50|
At first glance, GoHenry’s prepaid debit card for teens and children looks less expensive than Greenlight’s option. Card personalization is less expensive, and the monthly fee is lower than Greenlight’s at $3.99. However, this fee is charged for each child account with GoHenry, which adds up quickly. With Greenlight, in comparison, the $4.99 fee covers up to five kids.
GoHenry also charges a fee for each ATM withdrawal in addition to any fees charged by the ATM owner.
Is the Greenlight debit card right for you?
If you’re looking for a way to distribute your children’s allowance digitally, Greenlight’s prepaid debit card is an option to look into. While it does come with fees, costs are fairly middle-of-the-road when compared to direct competition. The primary value you’re likely to get out of the Greenlight debit will be derived from the financial teaching tools and allowance distribution system.
However, if you’re looking for a lower-cost way to get your child a debit card, you may want to look into a traditional checking account instead – preferably one offered by a financial institution that has not had cause to be investigated by the OCC.
Any fees, rates, or other pricing in the article are accurate as of 9/3/2020. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer’s website.