When should my child get a debit card?

Getting your child a checking account with a debit card is a good idea at some point, but when do you know the right time?  Here’s what to look for.

The Basics

When it comes to financial education for kids, it’s important for children to master the “big three” of managing money: saving, spending, and giving.  When they get a gift from grandma, they can divide it into these three categories and manage that effectively. This is an important life lesson that simply takes time to learn.  With young children, this is usually best done with cash because it is tangible.  They can see it, touch it, and feel it.  And, they can easily divide cash into these categories with piggy banks or envelopes. 

The Problem

The problem with a checking account is that these three categories are get lumped into one.  There is no division of concepts between saving, spending and giving. So, when you open a checking account for them you will have to teach them how to create these categories themselves.  There are numerous ways to do this. A simple way is to open two savings accounts; one called “savings” and one called “giving.” Any money from jobs or gifts can be directly deposited into the checking account, then appropriate proportions transferred to the two saving accounts at a branch or online.

Teach your child how good credit karma comes from good credit habits.

Make sure you child is comfortable with keeping track of their account and keeping it balanced.  Work through this part step by step every month until they are doing it on their own.  I can hear some of you rolling your eyes now saying, “My child will never do this on their own!”  Work with them and give them some room to work on their own and accelerate their financial education. When there is something they really want to buy, you might be surprised at what they will do!

The Answer 

When your child is accurately balancing their checking account on their own, they’re ready for a debit card. It merely ads convenience to what they are already doing. And you’ll have peace of mind that they are handling their money responsibly.

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About Author

Bill Burpeau
Bill Burpeau

Bill Burpeau is a Financial Wellness Coach at Hanscom FCU. As a Credit Union Certified Financial Counselor, he is an enthusiastic advocate of everyone being engaged in their financial health, educated and empowered to make the best financial decisions for themselves every day. He constantly studies and is up to date with the latest financial management concepts and technology. Bill is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a BBA in Business Management and served in the U.S. Navy as a Supply Officer.

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