Mom wondering if her kids should have debit cards

It’s hard to let go and allow your tween or teen to have a debit card. But learning to manage their money is important practice for the future. The last thing you want is a twenty-something who makes money mistakes that could affect them adversely for years.

Your child’s first experiences with money most likely began the day they got their first piggy bank. Learning how much to save, how much to spend and how much to give to charity are important first money lessons. Older kids still need some instruction, but with things like balancing a checking account and using a credit card, etc. After all, they may have their own income from a part-time job. And since it’s their money, unless what they want to do with it is inappropriate or a danger to themselves, you should let them do it. If they make a mistake and spend their money foolishly or overdraw their account, then those are priceless lessons. You’ve no doubt taught them the value of a dollar. What they need now is hands-on financial experience. So yes, a debit card is a great way to give it to them. Read on to learn what other valuable financial lessons a debit card can help your child put into practice.

A Debit Card Linked to a Savings Account?

Whether your child’s debit card is linked to their savings account is a significant consideration. Most kids get their first savings account when they’re very young. Too young to spend any of their money. This account was likely established to hold savings bonds and gifts from family and friends. Now it’s time for your child to take control of it. Your bank will want you to remain the co-signer on the account, but decisions about the funds in the account should ultimately be up to your child. By now you should have an idea of whether your kid is responsible with money. It’s up to you to decide if they should have debit card access to a savings account, checking account or both.

And since most banking in America today is done online, your kid should be a natural at it. This isn’t to say that trips to the bank to make deposits and withdrawals aren’t important, they are. These trips show your child how to handle funds, complete deposit and withdrawal slips, and interact with bank staff. Showing them how to use the ATM is also paramount as is using a mobile app if your bank offers one. Few if any banks or credit unions deal with passbooks anymore so your child’s account activity will be available online or via email. Encourage your kid to check their monthly statement and report any discrepancies to you. Getting them used to this process will make it that much easier when they’re dealing with larger sums as young adults.

Checking Accounts and Debit Cards

While most people today pay their bills online, a checking account is an important tool since 99% of all debit cards are tied to one. Get your kids used to writing at least one or two checks a month. Urge your child to save all receipts and any deposit and withdrawal slips then reconcile their account against them. (You’d be surprised how few adults know how much money they have in their checking account at any given time and which checks have cleared.) Another great use for a checking account is to clear any paychecks or birthday checks from Grandma.

Debit Cards for Kids

Think of a debit card as the key to a bigger piggy bank. Until payment apps on mobile devices take off or Bitcoin becomes more pervasive, this information-packed card will be your child’s introduction to the world of finance. A debit card can teach your kid about deposits, withdrawals, point-of-purchase sales, online sales—you name it. (Your kids can likely rattle off a few more.) Another good reason to give your child a debit card is for emergencies like missing the bus and having to take a cab. In fact, teaching your child to keep an emergency balance on their card at all times is also an excellent habit for their adult lives.

While you may not have had access to any of these financial tools until you were much older, there’s nothing special about them now. Your kids see you using your debit card all the time. The sooner you get them comfortable handling a debit card responsibly, the sooner you’ll have a financially savvy young adult in the making.

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