Everything is online now: work, school, photos, music, friends, and even money. Digital platforms make it easier than ever to get money to your child quickly whether you’ve forgotten the fees for your middle-schooler’s field trip or want your driving teenager to pick up dinner on their way home. Learn the most popular options for digital money for parents today.
Digital platforms make it easier than ever to get money to quickly, whether you’re a parent who forgot the fees for your child’s field trip or you’re a teenager who receives an allowance virtually. But not all payment apps are equal. Find out why Apple Pay, Cash App, and children’s debit cards stand out among other players such as PayPal and Google Pay.
- Apple Pay, aka Apple Cash, offers the most monitoring options for parents watching their teenagers’ spending, but may not be accepted everywhere.
- Cash App is one of the few payment platforms that allows teenagers to pay and receive money from friends or others.
- In May 2023, Venmo, the Paypal-owned payments platform, unveiled its Venmo Teen Account, which will allow parents to open a Venmo account and debit card for kids 13 to 17.
- Some of the most popular apps for adults to send money to each other—Zelle and PayPal—don’t allow minors to use them.
- A children’s debit card option, such as Greenlight or GoHenry, may be the best way to monitor your child’s mobile finances while giving them the most flexibility in where they can spend.
Apple Wallet has an option called Apple Cash Family. As a parent or guardian, you can add family members younger than 18 under your own Apple Wallet, which then gives you the control to add money to their account, lock their access to the account, choose to whom they can send money, and set up notifications whenever they make a transaction.
Apple Cash Family gives parents some of the most robust monitoring features of the options described in this article, and is the most flexible to truly be used like cash, as most retailers popular with kids (such as movie theaters, grocery and clothing stores, and popular fast-food places like Taco Bell) accept Apple Pay.
As with most mobile cash apps, if you’re not yet 18, you can’t use Apple Pay to reimburse your friend for movie tickets she bought, for example, but you should be able to buy your own ticket for the show when you get to the theater.
Cash App is available for kids as young as 13, and it’s one of the few mobile payment options that allows a young person to pay someone else or receive funds—up to $1,000 every 30 days, in peer-to-peer transactions.
So if you’re a teenager out with friends from your high school at a big concert, you can pay your classmate back that night for the tickets or food he bought, for example.
To set up a Cash App account for a 13- to 18-year-old child, a parent or guardian will have to approve the account and serve as the account’s legal owner.
Cash App allows parents to get access to their teen’s account activity through monthly statements but doesn’t give instant monitoring options. It also blocks certain types of transactions such as those with bars, liquor stores, dating services, government-run lotteries, and rental cars.
Cash App also has options for cryptocurrency or stock trading if you’re a young investor wanting to learn more about these markets, although users under 18 will require additional approval to access these features through a Cash App family account.
While parents or guardians can pause or cancel their child’s account at any time, Cash App has many fewer monitoring and oversight features for parents than other options like Apple Cash. The biggest upside to Cash App of the options listed is that you can sign up for a Cash Card for your kid, which essentially allows them to use the card everywhere that they could want to spend money, from the mall to a sports arena.
Google Pay is available for teens as young as 13. Parents add a payment method to their Google account and can then limit spending to certain apps or types of purchases as well as require parental preauthorization for every purchase that the child makes.
The biggest downside of Google Pay for kids is that it only works on Google Play. This means that kids can use the family account for in-app purchases or buying new books, movies, games, and so on through Google Play, but they can’t use it to make purchases in brick-and-mortar stores or to send money to their friends or family.
Venmo in May 2023 announced its Venmo Teen Account, which will allow parents to open a Venmo account and debit card for their teenaged kids between 13 and 17 years old. It was to begin offering the service to select customers in June before making it available more widely.
The Venmo Teen Account has no monthly fees or cash withdrawal fees at certain ATMs when using it, although a $400 daily withdrawal limit applies.
The account will require parents to sign up on behalf of their teenagers. Once approved, you can get a teen debit card and parents will be able to send money to their children through the Venmo app. Venmo’s regular user agreement specifically requires users to be at least age 18.
Parents choosing the Venmo Teen Account can protect their children’s privacy by setting all transactions to “private” so that their children’s recurring purchases, locations, and payments aren’t accessible to the public.
Minors aren’t allowed to open PayPal accounts, so if you’re under 18, you’ll have to ask to share an adult’s account.
Similar to PayPal, minors aren’t technically allowed to open Zelle accounts. So if you’re under age 18, a different digital money option probably will work better.
While Zelle and PayPal don’t technically allow minors to open or use accounts, many parents just log in to their own accounts on their children’s devices. This violates the terms of service for these apps and may lead to your account getting shut down permanently.
Consider using an app designed for kids to use instead.
Kids’ Debit Card Options
Because of widespread minimum-age requirements on most digital money platforms, if you’re a teenager, or the parent of one, you might want to look into some of the apps with debit cards that cater to younger spenders and savers. Here are two examples:
Greenlight App and Debit Card
Greenlight offers an app and debit card with the same name for children and teens. It has no minimum age, and plans for up to five kids start at $4.99 a month. An upgrade to the Greenlight Custom Card is possible for a one-time fee of $9.99. Parents load money onto the card from their own Greenlight app for kids to spend.
The Greenlight card can be used almost anywhere its issuer, Mastercard, is accepted, either online or when shopping in a store.
If your teenager has a job, direct deposits into a Greenlight account must be from the child’s employer and in the child’s name. The card doesn’t accept direct deposit from state or federal government sources like Social Security payments, tax refunds, or child support. Greenlight accounts also can’t take payments from Paypal, Venmo, or Apple Cash. Kids under 13 will need a parent to access their account number.
As a plus for security, Greenlight has instituted several “guardrails” for kids’ use of the card, including blocks on transactions such as:
- Wire transfers or money orders
- Security brokers or deals
- Dating/escort services
- Online casinos or online gambling
- Non-sport internet gaming
GoHenry App and Debit Card
The GoHenry app and debit card come with many features for teens and parents, including chore and allowance tracking, real-time alerts, and spending controls for parents to use. GoHenry also offers customer support via phone, email, or chat, seven days a week.
This debit card and mobile app aimed at kids aged 6 to 18 was created by a U.K.-based company. The app offers young users built-in financial education tools, including “Money Missions,” which are interactive financial lessons based on the K-12 Personal Finance Education National Standards.
GoHenry also features savings goals, real-time notifications, and peer-to-peer payments with friends and family. Direct deposit is available for anyone 14 and older. Accounts are FDIC-insured, and the debit Mastercard has chip-and-PIN technology for extra security. The GoHenry debit cards are set apart by the option to choose from more than 45 customizable card designs, including some designed by an artist.
GoHenry’s monthly fee of $4.99 per card (after a free 30-day trial) is comparable with other debit card accounts aimed at kids.
How Safe Are These Digital Money Apps?
As with everything else online, these apps are only as safe as their user allows them to be. Make sure that your teen sets up robust, unique passwords, changes them regularly, and neither shares them with anyone else nor writes them down where someone else could find them.
How Can I Monitor My Child’s Spending?
Most apps have built-in parental monitoring features. For example, Apple Cash only allows kids to spend up to their balance, so if you are trying to limit your child’s spending, you can put just the amount that you’re willing to let them spend into their account.
If you’re unsure whether the app that you’re using allows parental monitoring, you also can require to know your child’s login information before letting them use the app.
What Are Good Alternatives to These Digital Money Apps?
If you’re looking to teach your child basic money management, then a debit card specifically designed for teens with built-in financial education may be your best option. The Greenlight debit card for kids is Investopedia’s top pick among these cards for 2023. It comes with the ability to track spending and savings over time, as well as educational programming and other features that kids and parents alike are sure to appreciate.
The Bottom Line
Are you a teenager who wants a taste of financial responsibility? If you’re their parent, do you want a bit of a break from trying to monitor their spending? An app is a great way to do that. The option from Apple gives the greatest monitoring options, and Cash App gives the greatest flexibility on where and how your kid can spend money. For the most spending options combined with the highest level of monitoring, a debit card specifically for teens will be your best option