On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a gift card that can be used anywhere, without affecting credit.
In that social netherworld of tweens and early teens where peer pressure to carry plastic can become overwhelming, a prepaid card can serve as a welcome relief valve.
"The prepaid card is completely unforgiving; when there is no more money on the card, your child has to stop using it," says Seaman. "If your child doesn't respond to self-direction, if they don't respond to gentle guidance, if they need hard-and-fast boundaries, then the prepaid card is the way to go."
Levine agrees: "Rather than giving your child a weekly or monthly allowance, you could say, 'Here (is) X amount of dollars, and you need to figure out how to make it last,'" she says.
"But it is a mistake to think that a prepaid card helps prepare students for credit cards. It doesn't," she says. "It doesn't involve payments or interest or a credit score. It's not a credit card on training wheels. The similarities between a prepaid card and a credit card are on the spending end, not on the paying-back end. And the spending end is where our kids need the least amount of help."