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Greenlight Debit Card review: Kickstarting kids’ financial journeys

This kid-centric debit card makes up for its cost with robust money management tools

 /  11 min
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Snapshot

4.2

Bankrate rating
Info
Rating: 4.2 stars out of 5

Bottom line

The Greenlight Debit card is no doubt one of the best debit cards for kids thanks to its comprehensive features and rewards opportunities. Though fees are unavoidable, they should be easy to justify if teaching your child good money habits is a top priority.

4.2
Rating: 4.2 stars out of 5
Bankrate score
Info
See Terms
Info
Recommended Credit

N/A

Regular APR

$4.99 per month

Annual fee

Greenlight Debit Card overview

Instead of letting your child have a run-of-the-mill debit card, you may want to consider a prepaid debit card specifically designed to help kids save money, develop financial literacy and build responsible spending habits.

The Greenlight Debit Card is easily one of your best options thanks to an impressive set of features that helps you not only monitor spending, but also teach your child about money through budgeting, saving, earning rewards and even investing. There’s no minimum age to apply for the card, it’s accepted almost everywhere and you can choose from three Greenlight plan tiers based on your budget and your child’s needs.

  • Credit Card Cash Back

    Rewards

    • 1 percent monthly Savings Boost rewards, or, with the Greenlight Max Plan, 2 percent monthly Savings Boost rewards and 1 percent cash back on purchases

    Expert Appraisal: Exceptional
    See our expert analysis 

  • Credit Card Search

    Rates and fees

    • Monthly fee: $4.99, $7.98 or $9.98 (based on plan)
    • Initial deposit: N/A
    • Early direct deposit? Direct deposit supported, but not early deposit
    • Out of network ATM withdrawal fee: No issuer ATM fee (operator ATM fees may still apply)
    • Overdraft fee: N/A

    Expert Appraisal: Typical
    See our expert analysis 

  • Congrats

    Other cardholder perks

    • Greenlight Gift
    • Greenlight + Invest
    • Savings features (including Savings Boost, Savings Goals, Round-Up and Parent-Paid interest)
    • Exclusive Greenlight Max protections (including purchase protection, cellphone protection and account monitoring)

    Expert Appraisal: Good
    See our expert analysis

Greenlight Debit card pros and cons

Pros

  • Checkmark

    Its spending category and store settings, real-time purchase notifications, customizable chore sheets, automated allowance system and savings options make a comprehensive control suite for parents.

  • Checkmark

    Unlike its rivals, the issuer backs positive habits with up to 1 percent cash back on spending and 2 percent monthly compounded Savings Boost rewards.

  • Checkmark

    One of the few prepaid cards in its class to offer an investing platform — a key, often neglected money management lesson.

  • Checkmark

    You aren’t required to create a new checking or savings account.

Cons

  • The $4.99 to $9.98 monthly plan fees can be more expensive than similar prepaid debit Mastercards for kids.

  • Many of the card’s best perks and rewards to help offset the cost are locked behind the Greenlight Max tier.

  • Money transfers, spending controls and investment actions are tied to the primary accountholder, which may make it difficult for multiple parents or guardians to manage the app without a joint account.

  • Unlike some competitors, it requires frequently managing a mobile app in addition to the physical debit card.

How the Greenlight Debit card works

The Greenlight program is made of three components that both the parent or guardian (the primary accountholder) and the child (sub-accountholder) can use: the sub-accountholder’s debit card, the sub-accountholder’s Greenlight mobile app and the primary accountholder’s mobile app. Kids can use the physical or digital version of the debit card to make purchases, while parents can use the app to:

  • Monitor and approve each purchase as it happens
  • Set general spending limits and limits on specific store or category purchases
  • Create chore lists and one-time tasks for kids tied to an allowance
  • Reload the card balance
  • Set up direct deposits to teens’ cards if they work part-time
  • Freeze and unfreeze each debit card

These features help kids get hands-on experience with budgeting and earning money while giving parents visibility and control over where and how much they spend. 

While many of these features are similar to those you’ll find on other kid-centric debit cards programs, Greenlight offers more in-depth customization options than most.

Why you might want the Greenlight Debit card

The Greenlight debit card offers a unique way to provide financial lessons to a young audience. Not only will young people be able to safely learn ways to manage their money responsibly, but parents also have plenty of opportunity to be just as involved. 

Rewards: Savings Boosts and conditional cash back

Whether you have the most basic plan or the most costly, you’ll still get the chance to earn with the Greenlight debit card’s Savings Boost feature. The baseline is a 1 percent monthly Savings Boost for the lower tier plans. Subscribing to Greenlight Max doubles the Savings Boost to 2 percent, but every tier only earns these rewards on an up to $5,000 average daily savings account balance per family (with a maximum of five cards on your plan). Greenlight Max members also earn unlimited 1 percent cash back on all eligible spending, which gives young cardholders an excellent opportunity to practice earning rewards before they get a full-fledged rewards credit card.

Cardholder perks: Plenty for parents and kids

All Greenlight cardholders get access to unique money management features and basic protections like FDIC insurance and zero fraud liability. All cardholders also get access to Greenlight Gifts, which allows people outside of the immediate family to load money onto a Greenlight Debit card. If you choose a higher tier plan you could access Greenlight + Invest, which allows you to unlock educational modules and parent-approved stock and ETF trading opportunities for your family. Finally, you could benefit from even more protections at the highest tier with cellphone insurance, purchase protection and account monitoring. 

Why you might want a different cash back card

While the Greenlight debit card has a lot to offer when it comes to teaching kids about finances, the costs to access the best of its benefits may not be worth it to some people. And if your primary goal is to build or help your child build credit, you won’t get those perks here. 

Rates and fees: Monthly plan fees can be a pain

No matter which plan you choose with the Greenlight debit card, there will be a monthly fee. While the fee amount depends on what tier you choose, it can be disappointing to have to pay every month for a debit card. Luckily, there aren’t many fees outside of the monthly program fee and you do get to choose how much you pay based on plan, either $4.99, $7.98 or $9.98. You’ll have to decide if the monthly cost is worth the added benefits. 

Credit building: Debit card features don’t include credit-building

One shortcoming of the Greenlight debit card is its inability to contribute to building credit. Since it is a debit card, the issuer won’t report any positive activity to the credit bureaus. If you’re hoping to use a card to help build a child’s credit score early, you may be better off making them an authorized user on a traditional credit card. 

How the Greenlight Debit card compares to other cash back cards

If you’re considering the Greenlight debit card or looking to pair it with another card to add value, you’ll want to think on some key details. The main differentiator between choosing the Greenlight debit card or another credit card could come down to age and costs. 

Image of Greenlight Debit Card
Bankrate Score
Apply now Lock
on Greenlight's secure site

Annual fee

$4.99 per month

Intro offer

N/A

Rewards rate

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

See Terms
Info
Image of Citi Double Cash® Card
Bankrate Score
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
Apply now Lock
on Citi's secure site

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

$200 cash back
Info

Rewards rate

1% - 5%
Info

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info
Image of Discover it® Secured Credit Card
Bankrate Score
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
Apply now Lock
on Discover's secure site

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

Cashback Match™
Info

Rewards rate

1% - 2%
Info

Recommended Credit Score

No Credit History
Info

Who is the Greenlight Debit card right for?

What makes the Greenlight debit card unique is its youth-forward design. Since it’s not a credit card, it’s a bit more manageable for a younger audience. Parents can also exercise a decent level of control over their children’s financial habits. 

Bankrate’s Take — Is the Greenlight Debit card worth it?

If you’re looking for a simple way to help your child learn responsible saving and spending habits, the Greenlight Debit card is easily one of the best kid-centric debit cards on the market. Though you can’t avoid fees, the card comes with a ton of unique tools like customizable chore lists, automated allowances and real-time spending notifications, and the level of money management control you get is more granular than what rival cards offer.

While Greenlight’s Savings Boost makes the basic $4.99 monthly plan a bit more valuable than many competitor offerings, the $9.98 Greenlight Max plan’s flat-rate cash back, higher Savings Boost and other perks should give you the best bang for your buck.

How we rated this card

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We rate credit cards using a proprietary card scoring system that ranks each card’s estimated average rewards rate, estimated annual earnings, welcome bonus value, APR, fees, perks and more against those of other cards in its primary category.

Each card feature is assigned a weighting based on how important it is to people looking for a card in a given category. These features are then scored based on how they rank relative to the features on other cards in the category. Based on these calculations, each card receives an overall rating of 1-5 stars (with 5 being the highest possible score and 1 being the lowest). 

We analyzed over 150 of the most popular rewards and cash back cards to determine where each stacked up based on their value, cost, benefits and more. Here are some of the key factors that influenced this card’s overall score and how the score influenced our review:

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Written by
Ashley Parks
Former Editor, Credit cards

As a Bankrate credit cards editor, Ashley Parks is fascinated by the ways people can make credit cards work for them when armed with the right knowledge.

Edited by Editor, Credit cards
Reviewed by Former Senior Editor, Credit Cards

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Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.