These fintech startups help kids and teens gain financial literacy

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Financial literacy doesn’t make its way into many U.S. school curriculums despite research that kids’ interactions with money can shape their relationship with it later in life.

A 2013 study from Money Advice Service (authored by behavior experts at Cambridge University) found that adult money habits are formed at age seven. Data like this may make you wonder what you can do to teach your kids healthy financial habits.

In recent years, startups offering products specifically for kids and teens (controlled by parents) have entered the landscape with the goal of teaching responsible money management to young generations.

 

Greenlight Current gohenry Step
Products

Mastercard debit card

App

FDIC insured accounts

Visa debit card

App

FDIC insured accounts

Mastercard debit card

App

FDIC insured accounts

Mastercard debit card

App

FDIC insured accounts

Age range No minimum age (must be 13 and over to create an account by one’s self) None specified Ages 6 to 18 13 and up (if under 18, additional help required to signing up from a parent or legal guardian)
Cost $4.99 per month, debit cards for up to 5 kids $36 per teen, per year $3.99 per month, per child Free
Fees No transaction, transfer or overdraft fees No overdraft fees, activation fee or inactivity fees

 

3 percent foreign transaction fee

$1.50 ATM withdrawal fee

$2.00 international ATM withdrawal

2.75 percent foreign transaction fee

$4.99 for lost, stolen or damaged card replacement

No monthly fee or overdraft fees
Security Data encryption

Parent-controlled card PIN

Ability to turn off debit card via app

Fingerprint and Face ID lock for app

Ability to pause card

PIN-protected transactions

Ability to block card

Zero liability policy

Fraud protection

Ability to pause and lock account

Greenlight

Greenlight offers a debit card for kids, controlled by parents, and an app through which to manage it.

“I have four kids, two boys, two girls, so [Greenlight] kind of came from necessity being the mother of invention where we needed to be able to give our kids money, but my wife and I weren’t able to carry cash very frequently,” says Tim Sheehan, co-founder and CEO of Greenlight. “We were making all of our purchases with credit cards and debit cards and thought, ‘There has to be a better way’”.

The app offers different experiences for parents and their kids, with tools for things like automated allowance payments and chore management.

“The idea is that if [kids] can actually learn to save and invest and make it a habit, then they’ll take that habit with them into adulthood,” Sheehan says.

For parents…

Parents can make instant fund transfers to their child, set spending limitations, automate monthly or yearly allowance payments and create one-time chores for additional allowance. They can also:

  • Set up notifications based on their child’s spending
  • Create ATM access and withdraw limitations
  • Block and unblock their child’s card from the Greenlight app

As an incentive for kids to save, the app offers parents the ability to set parent-paid interest rates on their kid’s account. According to Sheehan, child users have saved over $10 million with the feature.

“Kids start to see compounding interest play out over a multiple of months, and that’s a topic that would normally be really hard to explain to a child,” says Sheehan. “The fact that it’s real money and it’s tangible and there’s a physical card, all of these things reinforce the learning process.”

Greenlight charges $4.99 a month for up to five kids per plan.

For kids…

Within the Greenlight app, kids can monitor their balances within “Spend,” “Save” and “Give” accounts, create savings goals and budgets, set up direct deposits for paychecks and receive money from family members and friends.

Get the app

To get started with Greenlight, go to greenlightcard.com and enter your mobile phone number for one month free.

Current

Unlike products on the market targeted at children with controls for parents, Current’s product offerings are designed for teens aged 13 to 17 and modern families, says Adam Hadi, vice president of marketing at Current.

“We’re more focused on setting teens on the path to financial responsibility and independence at a young age and having the opportunity to be their first bank account,” Hadi says.

Current offers both personal checking and teen banking options. Teens receive a Visa debit card and have the ability to manage their purchases, create budgets and perform other financial tasks with their account ultimately controlled by a parent. Both teens and parents utilize the Current app, just with different experiences.

What sets Current apart from similar teen money management apps is its round-ups tool. By opting into round-ups, each purchase is rounded up to the nearest dollar and the additional change is deposited into “Savings Pods”. These pods function as a way to save money toward a goal and make that money unavailable for purchases. Teens also have the opportunity to donate money earned from goal-setting to their charity of choice.

Current costs $36 per teen per year.

For parents…

After signing up for an account and connecting their bank via the Current app, parents can link their account to their teen’s for full visibility into their child’s balances and purchases. They can also assign chores and schedule automated allowance payments for completing them.

For parents concerned about where their teen is spending, there’s an option to block spending within specific business categories. They can also:

  • Instantly deposit or transfer money
  • Create and track chores for their teen
  • Set limits on daily spending and ATM withdrawals
  • Receive notifications based on their teen’s account activity
  • Turn their teen’s card on and off in case of loss or theft

For teens…

A teen’s account separates into a few categories: “Spending Balance,” “Savings Balance,” “Primary Balance” and “Giving Balance.”

The Spending Balance is linked to the teen’s card, meaning each time they spend, money will be drawn out from this category. Under their Savings Balance, the teen can save money toward a certain goal or in general, while the Primary Balance shows the total amount of a teen’s account. Giving goals and donations can be found in the Giving Balance section. Teens users can also:

  • Set savings goals, track spending and manage their budget
  • Send and receive money through the app
  • Set up a direct deposit for paychecks
  • Receive and complete chores from their parents

The aging-out process of Current is pretty streamlined. Once a teen turns 18, they receive a notification that they’re eligible to graduate to a Current checking account. This process can be completed through the Current app.

Get the app

You can try Current free for 30 days by going to current.com/teens or downloading the app.

Gohenry

Gohenry offers an app and reloadable debit card for kids (controlled by parents) with a goal of teaching financial responsibility to youngsters ages six to 18. The idea, according to co-founder and U.S. EVP Dean Brauer, was born out of behavioral research within the founders’ own families.

“Kids spending behavior has moved from going down to the 7/11 and buying candies and a magazine with cash to making digital purchases,” says Brauer. “Before gohenry launched, kids were actually blocked out of a digital payment world — they had to use their parent’s credit cards to buy stuff on iTunes. This is why gohenry started, because we noticed that behavior.”

Gohenry first launched in the U.K. and now holds a community of over 800,000 active users in the United States. The service charges $3.99 per month.

For parents…

Parents can control up to four accounts from their own, with the ability to set savings goals for their child, make instant money transfers, determine if their child’s card can be used online, in-store and at ATMs and block and unblock their card from use. Parents can also:

  • Set spending limits on their child’s account (either weekly or one-time limits)
  • Create recurring allowance transfers
  • Receive real-time notifications based on their child’s spending

For kids…

Kids can set savings goals, track spending based on online and offline spending, complete tasks and chores for money, manage parent-created tasks and even customize the physical card.

Within gohenry’s giving feature, kids can currently make parent-monitored donations to Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The feature originated from customer feedback, says Brauer. “Kids were looking for a way to help other children who need it the most.”

Get the app

You can join gohenry free for one month by heading to gohenry.com/us/ and signing up with the promo code “PROMOSIGN.”

Step

Step offers a mobile bank account and debit card for no fee and aims to teach financial literacy and responsibility to young adults.

“We’re taking a slightly different approach by establishing relationships slightly earlier and starting off more with teenagers and young adults,” says CJ MacDonald, founder and CEO of Step. “We really want to become that first bank account, that first spending card.”

The main draw of Step is its automatic 2.5 percent interest on the money within users’ accounts. This percentage applies to all money in their account, including savings, and does not require a minimum balance. Interest is calculated on a day-to-day basis and deposited into a user’s account once a month.

For teens…

Step gives teens and young adults the ability to send and receive money, deposit checks and track balances (while earning interest on their balances). There aren’t any monthly fees, overdraft fees or minimum balance requirements to hit.

There’s also Step Squad, a brand ambassador program for students aimed at promoting the app on college campuses. Read more about how to join the ambassador program, here.

Get the app

Step isn’t yet available to the public, but you can join the waitlist at step.com. When you receive access, invite friends and earn $1 each if they sign up.