Debit cards for kids are essentially like credit cards with training wheels — your children get a bit of financial freedom, but you still get to oversee transactions and set limits on their spending.
Greenlight and Current are two companies that offer debit cards for kids and teens with parental control tools. Here, we break down the features of each one and how they compare head-to-head to help you decide which one might be the best for your family.
Greenlight vs. Current
Greenlight and Current both have similar parental controls. In the app for each card account, you can decide where kids can shop and you can set daily spending limits. Below is an overview of the monthly fees, age requirements, and features of each card.
|Card type||Debit card||Debit card|
||$36 per year (or $3 per month)|
|Age requirement||No minimum age||13|
|Best for...||Parents who want tools to help teach kids how to budget, save, and invest.||Parents looking for an affordable and easy way to transfer money to teens.|
*Available with the Greenlight + Invest plan
**Available with the Greenlight Max plan
How does Greenlight work?
Greenlight is a company that offers debit cards for kids with tools that can help parents teach lessons on earning, saving, giving, and investing. Greenlight lets kids divide money up into three accounts for spending, saving, and giving. The savings account can earn parent-paid interest, which is a percentage you choose to pay on the first of each month.
With a Greenlight account, you can track your child’s spending, set controls on where they can shop, and turn the card on and off. To help them reach savings goals faster, you can also set up purchase round-ups. This will round up each transaction to the nearest dollar and save the difference.
To add money, you can use a bank account or debit card as a “funding source” to load money into your Parent’s Wallet. Then you can transfer money from your Parent’s Wallet to your child’s debit card when you choose, and there’s also an option that allows you to set up automatic weekly transfers. Transfers to your Parent’s Wallet from a debit card can happen instantly, but transfers from an external bank account could take three to four business days.
Debit cards through Greenlight are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and this means up to $250,000 of the cash is covered if the company closes. Upgrading your account to Greenlight + Invest or Greenlight Max unlocks additional features and protections. Under the Greenlight + Invest plan, your child gets the perks of the debit card, plus the capability to invest in fractional shares with no trading fees.
Under the Greenlight Max plan, your family can benefit from identity theft monitoring, cell phone protection that covers phone damage or theft, and purchase protection that may cover repair or replacement of items if something your child buys is broken or stolen.
For a full breakdown of Greenlight features, read our Greenlight review.
How does Current work?
Current is an online bank that offers teen debit cards with an app that provides parental controls. You can choose how much your child can spend per day and limit shopping at certain merchants. You can also set up automatic transfers to send an allowance to your child daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.
The primary way to fund your teen’s account is external by bank transfer, which can take three to five business days to process. However, Current offers two ways to get faster transfers:
- Qualify for instant direct deposit. Current offers an instant transfer option to people who complete a trial period, pay the $36 annual subscription fee, and establish good account history.
- Open your own Current account. If you open a Current account, funds that you’ve added to your account can automatically be transferred to a teen account.
Teens can use Current accounts for spending and saving. Current lets you set savings goals using the Savings Pods feature, and you can stash cash by setting up roundups that round transactions to the nearest dollar and save the difference.
Although your kids get some freedom to swipe, you also have the power to guide their spending by turning on and off the card and setting a daily usage limit. And although it won’t protect your funds if your teen overspends, up to $250,000 of your money is backed by FDIC insurance, so you can rest assured knowing money is guaranteed in the event that the company goes under.
For a full breakdown of Current features, read our Current review.
What both companies excel at
Both Greenlight and Current offer easy-to-use mobile apps that could help you teach teens how to manage money. With each one, you can set up allowance transfers, savings goals, and spending limits.
If you want to give your kid some freedom to make financial choices but you don’t want them spending all their allowance on gaming or Amazon shopping, these apps give them space to make money management decisions within limits that you set. Greenlight is also compatible with Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay; and Current is compatible with Apple Pay.
Greenlight and Current both have a savings roundup feature that can show kids how even small amounts of money can accumulate. Both cards also have small or no initial deposit requirements, so you can get started without a lot of money.
Lastly, the best banks make it clear how much you’ll pay for monthly fees and various transactions, and both Current and Greenlight are transparent about pricing.
5 important differences between Greenlight and Current
Although the two companies have some similarities, there are some key differences between what Greenlight and Current offer. Here are the biggest differences you should know:
- You can invest with Greenlight. With Greenlight + Invest or Greenlight Max, kids get the option to invest with as little as $1. This feature could help you illustrate the power of investing and compounding interest. Current doesn’t currently offer an investing option.
- Greenlight offers a few more protections. The Greenlight Max service tier includes purchase protection, cell phone protection, and identity theft protection for the whole family (with some restrictions; for example, cell phone protection is limited to five kids).
- Greenlight lets you fund the kid’s account with debit cards. With Current, you fund and reload your child’s account using your bank account. Greenlight lets you fund accounts with debit cards and bank accounts.
- Greenlight is for all ages and Current is for teens.: To qualify for a Current account, the child has to be at least 13 years old; meanwhile, there’s no age requirement for the Greenlight debit card.
- Current has no minimum balance requirement. For Greenlight, you need to make an initial upload of $10 to your Parent’s Wallet to get started, followed by a minimum deposit of $1 if you’re using a connected bank account or $20 if you’re funding the account with a debit card. Current doesn’t set deposit minimums or maximums.
Which banking product should you choose?
Which banking product you should choose between Greenlight and Current depends on your goals and your preferences for how to manage your money. If you’re simply looking for a way to send money to your child so they can have cash for lunch, gas, or the occasional shopping trip, Current could help you do this without racking up high fees.
The Current card has a low annual fee, no minimum balance, no overdraft fees, no transfer fees, and no activation fees. Current could cost less per year than Greenlight because the base Greenlight tier costs about $60 per year and Current charges $36 for the year.
However, for a kid to get the most value from Current, you may need to open your own personal Current account. Otherwise, you may not be able to send money quickly until you qualify for instant transfers. Standard transfers from an external account into Current could take three to five business days and might not be helpful if your teen calls needing cash to fill up their gas tank in an emergency.
Although the Current debit card may be good for day-to-day spending, the Greenlight may be a better tool for providing money lessons because there are more features that can help you create teachable moments. For example, Greenlight has educational content, and you can teach about how interest on savings works because of the parent-paid interest feature. Plus, if you upgrade the account, your child can learn how to invest.
Is Greenlight legit?
Greenlight is a legitimate company offering Mastercard debit cards that parents can control through an app. Greenlight cards are issued by Community Federal Savings Bank, an FDIC-insured bank. Because of the FDIC insurance, up to $250,000 of the cash in your account is guaranteed in the event the company fails.
Is Current legit?
Current is a legitimate company that offers online banking, mobile payment services, and Visa debit cards to adults and teens. Choice Financial Group is the Current card issuer and is an FDIC member. As such, up to $250,000 of money on your card is covered by FDIC insurance.
Does Greenlight or Current have a savings account?
Both Greenlight and Current offer accounts that kids can set up to stash away savings. You can fund their debit card first and then move money to other accounts to meet savings goals.
With Greenlight, you can also set up parent-paid interest. You decide the percentage and your child’s savings will earn that interest rate each month. Kids also have to request to move money from savings, which could help you teach when is or isn’t a good time to dip into savings.
What are some alternatives to Greenlight and Current?
Besides Greenlight and Current, FamZoo, gohenry, and BusyKid are other prepaid debit card options you could consider using to teach children and teens how to manage cash.
Here’s an overview of what each company has to offer:
- FamZoo: FamZoo provides a prepaid debit card with budgeting tools, savings tools, instant money transfers, scheduled transfers, and activity alerts for kids and parents.
- gohenry: gohenry offers custom prepaid cards for kids with spending controls, real-time notifications, and the ability to block and unblock the card.
- BusyKid: BusyKid is a prepaid debit card for kids designed as an account to deposit their allowance. You can monitor your kids’ spending and BusyKid offers an investment option where kids can enter the market with as little as $10.
The bottom line
It’s never too early to teach kids good financial habits. Lessons on how to budget and the power of saving can benefit them as they grow and get ready for college. Although hypothetical lessons about money could be a good starting point, at some point, it’ll be time for them to get some practice with their own cold-hard cash.
Greenlight and Current both make it easy to introduce children and teens to managing money with oversight from you. Current teen banking could be a good choice if you’re looking for an account with parental controls to transfer cash and teach everyday spending lessons.
Greenlight offers the option to invest, and that could make it the better choice if your goal is to teach them about long-term saving and wealth-building. Greenlight is also open to kids of all ages and not just teens, so if your kid is under 13 years old, it could be the better fit.