New cashless ways to give your kids allowance — but beware of the fees!

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Ever had your kids ask for allowance money for completing chores — only to find yourself without cash on hand?

A slew of new services that offer a combination prepaid debit card and app have popped up to help out with that.

RELATED: Should you give your kids an allowance? Get Clark’s take!

Take a look at some popular allowance apps

Living in an increasingly cashless and paperless society means fewer opportunities for parents to talk about money management with their children.

T. Rowe Price recently asked kids how often their parents talk with them about money as part of their 8th Annual Parents, Kids & Money Survey.

Only about half (55%) of 1,086 respondents said their parents “occasionally” talk with them about money.

The thing about the money talk is that it’s not a “one and done” conversation with kids; it needs to be an ongoing dialogue in order to instill good financial habits.

That’s where the power of technology can come in. There are a variety of prepaid debit card/app services geared toward parents who want to give their kids an allowance in a cashless age.

Greenlight, Current and goHenry are just a few of the leaders in this market space.

Comparing fees

The basic idea with these services is that they all offer prepaid debit card that works in conjunction with an app on the parent’s phone.

But unlike traditional debit cards — which money expert Clark Howard hates — these prepaid cards have to be loaded with cash by a parent, rather than being linked up to a checking account that’s always ready to be tapped in the traditional way.

The companion app is the means by which a parent can digitally deposit money to the debit card for their child to spend.

Here are some other common features many of these services offer:

  • The ability to define stores or restaurants where a child can spend money, and which ones they can’t
  • Text alerts sent to the parent’s phone whenever the card is used
  • Easy in-app ability to disable the card if it gets lost

Keep in mind all of the these services cost money to use. Here’s a look at how their fees stack up.

Provider Service Fee Fee to load money on card Card replacement fee Card Replacement Express Delivery Fee (optional) ATM use fee
Greenlight $4.99 per month No fee First replacement is free; $3.50 per card subsequent charge $19.95 N/A (Service coming soon)
Current $36 annual fee No fee $5 $10 Free (subject to ATM operator fees)
goHenry $3.99 per month No fee $3.99 N/A $1.50

Clark’s take

These cards are all pitched as being a tool to teach kids about saving.

Greenlight even lets parents reward their children for saving by giving them the ability to offer a self-funded interest rate. The idea is a parent can pay out of their own pocket any interest they wish on whatever money a kids saves instead of spending out of his or her allowance.

Still, Clark isn’t exactly a fan of these services — and his distaste for them has to do with more than just the debit card thing.

“I have a belief until a kid is mid-teens, the best way to teach them discipline with money is to go back to the old days and give them cash,” the consumer champs says.

“Or they earn cash that they then have to spend. And as they see the money dwindle down, they understand the whole concept that there’s only so much money.”

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Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo has co-written several books with Clark Howard, including the New York Times #1 bestseller Living Large in Lean Times. As a single widowed parent of two young children, he strives to bring unique savings tips to men and women like him who must face life without their spouses. He can be reached at [email protected]
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