$$ for teens in the modern age?
November 18, 2018 12:21 PM   Subscribe

Parents of Metafilter: how do you give your teenager money when they're going out with friends? I know there's some way to have a limited credit card or debit card situation, so I'm not always scrambling for cash. I'm talking small amounts -- $20 or $30 max, frequently less. Something that I can load/reload when I want to, but that has some sort of controls so teen doesn't go wild.

I'll take any advice you want to lay on me, other than "Don't give your kid money, let him figure out credit for himself." Thanks.
posted by BlahLaLa to Work & Money (28 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I would just give cash, to be honest. Is there some reason why this isn't working for you? Cash is inherently limited, it's likely to be accepted for whatever your teenager is doing, and it's easy to tell whether or not you have enough of it. It's easy to give a friend a little cash to pay them back for something, or use it to chip in for a meal or whatever. Personally I rarely use cash but if I'm going out and doing something social in a group that's like the one situation in which I'll make a point of having some.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:30 PM on November 18, 2018 [6 favorites]

This is an answer that is tightly dependent on your relationship with your individual child and your assessment of their good sense/judgment/obedience -- it's what I did, and it worked great, but I wouldn't exactly advise anyone else to do it because when I say it out loud it sounds kind of insanely trusting. I gave my kids a credit card on my account, with instructions not to use it unless in an emergency (cab home from a problem situation, or, I dunno, emergencies are unpredictable) or with specific permission from me for each usage. The upside -- super convenient. The downside -- the kid could buy a car or something, which would be a huge hassle to unwind. The only control I relied on was watching my cc account online carefully, to make sure I wasn't seeing unauthorized charges.

I did have one or two minor incidents with my daughter of unauthorized charging (not a car. More, lunches) leading me to take back the card for a while, but other than that, it worked fine. Still, it depends on having basically reliable children, which I mostly do have. If you were more cautious than I was, you could get yourself a different credit card account with a super low limit, and give the kid an extra card on that account, but use the same process.
posted by LizardBreath at 12:31 PM on November 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

I'm now in my 30s but in my teens I had a bank account with no overdraft access with my mom on the account and she could transfer money to it as needed.

I'm sure a similar could be set up, with more fancy features in the full digital age . Key is the no overdraft protection so the card is declined. This will avoid overdraft fees and negative balances and all of that. My mom got the statements until... Well into my 20s because they stated I was a minor and wouldn't let me handle my own account until I brought in a birth certificate and I lived like 600 miles away from the nearest branch so that took far too long to accomplish.

This was also great after I went to college and moved away. My mom could drop money in emergencies and I had pretty much instant access.
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:34 PM on November 18, 2018 [9 favorites]

We use a MONEY account from Capital One. It’s basically a joint checking account for both parent and teen, with a debit MasterCard for the teen. No complaints from this parent - it works well and allows a degree of monitoring on the parental end, too, if that’s desired. I maintain a Capital One savings account for the primary purpose of replenishing the MONEY checking account.
posted by cheapskatebay at 12:40 PM on November 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

Long ago, when I was a teenager, I had an account at my credit union with a debit card. My mom was on it and could transfer money easily via phone ( this was long before smartphones) there was no option for overdraft fees, the card just wouldn't work if there wasn't enough funds.

We also had frank discussions about money, savings, and credit and how you can get into trouble very easily.
posted by Attackpanda at 12:42 PM on November 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

I give my teen money two ways.
1. A debit card. They can learn to manage their money this way. When the money is out, it's out, til it's replenished. They can deposit money they get from other sources -- birthday checks, small job payments, etc.-- in their account and keep track of it online. It's also better for them to use plastic instead of cash in many ways, for instance if they decide they want to buy something online, it still counts as part of their own budgeting and I don't have to get involved with their decisions.
2. Yes, I also hand over cash when they are running low in the debit card and are going to need to eat or travel. The budget system is not perfect and I'm not going to let my teen go around without a cushion. But the idea is there.
posted by nantucket at 12:53 PM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Bluebird by American Express is a debit card you can control via app. Sync your account to add funds and the kid can have the app to see just their amount. You can turn it off quickly in case they lose it.

You could also do just a regular checking account with debit card at your local bank and link it to your account to transfer money. Bonus if you have the teen go to the bank with you to set it up. Even in 2018 and beyond, they are likely to need some experience in a bank during their lifetime.
posted by cessair at 1:00 PM on November 18, 2018

I just recently set up what USAA calls "youth spending accounts" for my kids. I can transfer money into the accounts whenever I want and I can also set up scheduled automatic transfers. They each got a debit card that they can use to buy things at any store (online or brick and mortar) that takes credit cards, or they can get cash from an ATM. (USAA refunds ATM fees so they can use any ATM for free.) I could choose whether or not to have overdraft protection for the accounts and I chose not to. It's working well so far.
posted by Redstart at 1:00 PM on November 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

I had a debit card and a checking account when I got my first job. This may make sense for you and your teen; you could make automatic periodic deposits or transfers if they don’t have a job, and they could also deposit any money given to them or that they earn. They can run out, but they can’t overspend their means.
posted by epj at 1:22 PM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

In the early 2000s my dad wrote me a check on the first of each month that covered allowance, gas, and lunch money for the whole month (weekly plus prorated for the days above 28 in the month). I deposited it myself and used a debit card linked to the account. If I ran out before the end of the month, that was on me. There were always plenty of groceries at home to pack lunches if I chose.

Nowadays he could even review my charges online, but back then I don’t think he even looked at the paper statements. I graduated with several thousand saved up, because between that money, babysitting, birthday and holiday money gifts, and my innate frugality I hadn’t spent it all.
posted by amaire at 1:36 PM on November 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you can afford to do so, you could get $200 or whatever in tens/twenties up-front and keep it in an envelope just for piecemeal distribution to the kid(s). Adjust the amounts for your own financial situation, obviously, but the point is that you'd only need to refill the envelope when it gets low, not every time they're going out. I know it's not highly technological, but cash really is a handy thing at the amounts you're talking.
posted by teremala at 1:39 PM on November 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

One more thing - you might think about whether you would want to give them a higher allowance in lieu of spending money for individual outings/purchases. By the time they are teens, you want them to have some practice with spending money reasonably so they are prepared to budget and spend appropriately when they are on their own. This then meshes well with them having their checking account and debit card.
posted by metahawk at 2:14 PM on November 18, 2018 [5 favorites]

I don't know much about the company in general, but I interviewed with a company called TrueLink who makes these kinds of cards.
posted by rhizome at 2:16 PM on November 18, 2018

Many banks offer teen oriented prepaid debit cards that you can link to your main checking account for transfers. This can be handy for transferring them money in a hurry (they run out of gas in the middle of nowhere) while still constraining their spending.
posted by Candleman at 2:23 PM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

When I was a teen in the early 2000s, my mom would give me $80 cash at the first of the month for me to budget/spend accordingly on lunches, outings, etc. I also had a checking account with debit card to which she also had access, and sometimes she would just transfer money that way. This worked perfectly in college - in college she would give me a bit extra at the start of the semester to cover books, and she also gave me enough each month to cover rent + a little extra. I always worked in HS and college so I supplemented anything else with my earnings, using that joint checking account. The only time I ever overdrafted was during a summer abroad in Europe (exchange rates) while I was recovering from a traumatic loss (so my mind just wasn’t in the right place to track spending closely) and they were quickly able to help me out because they had account access.
posted by samthemander at 2:24 PM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

There are some businesses that are card only nowadays, so cash might not be an all encompassing option. A few of the modern fast casual food establishments I'm Philadelphia for example.
posted by TheAdamist at 4:55 PM on November 18, 2018

Our kids have teen accounts connected to ours, with Visa debit cards they can use anywhere or to get cash. It’s easy to transfer their allowance or special funds over and above that, they can deposit checks from Grandma through our bank’s app.

Our bank has a budget feature that I encourage the kids to look at so they can watch their spending by category, and I also occasionally spy on their transaction history and offer suggestions about wiser choices.
posted by padraigin at 5:27 PM on November 18, 2018

I do cash. I want them to understand that money is going from one person to another, and I think cash demonstrates that better than a debit card does. Yeah, it's a pain to have cash on hand, but it's a good thing to do anyway in case of emergency.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:48 PM on November 18, 2018

I use the USAA Youth spending account. She has a debit card and Dad and I can both easily transfer money. I always like her to have at least $20 bucks on her when she goes out, having cash in hand just makes me feel better.
posted by pearlybob at 5:56 PM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Nothing the USAA youth spending account, though someone in your family needs to have seen military service to use it.
posted by corb at 6:03 PM on November 18, 2018

> You can send small amounts from one Paypal account to another instantly, shows up on the debit card instantly, no fees if you send it via the friends/family option.

You must use your bank account as a funding source (not a credit card) for there to be no fee, and when using a bank account as the funding source, the money may not always show up instantly. Also, they charge an ATM withdrawal fee for the debit card in addition to whatever the ATM charges.

Besides that, PayPal doesn't allow people under 18 to have an account. You could set one up and let your kid use it, of course (how is PayPal going to know?) but you have to put in an SSN to open an account, and can only have one account per person, so you're not going to be able to have both adult and child have an account under the parent's name.

You might look into a low-limit credit card where you can have a secondary card issued for free that has their name on it, so no questions at the store about it being mom or dad's card. Look for ones where you can shut off the card instantly from their app or website (pretty sure Capital One has this, amongst others), in case it gets lost/stolen or Jr goes on a shopping spree.
posted by tubedogg at 7:42 PM on November 18, 2018

My 15 year old is another one with a youth spending account through USAA. He has a debit card with his name on it, and transfers are essentially instantaneous (which has come in handy a time or two). He uses the USAA app to check his balance. I sometimes also give him cash, but knowing how to monitor a bank account is a good skill to have.
posted by jeoc at 9:00 PM on November 18, 2018

I would use the Square Cash app and a Square Cash card. You sign up and they will send a credit card in the mail, but it's actually a debit card and can only draw on the balance in the Square Cash account. So you could put $20 into the account and let the teenager use the card. Once it hits $0, I am pretty sure it's done - it is not designed to pull money out of your bank account, only to use the pool of funds sitting in the app. It also looks like the Square Cash card can be turned on and off if the app if you decide you want to cut off access to it. I use the Square Cash app the time and I just recently ordered my own card as a backup option. But your situation sounds like an ideal use case for the card. If you download the Square Cash app and sign up, you can order the card right within the app.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:44 PM on November 18, 2018

Yeah, it's a pain to have cash on hand

I give cash, but only if it's requested sufficiently far ahead of time that collecting it is never a scramble.

This saves quite a lot of money.
posted by flabdablet at 11:51 PM on November 18, 2018

For those saying cash is easier, that can be on the kid. If they have a debit card setup, they can get cash at ATMs or using cash back. It’s another way for the kid to learn to plan ahead, rather than putting the onus on the parent.
posted by Sukey Says at 2:06 AM on November 19, 2018

Both venmo and square cash offer cards that allow one to spend from the account balance. Transferring money into those systems is effortless and it has the bonus of being the way that friends probably pay friends back (for split checks or whatever) anyway.
posted by mosst at 7:16 AM on November 19, 2018

My kids (10 and 13) have youth saving accounts with our local credit union (they get 6.17% interest! ), and the 13yo has a debit card which is attached to his savings account. They get monthly statements, and their account is linked to ours so we can see all debits and deposits. It's nice, because he can also get direct deposit done as well for his job.

If he's going out with a few friends, I do usually ask him to carry cash instead of a card. we have an envelop of "house cash" for things like field trips, going out, etc. which is in a central location for the household.
posted by alathia at 12:27 PM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

When I'm on top of things, I keep a handful of bills in $5 and $10 denominations in an envelope in a drawer they don't use. I never use this money for myself, but I do keep my own little bank. It sounds like there are more card-like ways to manage this, but remember that one option is to go get some money and put it aside for these inevitable requests.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:35 PM on November 20, 2018

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