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What are the best debit cards for your kids to spend safely?

·6 min read

The various lockdowns have meant many youngsters have had less opportunity to go out and spend their pocket money. This week it was claimed that children in the UK have “squirrelled away” £38m during the pandemic, which is waiting to be spent. The study, by the specialist consultancy Beano Brain, found that as restrictions ease, kids are keen to hit the shops and spend.

With summer holidays and days out looming, there will be plenty of chances to part with their cash. Some may also have their eye on things to buy online – of the 8,000 children questioned in the survey, 41% said they preferred online shopping to the high street.

While cash is still king for most, there are a number of apps to help children navigate the digital world, although the downside is that they tend to involve charges or paying a membership fee.

The adults can set spending rules so they stay in control

The four big players are gohenry, Osper, nimbl and RoosterMoney. The quartet is now being challenged by HyperJar, which unveiled its service on Tuesday.

Most work in a broadly similar way: kids get a contactless prepaid card that they can use in shops and online, and (usually) at ATMs. Money is loaded on to the card, and the parents and the child can monitor spending via an app. The adults can set spending rules so they stay in control, such as deciding where the card can and can’t be used. They are also notified when the card is used. Meanwhile, money can usually be split into various pots or goals for saving or budgeting purposes.

Here we look at how the apps stack up (although bear in mind that each boasts its own bells and whistles).

HyperJar

What is it? HyperJar is a money management app that launched last October with savings accounts and payment cards.

What’s on offer? “The UK’s first 100%-free money app with prepaid card for kids aged six to 17,” with zero monthly subscription costs, zero fees for transferring money, and a free prepaid, glow-in-the-dark debit Mastercard. There are also no foreign exchange fees when paying in other currencies. Parents can set up unlimited savings “jars” for their children.

The parent sets up an account and can add their children, who are then sent their cards (there is no charge for the cards, no matter how many kids you have).

HyperJar is funded by its retail partners – including Shell, Dyson and Boden – who pay to feature on the app. A spokeswoman says the service is free to use for everyone, “regardless of whether they interact with the partner retailers”, and that the retail partners aspect is not intrusive.

One downside is that it is not yet possible for kids to withdraw cash from an ATM using their HyperJar card. This has been done to keep the service “totally free”.

Anything else I should know? It says it is the only prepaid kids’ card that can be added to Apple Pay and Google Pay (children have to be 13-plus for these services). It also says charity donations are “coming”.

Gohenry

What is it? Founded by a group of parents in 2012, gohenry now boasts 1.5 million customers across the UK and US, making it the biggest player in this space.

What’s on offer? A prepaid Visa card and app for young people aged six to 18. There is a membership fee: £2.99 a month for each child, although you can join free for one month.

There is a parent account that acts as the control centre for up to four child accounts, and the kids’ cards are funded from this. Money can be transferred to the parent account by bank transfer, debit card or standing order, although you only get one free top-up each calendar month. Additional “loads” cost 50p a time. However, moving money from the parent account to the child’s card (or the other way) is free. UK and overseas ATM withdrawals are free, and gohenry no longer charges foreign exchange fees when the card is used abroad.

The card is free, although there is an option to customise your plastic or choose the biodegradable Eco Card or Teen card for £4.99.

Anything else I should know? Gohenry says relatives and wider family can transfer money via its relatives’ account or by using the “Giftlinks” feature. It also offers kids the option of giving a small part of their pocket money to the NSPCC.

Osper

The Osper pocket money app on a mobile phone.
The Osper pocket money app on a mobile phone. Photograph: True Images/Alamy

What is it? Another major player, aimed at eight- to 18-year-olds, although it can issue cards from age six. It has been endorsed by the TV presenter Davina McCall. It does not disclose customer numbers.

What’s on offer? A prepaid debit Mastercard and app. It costs £2.50 a child each month, although you can try it free for 30 days.

There is no extra charge for the standard card. Children can if they wish choose a card design featuring one of a range of Nickelodeon characters, although these currently cost £5.99.

Withdrawals from UK ATMs are free but there is a £2 fee for using an overseas ATM. Similarly, overseas purchases incur a 3% fee.

Anything else I should know? Parents can set up a free KidStart account (KidStart is a loyalty programme involving more than 2,300 retailers) and link it to their child’s account. Then, when you shop online, go via the KidStart website. The retailer will give some of the money spent back to you, so you can effectively earn free pocket money for your child.

Nimbl

A parent consults the nimbl banking app on a mobile phone.
A parent consults the nimbl banking app on a mobile phone. Photograph: True Images/Alamy

What is it? nimbl is part of the ParentPay group, the UK market leader in online school payments.

What’s on offer? A prepaid debit Mastercard and app for children aged six to 18. It costs £2.49 a child each month, or £28 a year, although you can try it free for a month.

Withdrawals from UK ATMs are free but there is a £1.50 fee for getting cash abroad. Overseas purchases incur a 2.95% fee.

Anything else I should know? With its gifting feature, family and friends – including those without a nimbl account of their own – can send money instantly to children’s cards. Meanwhile, there is a 20% discount for ParentPay customers signing up for a new nimbl account.

RoosterMoney

What is it? Launched in 2016, it is aimed at three- to 17-year-olds, although the prepaid Visa debit card is for those aged six-plus. It says more than 250,000 members log in to the RoosterMoney app each month.

What’s on offer? The card costs £24.99 a year (additional cards for children in the same family are £19.99 a year each), although a one-month free trial is offered.

Withdrawals from UK ATMs are free. It is also free to use abroad, up to £50 a calendar month. After that, a 3% fee is levied.

Anything else I should know? It offers a number of child-focused educational features, a “chore management system” (you can set chores to be completed before they get their money), plus charity donations powered by JustGiving. Anyone can pay money in, including grandparents and so on.

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