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Recently, I was at Wild Water West with my grandkids. While waiting at the concession stand window for our order, I watched several kids (estimated ages 10 – 15) walk up and place their order and then insert their debit card to complete their purchase. It really struck me how the world has changed since my own children were that age, so much so that I had to research why you would want your pre-teen child to have a debit card. Here is what I learned.

1) Debit cards can help kids becoming responsible spenders at an early age. Instead of handing over cash, which can easily get lost or possibly stolen (don’t we all have a locker room story about someone’s cash mysteriously disappearing from their bag). A debit card provides a way for kids to know how much money they are spending, and where their money is going. Parents can review purchases with their children and sign up for alerts so there are no secrets when the debit card is swiped.

2) There are long term benefits for children to learn these important skills and guide them through their early money management experiences. It gives them a head start before they are truly ‘on their own’ and trying to figure it out for themselves. Let’s think about it like laundry. It may be easier for parents to just take care of it, but who wants to be the parent that never teaches their kids how to do laundry and one day they are struggling to operate a washing machine. Being involved in teaching the importance of cyber security and spending habits gives young people a significant boost to a successful financial future.

3) Debit cards provide a way for parents to easily monitor how much money their child is spending and maybe even more importantly, they can easily transfer money to their child in the event of an unexpected emergency. When I was younger, my car broke down while I was several hours away from home. A necessary part would not arrive until the following day leaving me to figure out where I could spend the night in a strange town. I did not have any kind of card to use and did not have enough cash to pay for the least expensive hotel room I could find. It was only by shear kindness that a Mom and Pop Motel permitted me to send the money after they allowed me to stay the night. I recall if being a frightening experience, but if my parents could have transferred money or I would have had access to my account, the experience would have been completely different.

Having a debit card can certainly help young people prepare for adulthood, while you as the parent still have control. It’s a great opportunity to set clear guidelines, monitor and teach responsible spending habits, and provide a positive learning experience. Talk to a Dakotaland Federal Credit Union staff member about the ways we can help you provide positive learning experiences for your children and set their feet on the path to financial freedom.