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Step Banking is a rarity, even for the innovative financial technology space.

Step is the provider of the Step Visa Card—a secured credit card that, among other things, helps teens build a credit history years before they’d typically be able to. That alone is a powerful and praiseworthy feature that can give teens a much-needed financial boost as they enter adulthood.

But it isn’t the only youth-minded financial product out there. Far from it. Indeed, Step Banking is just one of a growing mass of fintech firms and financial institutions providing a range of services to teens and even kids.

So while we highly rate the Step Visa Card, we still have to acknowledge: It’s not always the perfect tool for the job. Sometimes, Step alternatives provide the most suitable solution, depending on what parents want for their children (and themselves).

Let’s explore Step Banking and the features of the Step Visa Card. After that, let’s take a look at some of the most popular Step alternatives—apps that are like Step Banking, but that provide differentiated services that might be more up your alley. 

By the end of this article, you should be confident that no matter what your need, you’ve found a financial or banking solution that checks off all your boxes.

Step Alternatives—Our Top Picks


Premium Paid Investing & Debit Card for Kids
Paid Debit Card for Kids + Teens
4.8
4.4
Core: $4.99/mo. Max: $9.98/mo. Infinity: $14.98/mo. (Each account supports up to 5 children.)
30 days free. Copper $4.95/mo., Copper + Invest: $7.95/mo.
Premium Paid Investing & Debit Card for Kids
4.8
Core: $4.99/mo. Max: $9.98/mo. Infinity: $14.98/mo. (Each account supports up to 5 children.)
Paid Debit Card for Kids + Teens
4.4
30 days free. Copper $4.95/mo., Copper + Invest: $7.95/mo.

What Is Step Banking?


mom with teen daughter

Step is a financial technology (fintech) company that’s designing the next generation of banking for a new kind of customer: Teens.

Until fintech services revolutionized how parents can oversee their kids and the money they manage, many either simply added their kids on their accounts or had them go unbanked.

Things are different now.

Step stands out because it was designed by financial industry experts and includes thoughtful features that actually matter to teenagers and their parents. With a few taps on a smartphone (or computer), teens can direct deposit paychecks, send and receive money instantly, and pay for goods and services. Meanwhile, parents can transfer funds to their teen and receive real-time alerts and notifications on stuff their kids buy.

Step also adds a wrinkle not many other prepaid debit cards for teens or free debit cards for kids offer: the chance to build credit. The Step Card gets processed like a credit card but has money withdrawn directly from your Step account. The result? Parents help their teens begin building credit with the Step Card, but avoid any chance of missing payments or getting hit with interest charges.

Step also offers a high yield on money saved in the account, as well as investment accounts where your teen can invest in stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), as well as a cryptocurrency wallet to buy and sell Bitcoin. Both features allow for fractional shares, so investments can be made with as little as $1.

Also, let’s make an important distinction: While we say Step wants to transform the next generation of banking, the company is actually a financial technology company, not a bank or investment services firm. The bank account and investment account products are actually provided by other financial service providers. Step is a fintech service that lays on top of other companies’ products. The company’s banking services are provided by Evolve Bank & Trust, while investment accounts and crypto exchanges are provided by DriveWealth.

Step Banking App Overview


Step signup new nocode

The free Step Visa Card is a unique “hybrid” spending card that functions like a debit card, but also boasts some of the features of a Visa credit card—including the ability to build your child’s credit history.

Parents add money to this FDIC-insured account and can determine how their child can spend. A regular Step account allows a child to have both a physical spending card as well as a virtual card in the Step app, while a Parent Managed Account only allows the child to spend via a physical card. Either way, they can use their card anywhere Visa is accepted. Children can also use their cards to withdraw money from more than 30,000 ATMs for free.

And parents needn’t fear that their child will overdraft—they can’t spend any money they don’t have.

Further, the Step Card comes protected by Visa’s Fraud Protection and Zero Liability guarantee. That means if your teen’s card gets lost or stolen, or misplaced and fraudulent charges crop up, you can dispute the charges within a certain time frame to avoid liability for paying.

Savings Tools for Kids and Teens

The Step Card also includes fantastic savings benefits.

Users earn 5% annually—compounded and paid monthly—on up to $250,000 saved in their Savings Goals. Like with your average savings account, Step’s savings yield can change depending on movements in the Federal Funds Rate, but if that happens, Step will give you 30 days’ notice before it happens.

To qualify, the user must have a direct deposit of at least $500 per month, and the benefit extends for as long as the direct deposits continue. So even if your teen just holds down a summer job for three months and meets the qualifying direct deposit, they can still enjoy three months of high interest. (Other perks of making a qualifying direct deposit? Bonus points on dining, food delivery, charitable donations, specific merchants—and you can get paid up to two days early.)

You can boost your savings potential even more with Savings Roundup. With this feature, small purchases are rounded up to the nearest dollar figure, and that extra money is put toward a Savings Goal. For instance: Let’s say your child buys a cup of coffee for $2.75; Step rounds up to $3.00 and puts 25 cents toward a goal.

Investing and Cryptocurrency

Step even features an “invest” function that allows children age 13 and older to buy and sell stocks, ETFs, and Bitcoin. Cryptocurrency transactions entail a small transaction fee. They can also earn Bitcoin (or cash) rewards when they opt into offers from companies like Hulu, Chick-fil-A, CVS, and The New York Times. The app is not a pure crypto wallet, however—your kids currently can’t spend Bitcoin directly at vendors.

Build Credit History

One of the most unique and powerful features of the Step card is its ability to build your child’s credit history. With this optional feature, Step will report the past two years’ worth of information—transactions, payment history, and more—to the credit bureaus when your child turns 18. That can greatly improve their chances of starting adult life with a better credit score, which can help lower the cost of things like student loans and auto insurance.

Lastly, Step is absolutely free: No monthly fees, no subscription fees, no account minimum fees, and no ATM fees within Step’s network of 30,000+ ATMs.

Read more in our Step review.

Related: Best Teen Credit Cards for Building Credit

Best Step Alternatives

1. Greenlight (Best Paid Debit Card for Kids and Teens)


greenlight sign up

  • Available: Sign up here
  • Price: Free 1-month trial. Core: $4.99/mo. Max: $9.98/mo. Infinity: $14.98/mo. (All plans include cards for up to 5 children)

The Greenlight debit card allows kids to begin spending, but provides parents with peace of mind by giving them control over where their kids can spend money. Parents also can choose to receive alerts that tell them when, and how much, money is spent on the Greenlight debit card.

Greenlight works like a prepaid debit card, allowing you to transfer money onto the card for your child to pay for expenses at approved locations. You can choose how much money to load onto the card, and your child will be cleared to make approved purchases so long as a money balance backs up the card.

If your child asks for extra money to get added to the card, you can have them take a photo of the purchase they want to make and receive your approval. This gives you control and allows you to have discussions with your child about why a purchase might be a good or bad idea.

And if your child has a job, they can add their own funds to the card as well.

Each monthly Greenlight subscription includes debit cards for up to five kids. Replacement cards cost $3.50 each but are free the first time. If you need to replace your card quickly, you can get express delivery for $24.99. The company also offers a personalized card, with your own photo or design, for $9.98 per year.

Greenlight boasts numerous other features, too. For instance, parents can open an investment account for kids to get their children investing in stocks and ETFs for the first time.

Greenlight also offers monthly savings rewards based on your tier: 1% per annum for Core members, 2% per annum for Max, and 5% per annum for Infinity. You may set up “Parent-Paid Interest” between you and your child. This allows you to foot the bill and pay interest on accounts for up to five kids.

The Greenlight debit card is a good choice for parents looking to teach their kids the importance of saving money and making prudent financial decisions. This financial product can be an effective learning tool for helping kids to understand why saving should be a priority and how to simplify paying an allowance or tracking chores.

Greenlight has no minimum age requirements but recommends starting at age 6 or older.

Read more in our Greenlight Card review.

Related: 8 Best Allowance and Chore Apps for Kids [Easier Family Life]

2. Copper Card (Best Debit Card for Kid Independence)


copper banking

  • Available: Sign up here
  • Price: 30 days free. Copper $4.95/mo., Copper + Invest: $7.95/mo.

Copper Banking was founded on the belief that kids and teens should have equal access to financial education and should be empowered to learn by doing. Now, the company is on a mission to help children gain real-world experience by giving them access to their money in a way that traditional banks can’t.

The Copper app and debit card teaches your child how to make smart financial decisions by creating a platform where parents and their kids can connect. With the Copper app, you get easy snapshots of your accounts. And with the Copper Debit Card, it’s easy to shop in-store or online, including with Apple Pay or Google Pay.

Plus, users get exclusive access to engaging advice curated by a team of financial literacy experts who provide tips on how to take control of their financial future.

Copper Banking features

  • Send/Request: Kids and parents can easily send and receive money all at the touch of a button.
  • Spend: Spend using Apple or Google Pay, or using the Copper Debit Card.
  • Withdraw: Access your money from more than 55,000 fee-free ATMs.
  • Monitor: Get a snapshot of all your child’s spending in an easy-to-read dashboard.
  • Save: Gain quick snapshots of your child’s savings and helpful tips on how to save even more. Set up savings buckets and save for the things that you want.
  • Learn: With the help of Copper’s team of financial literacy experts, gain bite-sized tips on how you can maximize your money and prepare yourself for your financial future.

The basic Copper account includes the above banking features. With Copper + Invest, your child also gets access to automatically curated smart portfolios built with their preferences in mind. Your child is given a questionnaire that helps Copper determine a portfolio based on their age, income, net worth, investment objective(s) and investment horizon. Copper then recommends one of three ETF portfolios—Moderately Aggressive, Aggressive, and Extra Aggressive—made up of thousands of stocks. Parents can review the portfolio to ensure it matches with not just your child’s preferences, but your family’s. (Portfolios can be changed later on by accessing the Support chat.)

Your child can begin investing for as little as $1, then add more contributions down the road. Copper will automatically rebalance the portfolio as needed to make sure it always keeps up with your child’s investment preferences.

Copper is available to kids 6 years and older. Read more in our Copper Banking review.

Related: How to Invest as a Teenager [Start Investing as a Minor Under 18]

3. GoHenry (Best for Customer Service)


gohenry sign up

  • Available: Sign up here
  • Price: 1 month free. Individual: $4.99/child/mo. Family: $9.98/mo. for up to 4 children

GoHenry is a financial solution for minors that includes an app, prepaid debit cards, and even financial lessons. Parents are given an online account that’s linked to, and allows them to oversee and manage, individual accounts for each of their children via both the GoHenry app and the online account portal.

Each child will receive their own GoHenry debit card; you can choose from 45 different designs or create your own customized card for $4.99. Each card is governed by parental controls you can set for your children.

What’s nice about GoHenry is that kids can only spend whatever money is available on the card—and thus parents don’t need to worry about costly overdraft fees or their kids accruing debt.

When you open a GoHenry account, you should receive your children’s debit cards in the mail seven to eight business days later. Once you do, you can set up events such as automatic weekly allowance transfers into your children’s accounts, real-time spending alerts, and one-off or weekly spending limits. You can also keep your children’s spending in check by choosing the stores where your kids can shop, and even blocking/unblocking the card as needed.

With time, the controls provided by the app and the guidance you offer can help your kids develop good money habits around earning, saving, spending, and giving.

But GoHenry really sticks out as one of the best debit cards for kids for customer service. They offer everyday phone availability, email access, and social media engagement, ensuring users can solve their problems quickly and with little hassle.

GoHenry has no minimum age requirements but recommends starting at age 6 or older.

Related: GoHenry vs. Greenlight

4. Cash App (Best PayPal for Kids Alternative)


cash app sign up

Cash App markets itself as a smarter way to manage your money. Whether you’re looking to send, spend, bank, or buy stocks or bitcoin, Cash App has several useful features that allow you to handle, save, and invest your money.

Sending and receiving payments is free with Cash App, so you can rest assured knowing that your money is always accounted for when you transfer funds to friends and family.

Cash App is one of the few payment platforms that lets teens pay and receive money from each other through the app, albeit with some lower limits than competing solutions we highlight here: up to $1,000 per 30-day period in peer-to-peer transactions. While certainly sufficient for most situations, this is one limitation worth highlighting about the service. One other limitation comes from a lack of instant account notifications when a teen spends money. Parents will have insight into their teens’ activity through monthly statements.

One safeguard worth highlighting to concerned parents: Cash App prohibits transactions at certain locations or for different types of services. Liquor stores? Nope. Online dating sites: Not happening. Gambling: Think again. These curbs can assuage some anxiety. We recommend having conversations to teach your kids about managing money.

To add a teen age 13 to 18 to your Cash App account, a parent or guardian over the age of 18 will need to set up their own account as legal owner and approve their teen to join the account. You can download Cash App today.

Related: 26 Best Online Jobs for Teens [Earn Money at Home, Age 13+]

5. Current (Great No-Monthly-Fee Teen Card)


Current signup new

The Current mobile banking app is designed with families in mind. It offers both adult and teen accounts, with the latter acting like prepaid debit cards that parents load for their children. Tracking your teen’s spending in real-time, setting limits on how much your children can spend, and even blocking specific merchants on its Visa-enabled debit cards are among the banking services provided. You also get the peace of mind that comes with knowing your children’s money is safe because it’s not cash—no temptations, just a tool parents can use to help teach teens financial responsibility and sound money management skills.

Among Current’s features:

  • No minimum required balances, no fees on transfers to other Current accounts, and no hidden fees.
  • Create Savings Pods, or Giving Pods, that allow you to save up for various goals.
  • Round-Ups allow you to round up purchases to the nearest dollar amount and store the difference in Savings or Giving Pods.
  • Buy and sell 27 different cryptocurrencies with zero trading fees.

Teens will love easy allowance deposits, a card they can use in stores or online, instant gas hold removals when buying gas, and access to more than 40,000 fee-free Allpoint ATMs nationwide. They’ll also have the opportunity to learn about financial responsibility and financial independence through Current’s Budgets feature, which allows them to track their spending and even receive alerts when they get too close to (or exceed) a predetermined limit.

Current doesn’t specifically state a minimum age requirement, but the company’s marketing suggests teens are the target audience. Still, you might be able to open an account for a younger child.

Related: Best Bank Accounts for Kids

6. Chase First Banking (Best Free Debit Card for Kids From a Major Bank)


chase first banking sign up

Ready to teach your little ones about money, but not quite sure if you have the time, patience and expertise?

Chase First BankingSM offers simple banking for both of you in one location: the Chase Mobile® App—for free. Manage all accounts with this mobile app and encounter no fees as well as find yourself able to withdraw money on 16,000 Chase ATMs around the country. The account is designed with kids 6-12 in mind, and available for ages 6-17.

At the heart of Chase First BankingSM sits one of the best free debit cards for kids and teens that works anywhere Visa is accepted.

Need insight and oversight into your child’s spending and saving? You can set spend alerts and limits as well as specific locations all in your Chase Mobile® app.

Teach your kids to spend, save and earn — all from the Chase Mobile® app. Chase First BankingSM helps parents teach teens and kids about money by giving parents the control they want and kids the freedom they need to learn.

To get started, you’ll first need to be a Chase customer with a qualifying Chase checking account.

Consider opening a Chase Total CheckingSM or Chase Secure BankingSM account to qualify.

  • Chase Total CheckingSM also grants access to 16,000 Chase ATMs and more than 4,700 branches as well as a $300 sign-up bonus when you set up direct deposit within 90 days of coupon enrollment. You can pay $0 in monthly fees, subject to meeting certain conditions*.
  • Chase Secure BankingSM offers the same Chase ATMs and branch locations as well as a $100 sign-up bonus when you make stated qualifying activities and meet certain conditions.

Once you open a qualifying Chase Checking account, you may apply for a Chase First BankingSM account for your child.

Read more in our Chase First Banking review.

Related:

About the Author

Riley Adams is the Founder and CEO of WealthUp (previously Young and the Invested). He is a licensed CPA who worked at Google as a Senior Financial Analyst overseeing advertising incentive programs for the company’s largest advertising partners and agencies. Previously, he worked as a utility regulatory strategy analyst at Entergy Corporation for six years in New Orleans.

His work has appeared in major publications like Kiplinger, MarketWatch, MSN, TurboTax, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, The Globe and Mail, and CNBC’s Acorns. Riley currently holds areas of expertise in investing, taxes, real estate, cryptocurrencies and personal finance where he has been cited as an authoritative source in outlets like CNBC, Time, NBC News, APM’s Marketplace, HuffPost, Business Insider, Slate, NerdWallet, Investopedia, The Balance and Fast Company.

Riley holds a Masters of Science in Applied Economics and Demography from Pennsylvania State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Finance from Centenary College of Louisiana.