There’s a funny thing about having an only child – it’s ridiculously easy to spoil them. When you’ve only got one child asking for this book, or that app, or this sweater – well mostly, you end up saying yes.
I’m conscious this approach isn’t teaching Flea anything about the value of money. And it’s something she really does need to learn. Who’s going to teach her if not me?
We’ve experimented with an allowance, but I often forget, and then realise I haven’t given her anything for three months. I’ve tried paying her for chores but a BIG part of me expects her to chip in, regardless. We’re a family, and we work together to run the household.
On a whim, last month, I decided to get Flea a GoHenry visa card. GoHenry is a pre-paid contactless visa card designed specifically for children. I’ve read about them here and there over the years and decided to give it a go. By the way, this isn’t an official review or anything – I just thought our experience might be useful to other parents.
My first query was how the GoHenry card differs from a kids’ bank account, which would also give Flea her own debit card.
The first difference is that the GoHenry card isn’t free. For starters, you pay for the card. You might pay a small fee to transfer money onto the card, depending on the method used. And you pay a small membership fee of about £2.50 a month if you continue to use the card after the free month’s trial.
How GoHenry Works
A GoHenry card is essentially a pre-paid visa card that you load with cash. Rather than online banking, this card is managed via a mobile app.
Where GoHenry gets a bit smart is in this app. There’s a parent’s version which tracks the balance of your account, and lets you transfer cash onto your child or children’s cards. You can set a regular transfer for an allowance, and/or ad hoc payments which are made when specified tasks are completed.
The other key feature of the app is the ability to set rules. For example, you can specify where/how the card should be used, set limits on individual and weekly spending, and whether the card can be used online, or via ATMs.
Flea has her own version of the app, where she can log-in and see her balance, spending history, and what tasks are available for her to complete. She can divert funds to ‘savings’ or keep them in her regular balance.
Getting the card was simple enough. It cost £4.99 for a personalised card which Flea thought was pretty cool. I gave Flea £20 ‘seed money’ and then set up a £5 weekly allowance. Each week, I also add a couple of tasks that Flea could complete to earn a couple of extra pounds.
Flea has her own version of the apps which shows her current incentives – walk the dog and get an extra £1 on next week’s allowance, for example.
What we Thought of GoHenry
The idea of GoHenry is admirable – it allows kids to get a feel for using a ‘real’ bank card – GoHenry cards can be used online, in stores and ATMs. And I do really like the idea of encouraging kids to work for extra money.
But GoHenry is either the BEST or WORST thing to happen to my 11-year-old daughter. I’m not sure which, yet.
When Flea was given a physical allowance, it went into a coffee pot stashed in her room, and she saved. Last time she spent her savings, she had a little over £100 and bought a remote control toy. The thing about physical cash is Flea had to be in a shop to spend it…
The challenge with a GoHenry card if you’re 11 and have access to the internet is impulse control. Flea wanted to buy a particular Korean snack online – £6 on Amazon. Fine.
But once Flea discovered Amazon, it was like an unstoppable tsunami of shopping. There was a headband. Then a cape (???). An iPhone case with a Manga design. Fidget spinners.
It was about 25 minutes later that I started getting Amazon notifications from Flea’s new account that her card was being declined.
The next day her allowance was loaded onto the card automatically – and spent within moments on something so random, I can’t even begin to fathom…. It’s a huggable pillow case with Flea’s favourite Manga character printed on it.
At the moment I’m reserving judgement. I’m wondering if there will come a point where Flea realises that blowing her allowance in 2 minutes flat on a bunch of weird random items from Amazon isn’t a great plan. That she’ll naturally learn herself that it’s better to save her money and invest in things she really wants, further down the line.
But I have to be honest and say I don’t hold out great hope. Perhaps 11 really is just a little too young to be given that sort of freedom. I suspect this whole online banking and debit card business might be something we revisit a little later – and we’ll revert to the coffee pot for now.
I’d love to hear if you’ve tried these sorts of services – what did you think?