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3 Good Prepaid Choices For Parents, Teens

These cards offer low fees and parent monitoringIf you’re a parent of a teenager or college student and want to give them spending money but aren’t comfortable giving them one of your credit cards, a better and relatively inexpensive alternative might be a prepaid card.

These cards allow your kids to pay for things and get cash while also letting you monitor their behavior.

Depending on what kind you get, the cards can be used for purchases wherever Visa, MasterCard or American Express are accepted.

We’ve found three good options, including a card we’ve never reviewed before, the BillMyParents SpendSmart MasterCard (www.billmyparents.com).

This card charges a $3.95 monthly fee, $1.50 for ATM withdrawals and 50 cents for balance inquiries — but few fees beyond those.

Unlike many cards, this prepaid card issued by University Bank charges no activation fee. You can reload the card from a bank account for 75 cents or from a credit card for $2.95.

Those terms make it one of the lowest priced prepaid cards on the market.

The BillMyParents card isn’t quite as good a deal as the American Express PASS prepaid card or the UPside Clear Prepaid Visa, both of which charge no monthly fee. (Other UPside options carry monthly fees.)

The BillMyParents card has more generous load and withdrawal limits than either the Amex PASS and Upside Visa, but that could be a good or a bad thing, depending on how much you want your kids to spend and how much you trust them.

The minimum initial load is $10, while the maximum load is $2,500. The maximum amount of money you can have on the card is $5,000.

The purchase and ATM withdrawal limits on this card are also quite high: $500 a day for both. So you either have to really trust your kids or keep a low balance on the card.

Those are much higher ATM limits than you’ll find on the Amex card; you cannot use ATMs with the UPside Clear.

All three cards allow you to monitor your child’s spending.

With the BillMyParents card, you’ll get instant text alerts each time your teen makes a purchase or withdraws money from an ATM, and you can lock and unlock the card at any time.

Children must be at least 13 to get this card.

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