Here’s Why This Single Mom Gave Her 11-Year-Old Daughter a Debit Card

A mother and daughter smile as a professional photo is taken of them against a backdrop.
Cierra Sullivan, left, gave her daughter, Chy’lunn Sullivan, 11, a Greenlight debit card to teach her about how to budget and save money. The debit card has parental controls on it such as spending limits. Photo courtesy of Stacey Gardin
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Only 11 years old, Chy’lunn Sullivan is already an entrepreneur.

She has her own business, Chy’s Cookie Corner, where she makes cookies from scratch. She’s got a website, and she’s got five flavors — chocolate chip, sugar, oatmeal raisin, red velvet and snickerdoodle.

Her mom, Cierra Sullivan, is raising Chy on her own. She was looking for a way to teach Chy how to manage her money — how to budget, save and tithe.

Then Cierra heard about the Greenlight card, a debit card for kids that comes with parental controls. It lets parents set spending limits and gives them tools to help their kids manage money responsibly. To Cierra, it sounded like a game-changer.

“It’s been working,” says Cierra Sullivan, a dialysis nurse in Greenville, South Carolina. “I felt like the Greenlight card would introduce her to financial management — her being accountable for her money — because that was something I lacked when I was growing up.”

A Way to Teach Your Kids About Money

In the short term, the Greenlight card is an easy way to make sure your kids will have the money they need when they need it — without the danger of them draining your bank account.

The bigger picture is, it’s a smart and strategic tool for raising financially savvy kids.

You can put money into two different categories on the debit card. One is a “Spend Anywhere” category that allows your child to use the money anywhere that takes Mastercard. The other category lets you dedicate a set amount of money that can only be spent at certain places, like gas stations or restaurants.

As a parent, you can have Greenlight’s app send you real-time alerts telling you where your kid is spending money. You can also encourage your child to save by paying them interest on the card’s balance.

And here’s another handy tool for parents: You can set up Greenlight to automatically pay your kid’s allowance. Additionally, you can set up chores in the app and tie those chores to the allowance.

How This 11-Year-Old Saved up For a KitchenAid Mixer

A girl stands against a counter with stuff in the background to represent her cookie making business.
Chy’lunn used the Greenlight card to save up and purchase a KitchenAid stand mixer for her cookie business, Chy’s Cookie Corner. Photo courtesy of Stacey Gardin

As a single mother, Cierra Sullivan has found Greenlight’s chores-and-allowance set-up to be especially useful, because she and her daughter share the household chores.

“It’s an easier way for her to have the incentives for completing the responsibilities that she has within our home,” Ciera says. “It’s just the two of us, so she cleans her room, washes the dishes, washes and dries the towels and takes the trash cans to the street on Wednesdays.”

As for the cookie business, Chy keeps expanding, and now she has a website and an Instagram account where people can email her orders.

Her earnings go into a separate account. Because she’s been learning about saving through the Greenlight card, she’s learned to save up for major purchases, like a KitchenAid stand mixer. These mixers typically retail for $200 to $300, so it was a major investment for an 11-year-old to make.

“Seeing my mom budget and save for our family, Greenlight helps me to be able to participate in our budget ‘meetings,’ as Mom calls them,” Chy’lunn says. “I have to think about my spending and more ways to save my money.

Teaching Your Kid to Be Smart With Money

When Chy got her Greenlight card, she was excited.

“It had her whole complete name on it,” Cierra says. “She set her own PIN number. She felt like she had a say in how she spends her money.”

With the Greenlight card, you start out with a one-month free trial, then it’s $4.99 a month, though it’s a flat fee that covers up to five children in your family.

Like any major card, Greenlight uses bank-level encryption to protect your and your child’s information.

It takes just minutes to open an account, and your kid will start learning about money before you know it!

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.