Pros: Almost always free, real-time balance info for parents and students.
Cons: Almost none.
9/15/10 Update: It seems as if PayPal has taken away the "float" it used to give customers (primarily because it wants them to use some sort of new program they have to borrow the money for a price...and so now if I want to transfer money to my student the money has to actually be in my PayPal account. If it's in checking, I'll have to wait until it arrives...this makes the student card a little more inconvenient, because it forces me to keep a small balance in my PayPal account at all times. It has also made me use my PayPal account less for purchases.)
My college-age daughter is not a very good money manager, and it always seems to cost us money. After having raised two boys who never bounced checks, our free-spending daughter came as something of a shock to us. But things have run a little bit more smoothly since we started using the PayPal Student Card for her allowance.
The PayPal Student Card is a debit Visa card linked to a parent's PayPal account. Parents can set up transfers individually or on a recurring basis to fund the account. They can monitor the account to see what transactions have been made (and transactions show up instantly.) They can even "turn spending off" as a natural consequence of overspending.
Parents receive e-mail or text notices when their child's balance falls below a certain threshold, or if purchases over a certain amount of money are made.
It's Made My Daughter More Responsible
It's much easier for my daughter to keep track of her balance because purchases show up instantly (with her credit union checking account, there was a lag of several days, during which she'd forget what she spent.)
Before she makes a purchase, she can check her balance on her I Phone, so she knows whether she can put $20 or $25 worth of gas into her car, for example.
Note: As with any credit or debit card, if you pay at the pump, or make a hotel reservation, there might be a "hold" on a higher amount than the actual purchase. For this reason, if you're buying gas with the student Visa, it's best to pay inside the store.
If she is stuck with no gas and no money, she can send me a text message and I can transfer money into her PayPal account.
What's good about this is that she knows her limits. She knows what her allowance will be, and she sees, in real time, how much she's used and what she's used it on. And so do I.
How the Student Card Can Be Used
Students can use their cards to make purchases online or in stores or withdraw cash from ATM's or inside a bank. They can make international purchases as well.
There is a fee of $1 for using an ATM and $3 for making an inside-bank withdrawal.
Students can receive money from friends and family for free if those transfers are made from bank accounts. If a parent makes a PayPal transfer that is fully or partially funded by a credit card, there is a 2.9% plus $.30 fee which can be paid by either the student or parent.
If a student requests money from a parent (via the PayPal system) there is also a 2.9% plus $.30 fee (but if the student requests money from a parent outside of the PayPal system, there is no fee.)
In 1 1/2 months of using the card, neither of us has had a fee yet.
One thing I really like about the PayPal Student Card is that even if my PayPal account has a zero balance (and it often does, since I am not a frequent Ebay-er) I can still transfer money into her account. It might take 3 or 4 days for my credit union to send it to PayPal, but she gets the money immediately, and the transaction is free.
About the only thing I don't like about the PayPal Student Account is that I occasionally have some funds in transit between my checking account and PayPal, and if, in the interim, I decide to put money in her account, PayPal doesn't look and say, "Well, there's already $50 on its way to us." Instead, they put in an extra transfer from my credit union to cover it. It seems to me that if they saw that money was already on its way they would just wait for it, but they don't.
Having sent three children to college, we have tried a number of different ways to handle allowances, and PayPal Student Card is the best we've found.
- Both student and parent can see purchases made and balance in real time. Students can even check balances on their IPhones.
- Parents can transfer money to students even if their PayPal balances are zero, and the money will be requested from their checking accounts (or credit cards, for a fee.)
- Parents can shut down spending on the card if students overspend.
- Parents receive notices of big purchases and low balances.
- Students have the convenience of using debit Visas.
- Best of all, almost all of it is free.
If you, too, have a student who still receives some financial support, I highly recommend the PayPal Student Account.