An ATM for Kids: Learning to Make Good Money-Choices

Kids are notoriously bad at remembering their socks, phone numbers, school bags, keys, and lunches (though they can easily remember their parents’ mobile PIN.) So in what circumstances would they need to use an ATM designed primarily for kids?


Why and when would kids need access to an ATM?

Younger kids age 5–10 benefit from learning about financial literacy and making good money choices. Using an ATM could help younger kids comprehend the abstract concept of saving and spending money. Spending their own money in stores would also encourage confidence-building and independence.

Older kids age 10–15 can feel frustration when having to ask parents for money or permission to spend their allowance or earnings from chores on products and experiences they prioritize. Perhaps the parents don’t have any cash on them right then, or they don’t have time to drive to get some. At this age, kids want to feel empowered and make more of their own financial decisions.


Siri, age 10, has recently started biking to her friends’ houses by herself. They sometimes go to the park together, and they would like to be able to buy snacks and drinks at a cafe close by, but their parents usually don’t have any cash for them to take.

The definition above may an genuine need, but is the best solution really to create an ATM for kids?

Anything that requires creating a new physical product, like an ATM for kids and scheduling stocking it with money, is cost-prohibitive and would require a high adoption-rate and cheap manufacturing to respond to new needs. It would also require great planning for which locations are most frequented by kids and families and forecasting for population change like kids getting older and aging out, and a decrease in new and younger families moving into the area.

Kids have a low need for cash in general. At school, their lunches are paid for with a prepaid card, and purchasing online games or goods only requires permission from parents, not cash.

What problem are we actually trying to solve?

  1. Teach financial literacy to younger kids
  2. Empower older kids to make financial decisions

The most straightforward approach to solve this problem is to use products already available to kids, like a smartphone.


As I started thinking about my ideas around a mobile app which would answer the two problems above, I considered how kids usually interact with apps. The experience needs to be intuitive, rewarding and discovery needs to be natural, both for preliterate kids and those how can read.

The visual design should be minimal and each screen should have a clear focus. The tone of voice should be familiar to kids and use of text should be minimal.

To teach young kids to grasp the abstract concept of money, I added a spatial model of our base ten number system which displays the balance in 100s, 10s and, 1s.

There are two simple options for the kid to choose from: “Add” or “Spend” similar to deposit or withdraw from the ATM.

The reward system in the app, or how they add money, is by doing chores, adding their allowance, or a gift. The chores are set-up by the parent with a predetermined value.

To empower older kids to make good money decisions, they can also spend their money. The parents will decide what the kid can spend money on: iTunes, Amazon, or transfer money to a friend. Younger kids may not have as many options to spend money on but could ask to set aside money for a particular toy they want which the parent can buy for them with the kid’s money.

First sketches for ideation for ATM app for Kids


In my prototyping sketches, I simplified the menu options and how to add chores. The focus is on the UI being intuitive for kids and appropriate for kids ages 5–13.

There are a few companies who offer debit cards to kids under 13 with parent approval, two of these are Current and Greenlight. These cards could be tied in with topping up the balance. Alternatively, the user can allow the kid to use Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay through their mobile device to pay for goods and services at participating merchants.


  1. Log-in credentials for kids? Does one log-in share many profiles or should the user set-up a kid account?
  2. Chore list with icons? Allow for custom chores?
  3. Pre-suggested amounts for chores and spending? How does this work for the whole population in a country, are the areas where spending $20 a week for a kid is too much?
  4. Error screens and alerts for trying to spend over limit, parents alerts and approval of adding money etc.