Laughing girl with wallet and her first Viva Kids Maestro card
Financial Literacy

The First Maestro Card of Their Own

A Maestro card has many advantages, such as being able to withdraw cash or conveniently pay at the checkout. But when is actually the right time to teach children how to handle this means of payment? And what should be taken into account? Dr. Christoph Mattes, lecturer for social work at the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland, explains in an interview how parents can prepare their children for their first Maestro card.

Dr. Christoph Mattes.

Dr. Christoph Mattes

Lecturer for social work

Dr. Mattes, nowadays life can barely be imagined without digital payments using cards – you can even pay with your smartphone. Why should parents prepare their children to handle these means of payment?

Handling means of payment cannot be learned just in theory. It's about applying knowledge in everyday life and using relevant skills. In this context, parents play an important role: They accompany their children over a long period in everyday life and have the responsibility and opportunity to discuss important issues with their children. We also know from studies that parents remain very important persons for their children when it comes to money – long after the latter have come of age.

How can parents teach their children to responsibly handle their own Maestro card?

Primarily by handling it responsibly themselves and acting as a role model. Parents should openly show in the family that you must always keep an eye on your finances. When children see that their parents are looking at the payments on the bank account and reconstructing what they have paid for and whether the bookings are correct, children automatically have greater awareness of cards and accounts. Actively involving children in the financial life of their family is generally a good lesson. We know from studies, for instance, that managing scarce finances in families is easier when this is discussed openly with the children and they are involved in decisions – regarding, for example, on what the family can save.

Let's suppose you were to present your child with a Maestro card. How would you do it?

I think the important thing is to show that the plastic card is valuable – even if it doesn't appear so at first glance. We should therefore attempt to convey a certain care, which raises awareness for the opportunities as well as the risks. To this end, we must take the time to explain to children everything that the card can do and what we use it for ourselves. This is how children can understand that you should be careful with your Maestro card. And, actually, we also prepare our children through our own example. For instance, our children see my wife and I go through the payments from the account: What did we spend this month? What still needs to be paid? This is how they learn that you should keep track of account movements.

How can parents know that their child is ready for their first Maestro card? From what age can you trust children with handling a card?

It's difficult to define a specific age. Children vary greatly and each has their own personal affinity with the topic of finance. I consider four points to be prerequisites for a child having their own Maestro card.

  1. Children should be interested in the topic of money and financial services. The driving impulse should not come from the parents.
  2. Children must understand how a bank account works, what opportunities it provides, and what the costs are.
  3. Children should have reached the point where they need and use a Maestro card in everyday life. This typically depends on what they have to pay for with their pocket money.
  4. Parents should pay attention to how their children handle the card. It is important that parents ask what the children are doing with the Maestro card or how they are dealing with the bank account. In this context, it should not be primarily about controlling the children, but about attentive interest from the parents as to how their children are using the card. From indebtedness research, we know that it is important for young people that their parents be interested in their finances and keep an eye on what is being done with the financial services made available.

Are there risks in handling the Maestro card that parents should be particularly aware of?

I tend to be more reserved when it comes to the risks of the Maestro card. It is important to have a clear overview of your own finances. This is often described as tedious – but it isn't. Having your spending under control and knowing that you are not spending too much avoids stress and prevents the strange gut feeling when you ask yourself "will the ATM give me money or not?".