About Greenlight

By J.R. Duren
HighYa Staff
Published on: Oct 29, 2017

Greenlight is a family-focused app that deposits money on a Greenlight debit card kids can use at stores which parents choose.

The app, in that sense, is really unique compared to some of the other kid-focused apps that we’ve reviewed.

As we researched this app, we had the chance to speak with Tim Sheehan, Greenlight’s founder.

“One thing my wife and I were encountering is that we weren’t carrying cash that often because we frequently paid with debit cards and credit cards,” Sheehan told us. “We were in situations where kids needed money for school trips or traveling sports teams and going to movies with friends.”

Sheehan said those experiences led him to consider coming up with a solution for the cash problem.

“We wanted to give our kids money, but we weren’t carrying cash to do that,” Sheehan said. “My mind started thinking about the problem given my background in tech and financial services. I thought, ‘There’s got to be a better way to solve this.’”

Greenlight was the answer for Sheehan, who spent nearly five years combined at Yahoo! Finance and E*Trade in the time leading up to founding Greenlight in 2014.

As part of his research, he talked with more than 2,000 parents to get a sense of their pain points. The results confirmed what he thought. Parents could use an easier way to give kids money to go out and do stuff.

So, does Greenlight really accomplish that goal? That’s the question that we want to answer with this review. To do that, we’re going to do a quick review of how Greenlight works, how much it costs and what actual users are saying about it.

Along the way, we’ll include some more quotes and insight from Greenlight’s founder.

How Greenlight Works

As we mentioned earlier, Greenlight uses a combination of a mobile app and a pre-paid debit card to help parents give kids spending money.

Here’s a basic description of how that works. So, you sign up for the Greenlight app (it doesn’t take long) and you connect a bank account to your Greenlight account. That bank account is what you’ll use to add money to your child’s card.

Now, how you add the money to the card isn’t that glamorous, but it’s the limitations you put on the card that make it unique.

Choosing the Stores Where Your Child Can Use Their Card

You can choose at which stores the cardholder can use the card. So, let’s say your kid comes in and says they need $30 to buy some school stuff from Target. You can go into your Greenlight account and add $30 to the debit card with the rule that it can only be used at Target. In doing so, you are “greenlighting” Target.

This choose-the-store function harnesses existing debit transaction technology to put limitations on the Greenlight debit card.

“Basically, the way it works is that we are integrated into the authorization stream which means any time a Greenlight card is swiped it would go through MasterCard and then go to our processor and our processor will send it to Greenlight server,” Sheehan said.

At that point, Greenlight’s servers look at the limitations you’ve placed on the account. If you’ve added Target as a permitted store, the transaction will go through. If you haven’t added the store in question, the transaction will be declined. Simple as that.

Because the card’s permission system works via credit card/debit card networks, any store that accepts MasterCard can be added or dropped from your child’s debit card.

Whenever your child uses the debit card to make a purchase – or at least try to make a purchase – you’ll get a notification about the activity.

Should they need more money than what they’ve got, they can send you a request to get extra funds. You approve or deny the request, ensuring that only money you approve is added to the card.

Where Does the Money Go When You Deposit It?

Greenlight is one of several apps that allow parents to give kids money via in-app spending categories/locations.

That money doesn’t physically reside in the app, though. The dollar amounts you see represent money held in an FDIC-insured bank via an account known as an FBO, or “for benefit of”. Basically, these accounts contain deposits that are designated with your information and not Greenlight’s.

The bank with which the company works is Community Federal Savings Bank; it’s based in New York.

How Greenlight’s Security Works

In the event that the Greenlight debit card is lost, you can lock the card instantly via the app.

But even if someone steals your Greenlight debit card, it would be difficult for them to use it because:

  • There has to be money on the card
  • The thief has to know which stores are permitted
  • Any use of the card will send a notification

The likelihood of these three scenarios coming together is pretty low. But, if the stars align and the card does go missing, you can lock the card quickly.

In addition to these circumstantial advantages, Greenlight allows you to block certain types of businesses, including the following, according to the app’s website:

  • Wire transfers
  • Money orders
  • Escort services
  • Massage parlors
  • Lotteries
  • Gambling
  • Horse racing
  • Dog racing

Greenlight’s Fees

The cost to have a Greenlight account is $4.99 per month. That fee covers up to five Greenlight debit cards. If you aren’t sure about the app and just want to do a test run, you can try Greenlight for free for 30 days.

Current Greenlight Debit Card Reviews

At the time of publishing, Greenlight had between 10,000 and 50,000 downloads in the Google Play store and had received 180 reviews.

Of those 180 reviews, there were 104 5-star ratings and 30 1-star ratings. About two out of every three reviews were either 5 or 4 stars.

Most of the recent reviews about the app, however, have been negative and focused on glitches in the app. Some people are having a hard time logging into the app – they just can’t flat out sign in after getting a new phone.

There were numerous other issues listed by reviews in the months leading up to this review, too.

The Bottom Line on the Greenlight Debit Card

We think this app’s strength is that it offers something that’s relatively unique on the market today.

BusyKid gives you a way to set up chores and pay your kids for them when the chores are done. Stockpile gives you an avenue to allow your kids to invest in stocks.

But Greenlight stands apart from those because your child gets a debit card and you regulate where it can be spent. That’s a great feature for parents who don’t usually carry cash.

Now, the downside to the Greenlight app is one of functionality. Many of the most recent reviews of the app say it’s got some frustrating glitches.

Keep in mind that these negative reviews aren’t a guarantee that you’ll have negative experiences. While we know that the users downloaded the Android version of the app, it’s impossible to tell what kind of smartphone they had and which version of the Android operating system they have.

Either way though, the streak of negative reviews should be a reminder that you could have problems down the road.

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Read 42 Greenlight Customer Reviews and Complaints

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Average Consumer Rating: 3.0
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 20 4 star: 1 3 star: 1 2 star: 0 1 star:  20
Bottom Line: 48% would recommend it to a friend
Showing 1-11 of 42
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  • 3 out 8 people found this review helpful

    Greenlight Card is waste of investment

    • Palm Beach Gardens, FL,
    • Jul 25, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    Greenlight card is a scam. Even if you don't use also, they charge you $5 on a monthly basis. Also, they tell you that you would get $20 as part of joining which is total lie. They hide all these while issuing the card. Later you will be shocked to know all these things.

    Please do not get this waste card!

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 2 out 2 people found this review helpful

    Wish I had researched it more

    • Pittsburgh, PA,
    • Jun 19, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I thought it sounded simple enough and a great way for kids to have money for the summer. I put $10 on each of my kids' cards so I could test them out. I cannot get either card to work at three separate locations. If an adult cannot easily use this then how can a child? Considering that every store's register system is different, it's too difficult to explain to a kid when to hit debit/charge red/green, yes/no, enter pin.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 3 out 3 people found this review helpful

    Card activation

    • Florida,
    • May 18, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    The concept and the marketing are great. My experience was negative just because it took soooo much back and forth to get the card activated and then did not recognize my debit card even though I had to verify that very same card in order to activate it. I don't normally write reviews since I don't have time to do so, but I wasted so much time with Greenlight that I thought I needed to share my experience. Again, great concept and maybe I was just unlucky.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 3 out 6 people found this review helpful

    Buyer beware

    • Fort Lauderdale, FL,
    • May 18, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    Do not use this service. I put $200 on my account and could never use it. They blocked my card for no reason. So I’m out $200. It’s a scam. And they wanted more personal information after they activated the card and took my money.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 4 out 5 people found this review helpful

    It’s good in theory

    • Jacksonville, FL,
    • Apr 30, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I loved the idea at first. But there are definitely a lot of frustrating things I’ve experienced in the few months we’ve been using it. For some reason, even though it’s an MC debit card, it won’t work with certain retailers online. Why not? It’s a debit card. Shouldn’t it work everywhere?! I don’t understand that. Plus my login is the same as my son's. Which means he also has access to the parent's wallet. If he wanted to, he could transfer money to himself or pull money from my bank account. Not that he would (I’d hope, lol), but any kid could. Again, huh? How does that make sense? I may cancel this and do something different. It’s infuriating to be paying a monthly fee for a debit card that ¼ of the time literally won’t work at random retailers.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 22 out 26 people found this review helpful

    This is a scam

    • Reno, NV,
    • Mar 29, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    This card is a total scam, and I’m concerned for the victims this company is scamming. I loaded money onto the card for my teenager and set it to the setting allowing him to spend the money anywhere. He went to an ATM and tried withdrawing funds and the card was declined. He came home and tried making purchases online. Again the card declined. I went to the app and Greenlight without my consent turned off his card.

    I called customer service and could barely understand what the lady was saying. I finally cracked the language barrier and understood "call morning 8 am, closed," so I called this morning and when they answered it sounded like pure chaos. It literally sounded as if I called someone during a raging concert and could barely communicate with the whatever foreigner on the other end. I wish I could have recorded the ridiculous background noise blaring in the background. After being transferred THREE times, I was told I had to fax them my bank statements and personal information to turn the card back on! GIANT RED FLAG. I informed the agent that this is highly illegal. I didn’t turn the card off and now they want my personal bank info? Super shady.

    After refusing to do so, she finally offered to transfer the funds back to my bank account and close the card. I’m filing a claim with consumer reports so people are aware of this shady business.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 5 out 7 people found this review helpful

    Wonderful!

    • Arkansas,
    • Mar 29, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I have been using this app and cards for a couple of years now. I have NEVER had a problem! I started out with two cards, and recently added two more (I have 6 kids). This app is so easy to operate from the dashboard weather you're a parent or a child! I have NEVER had any unsafe issues having it connected to the bank account. I can verify after using it for years it is safe! Very safe and super handy!

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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    • Apr 10, 2019

      Company Response from Greenlight

      Hi Aimee! We are so excited to hear that you and your kids are enjoying Greenlight. Thank you for taking the time to share your personal experience and kind words. Your input very much appreciated. Happy to have you with us!


  • 4 out 6 people found this review helpful

    Greenlight is great

    • Atlanta, GA,
    • Mar 23, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I find it hard to believe so many intense negative reviews on this site.

    We’ve been using Greenlight app and card for almost 2 years and have nothing but good things to say. My kids don’t carry cash anymore, just the Greenlight card, it’s easy to reload, easy to see where they are spending money and easy to turn off the card when they lose it...once.

    They use it online, Amazon and American Eagle and they have used it traveling in Mexico and Europe.

    I love and they do too.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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    • Apr 10, 2019

      Company Response from Greenlight

      Hi John! It is so wonderful to hear your families experience using Greenlight. We love hearing that they have even done some traveling with their cards in hand. Excited to have you and your kids with us!


  • 16 out 21 people found this review helpful

    Worst experience ever!

    • Spokane, WA,
    • Feb 20, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    Don’t get this card! No security at all. Fraudulent charges made on my child’s account and blamed him from making online purchases. I called literally 2 minutes after the charge was made and they would not decline the charge so now who knows how long the dispute process will take. Get a normal bank account for your child! I will be reporting to the Better Business Bureau as well. Horrible customer service as well. Not helpful at all besides saying "thank you" over and over again.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 16 out 22 people found this review helpful

    Negative psychological effect on kids

    My daughter recently used the card in Glossier, LA. She's out with her friends for her friend’s bday celeb. To my daughter’s dismay, the card was declined! Not once but TWICE! My daughter was embarrassed by this and called me right away. Told me about the embarrassing situation THIS card has put her in. I immediately called Greenlight. An agent named Min answered. Min the agent said that the card is expired. I told Min that I just opened the account not too long ago how can it be expired? I 3-way call my daughter so she can tell Min of the expiration date of the card (the expiration is not until JULY 2023). Since I am not satisfied with the reasons of Min, I asked to be transferred to a supervisor. Hailey the supervisor answered the call. On Hailey's end, she said that my daughter put in an incorrect passcode number. My daughter on the other line said they run at as credit (not the first time it happened and it worked just fine in seat in restaurants BEFORE), and now the supervisor Hailey said because it is a "prepaid" card that it should not be run as credit. I said it was done numerous times before and it worked. Hailey said that she sees in her computer the wrong pin was entered. My daughter said to Hailey the store did not ask for a pin. I asked Hailey what is she seeing in her monitor?

    Is my money safe with Greenlight? Now I am not sure! The supervisor definitely cannot give me the answers I'm looking for! There's money in the account so how can it be declined. Greenlight should think and know that there is a psychological effect when kids get embarrassed! They should be held liable for the product they are selling because as a customer, I have funds in my kids’ account but I trusted them that the money of my kids will be safe, but they brought my daughter embarrassment and do not do anything about this! Shame on you.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 13 out 14 people found this review helpful

    HORRIBLE! Do not use this service! Zero stars!

    • Houston, TX,
    • Jan 18, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    This service sounded great in theory. However, the card was ordered and linked to my personal bank account, but the app was never linked to my phone. I spoke to Greenlight support on numerous occasions to link the app to no avail. I asked in July 2018 for the accounts to be closed/canceled. They continued to charge my account the monthly service fee. I contacted them on December 9th and they assured my refund of all the charges and to cancel the cards. It never happened. They charged my account AGAIN on the 23rd! I spoke to another rep on the 28th. She apologized and stated that the request was never completed and that she would complete the request. It never happened. I spoke to another rep on January 15th. He stated that the best they could do is refund me $5. This company is a SCAM. Protect your money and account from this predator!

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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