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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  • 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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  • 18 out 21 people found this review helpful

    Beware, money can be taken straight from your bank account

    • Bronx, NY,
    • Dec 1, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    I've been using Greenlight, and long story short, it was awesome, until one of the kids tried to make a purchase. They didn't have enough funds, so Greenlight took money straight from my bank account, not the parent wallet, but my bank account, and put it into the child's card. So yes, it's very possible your child will try to make a purchase and even if there isn't enough money, Greenlight will snatch money out your bank account without you authorizing it! They say it's in their "cardholder agreement." Totally unacceptable! It defeats the purpose of having a parent funding wallet!

    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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  • 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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  • 15 out 17 people found this review helpful

    They don't care about you.

    • Kentucky,
    • Jun 6, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    I signed up for Greenlight through my company as it was a promotion on our employee's website. Well, they keep turning my kid's card. Earlier this year my 16-year-old was on a school trip in Washington, and they turned his card off without any notification all because I added a few hundred dollars to my parent account then transferred to his card. My son couldn't use his card, and it was a panic mode for me as his mother who was 1200 miles away, and I had to asked his teacher to pay for his food and i paid her back once they arrived home.

    I requested to have my account deactivated and refund me any credit, and it has been three months and no credit from Greenlight. This company does not care about you and your kids, they will takes days to respond to your request, and you can hardly get anyone on the phone. My fellow parents, do NOT use this company. There are other companies out there that offer the same and better service.

    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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  • 12 out 13 people found this review helpful

    Fees are high, poor customer service

    • Pennsylvania,
    • Nov 22, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    $5.99 per month fee on to of startup charges. That's more than most credit cards. There are no in-network ATM's, so you must pay a fee to the ATM operators, too. They do not inform customers of the $100/day withdrawal limit. I had my kids save their allowance for a PlayStation 4. In order for the two of them to get $150 each to give me to make the purchase, they paid a total of $20 just in ATM fees. Customer service was useless, just repeating the same line over and over on how that was the way it is and there were no remedies available. I'm switching to Busykid!

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

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  • 11 out 17 people found this review helpful

    Not happy so far

    • Gorham, ME,
    • Feb 4, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    I called 888-483-2645 to check on an incorrect charge on my daughter's debit card through Greenlight. I was distressed to find out that I was calling a representative in the Philippines to discuss my account (including security-based personal information, date of birth, last four digits of social security number, etc.).

    My daughter's card had to be shut off due to a mysterious $99 attempted charge for Amazon Prime (twice) that neither my daughter or I authorized. There were two charges for $3.50 that appeared on my account for shutting off the card. This happened just a few days after the card was activated and used for 3 small purchases at The Maine Mall in South Portland, Maine. I know another cardholder who encountered the exact same mysterious charge ($99 Amazon Prime).

    Is Greenlight based in the United States? Can I speak to someone in the United States about this weird $99 attempted charge?

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

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  • 10 out 11 people found this review helpful

    Great idea, terrible service!

    • Dallas, TX,
    • Jun 30, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    I signed up, gave a lot of information and the app did not work, and I attempted to reach customer service multiple times with no help. Just a nice person in the Philippines saying sorry without solutions. No one picks up at the next line of service. Do not sign up for it. I feel unsafe now because they have a lot of my information and I can't communicate with anyone there.

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

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  • 7 out 14 people found this review helpful

    Horrible

    • Ruston, LA,
    • Mar 5, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    The limit to add to the card is $1000, and after adding $500 my account was sent to fraud protection. Ok, fine. I sent them all the info requested, and none of the info was good enough. They needed proof of address. I sent a utility bill and my lease. What more could they possibly need along with my ID? I canceled the electronic cards, and instead of reimbursing me my funds to my card, they stated they would send a check. LIKE seriously, you electronically took my payment, but sending me a paper check? No way. I, against my better judgment, sent my daughter with this card on a trip and she was unable to use it, and I had to wire her money.

    If I could pick zero stars, I would!

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

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  • 7 out 7 people found this review helpful

    Great product for tweens

    My 12-year-old daughter has had this card for about a month, and so far we are thrilled! Children under 13 can’t get a standard debit card from our bank, but this card allows us to auto deposit her allowance and tracks her spending and money through the online app. It completely meets our needs and is helping teach our daughter about managing her finances.

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

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Showing 1-11 of 42

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