Mobile Virtual Banking for Kids

Bankaroo Main Screen

What a great feeling when you discover something that fits a use case absolutely perfectly. Bankaroo is such a product.

There comes a time in every parent’s life when Pocket Money rears its ugly head. Children get to the point where they add cold hard cash to the list of things that must be provided for them. They need not just things, but the ability to buy things for themselves. They also need to understand value, and effort and risk & reward. And cash is – like it or not – the best vehicle to provide these lessons.

So, pocket money comes into play.

Bankaroo Main Screen

Bankaroo Main Screen

If, like me, you have multiple children, this is a jumping-off point for a whole load of other issues. Respecting age differentials whilst maintaining fairness is particularly thorny one. Earnings for desired behaviours, fines as punishments. They need to be thought through.

Each child’s cash balance would be added to periodically by an allowance (“pocket money”), which would itself become a float for fine payments. There would be a list of jobs around the house for which they’d be rewarded with additional money. And then if they wanted something in a shop,  I would buy it for them, and then debit their account.

I’ll discuss the details of this in a subsequent post, but I was left with a problem: how to keep a track of it all?

Bankaroo Transaction LIst

Bankaroo Transaction LIst

One thing I’ve learned is that a smartphone can be an invaluable tool in managing the sensory overload of parenting. Children of school age understand the need to write things down. They understand that people forget (after all, they do that more than other demographics). So I can marshal their requests into serial, whereupon I can then process them.

What I needed was a simple mechanism whereby I could keep a track of how much each child had in “The Bank of Mum & Dad.” Ideally, both Mrs Edinburgh Chap and I could run the app and then we could each access their balance, and add & remove funds accordingly.

Bankaroo Add Funds

Adding funds to an account after some work has been done.

Fortunately, a friend who runs a site selling baby carriers mentioned an app called Bankaroo.

Bankaroo absolutely and totally meets this requirement. It was founded by Danielle and Etay Gafni, a father and daughter who had an idea to try to teach kids about money. Etay put the company together and Danielle helped with app testing. You can see the mix of influences in the product. It was an architectural backbone of “it just works”, but it’s attractive, and very well laid out for children to understand what’s going on.

At the back end, the “virtual” nature of the operation makes it easy to get into (and probably out of). As long as you’re careful with the initial configuration, there’s no  information of any value held on the Bankaroo systems. There’s no actual money (it’s a virtual bank in the best way), no credit cards, and only the personal data that you choose to put into it. So while you can create an individual account for your children to log on to to review their progress,  you don’t need to declare email addresses for them, for example. Bankaroo only emails the adult who “owns” the account portfolio. And at the end of the day, it’s just numbers and text fragments, that don’t mean much to anyone except the parents and children involved. If you’ve looked at the screenshots, you may have been puzzled by the entries on my children’s account screens. But I know what they are, and so do the children. That’s all that matters. (When I publish my finance strategy, it may all make a bit more sense!)

Bankaroo’s smallness is a reassurance too. It has a real feel of an organisation set up to solve a problem. The problem is essentially solved, and Etay answers emails from users personally, helping out, and taking on feedback. I’ve picked up a couple of logic issues in some of the web form validations that have subsequently been fixed. The level of responsiveness is wonderful in this modern age of corporates trying to run everything.

I wish them every success.