Best Prepaid Cards
Prepaid cards are a smart option if you want the convenience of paying with plastic without needing a bank account. Once you load money onto the card, you can make purchases, get cash from ATMs and reload the card whenever you need. Some of the best prepaid cards even offer cash back rewards.
Compare Top Prepaid Debit Card Companies
|Green Dot Prepaid Cards|
Read 7,262 Reviews
Offers reloadable debit cards and prepaid cards. Charges monthly fees from $0 to $7.95, ATM withdrawal fees up to $3, cash reload fees up to $5.95 and a $1 fee per purchase. Includes direct deposit and mobile banking.
Read 7,525 Reviews
Offers prepaid cards accepted everywhere. Gives up to 3% cash back rewards at Walmart and Murphy USA stores. Waives $5 monthly fee if you deposit over $1,000 per month. Charges a $2.50 ATM fee and cash reload fees up to $5.95.
Read 4,976 Reviews
Prepaid cards with $0 purchase price. $7.95 monthly fee is waived if you spend more than $1,000 per month. Unlimited cash back account earns 3% cash back plus 3% APY for savings. Free reloads and ATMs.
Read 5,569 Reviews
Offers prepaid cards for personal and small business accounts. Charges a card purchase fee up to $9.95, monthly fees between $0 and $9.95 and a $2.50 ATM withdrawal fee. Earn cash back through the Payback Rewards program.
|Vanilla Prepaid Cards||Read 845 Reviews|
Sells prepaid cards and gift cards. Charges a $1.95 domestic ATM cash withdrawal fee. Directly deposit payroll, government benefits or tax return funds. Service fees may apply to reload at stores. No ATM access for gift cards.
|Direct Express||Read 345 Reviews|
Offers a convenient way to receive federal benefit funds. No cost to sign up and no monthly fees. Charges ATM cash withdrawal fees up to $0.85 per transaction. Manage your money from your mobile device through the app.
|American Express Serve|
Read 363 Reviews
Provides Serve, Serve Free Reloads and Serve Cash Back options. Purchase price up to $3.95. Charges monthly fees up to $7.95 and ATM fees up to $2.50. Earn up to 1% cash back. Offers travel protection and 24/7 customer service.
|AccountNow Prepaid Card||Read 422 Reviews|
Gold Visa Prepaid Card earns cash back rewards plus 3% APY. Charges a $9.95 monthly fee and $3 ATM fee. No overdraft fees. Free withdrawals and cash deposits at major retailers. Pay rent or expedite bill payments online.
|PayPal Prepaid MasterCard|
Read 102 Reviews
Card must be linked to PayPal account. No purchase fee. Charges a monthly plan fee of $4.95. Earn cash back through the PayPal rewards program. Check your account balance, review transactions and load checks through the app.
|American Express Gift Cards||Read 430 Reviews|
Offers business and personal gift cards from $25 to $3,000. Funds never expire. No usage fees. Not reloadable. Provides dozens of designs and customized messages. Use in stores and online.
What is a prepaid card?
A prepaid card is a way to make purchases without using cash or credit — the card stores funds without connecting to an external banking account or line of credit. Sometimes called stored-value cards, different types of prepaid cards include gift cards and reloadable debit cards. Unlike credit cards, prepaid cards or reloadable debit cards only give the cardholder access to their balance of preloaded funds.
- Prepaid card vs. gift card: Gift cards are closed-loop prepaid cards issued by merchants with a fixed amount of funds that can be spent within that merchant’s network. Semi-closed system prepaid cards are issued by a third party and can be used at multiple locations.
- Prepaid card vs. debit card: Prepaid cards and debit cards are similar in that you can only spend the money you already have. Unlike prepaid cards, a debit card is linked to a checking account. Cardholders don’t need a bank account to get a prepaid card.
- Prepaid card vs. credit card: Even though they look similar, prepaid cards and credit cards are very different. Credit cards build credit and come with many features and rewards that aren’t available with prepaid cards. A prepaid card only allows you to spend funds that you’ve loaded onto the card.
|Prepaid card||Gift card||Debit card||Credit card|
|Linked to bank account|
How do prepaid cards work?
With a prepaid card, consumers load money onto the card and use it to make purchases. A prepaid card works like a debit card, but a prepaid card isn’t connected to a bank account. Prepaid cards and reloadable debit cards don’t build credit, but some earn rewards and come with other benefits, including fraud protection and online debit card banking services.
Most prepaid debit card issuers allow funds to be loaded and reloaded by direct deposit, cash or bank transfer. Consumers without a bank account can have their government checks and paychecks directly loaded onto the card for greater access and security. Cardholders can load cash onto a prepaid card at retail stores for a fee. Many prepaid debit cards with direct deposit waive reloading fees.
Prepaid cards are typically associated with a national card network, such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover. You can use the card wherever its network is accepted.
How to get a prepaid card
A prepaid card is relatively easy to get — there is no credit check or minimum balance requirement. Once you select the prepaid card that best meets your needs, you simply load money onto the card and activate it. Some issuers provide access to instant debit cards online that use virtual card numbers.
Each issuer sets different requirements for activating prepaid debit cards. Some require photo identification and charge an activation fee up to $10 for loading the initial funds onto the card. Once you pay the initial purchase price, you have options for funding the initial amount:
- Electronic transfer
- Retail store cash deposit
- Employer direct deposit
- Reload card (MoneyPak)
Cardholders must register their prepaid cards after purchase if the FDIC or NCUA insures it, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). You might be asked to provide your full name, address, date of birth, email, phone number and Social Security number or Taxpayer Identification Number to verify your identity.
How to use a prepaid card
Most cardholders use their prepaid cards to make purchases in stores, shop online and pay bills. Once funds are loaded and the card is activated, there are several available options for cardholders to access funds with a prepaid card.
- ATM withdrawal: Prepaid debit cards allow consumers to withdraw cash at an ATM. Fees for withdrawals vary based upon the ATM provider and the card policy.
- Point-of-sale transaction: Stores that accept debit transactions often allow shoppers to receive cash back on a purchase. This may enable the consumer to withdraw money without paying the fees associated with an ATM withdrawal. There may be a cash back withdrawal limit from the retailer.
- Electronic transfer: It’s easy to transfer funds between accounts if you link your prepaid account with another bank account. In some cases, it may be possible to send money without linking it. Some cards also allow transfers to a Cash App, Venmo or PayPal account, for example.
Prepaid card FAQ
- What are the benefits of prepaid cards?
- Prepaid debit cards let you enjoy the convenience of paying by card without having a revolving credit account or a bank account. The plastic card is also safer than carrying cash in your pocket. Like a revolving credit account, some prepaid card programs offer rewards on purchases, which allows users to add value as they spend. Additional prepaid card benefits include:
- Easy to get: Prepaid cards are easy to get even if you don’t have a credit or a bank account. Loading funds onto a card is usually a simple process with several available options. Consumers may directly deposit a payment onto the card, load funds at a brick-and-mortar retailer or transfer money from a bank account.
- Better budgeting: Many consumers use prepaid debit cards as a money management tool. Parents can easily give their children spending money for college or a high school allowance. The prepaid card may be an educational money management tool for families.
- Travel spending: One of the major benefits of credit and debit cards is the ability to purchase anything, anywhere, without worrying about currency exchanges. Like traveler's checks, international prepaid debit cards have protections against unauthorized transactions. This means you may be able to recover funds in the event of a problem overseas.
- Safer online shopping: Prepaid cards can be used anonymously to minimize the risks associated with online shopping. Since the prepaid card is not a credit card, users with poor credit can secure a prepaid debit card to shop online.
- Asset protection: There are times when legal and financial issues can affect your ability to access their funds. A prepaid debit card gives the consumer access to funds for bills and other expenses during negotiations. Seek legal and financial advice before using a prepaid debit card during an audit, bankruptcy, divorce or other legal proceeding.
- What is the best reloadable debit card?
- The best reloadable debit cards, such as Netspend, RushCard, GreenDot and Walmart MoneyCard, offer convenient loading and flexible spending options with low or no monthly fees. Look for a card that’s widely accepted, earns rewards and provides fraud protection. Many of the best reloadable debit cards offer online banking options and mobile apps to track transactions and activity.
- Where can I buy a prepaid card?
- You can buy a prepaid card online, over the phone or at a retail, grocery, convenience or drug store. Some banks and credit unions also issue prepaid cards. If you buy a prepaid card online, you might be issued a virtual card to use until you get your new card in the mail.
- Is a prepaid card a credit card?
- No, a prepaid card is not a credit card. Even though they look the same, a prepaid card does not give you access to a line of credit.
- Can you pay a credit card with a prepaid card?
- Yes, you can pay your credit card bill with a prepaid card. However, you usually can’t pay for a reloadable debit card with a credit card.
- How much does a prepaid card cost?
- A prepaid debit card costs $0 to $10 to activate and has monthly fees up to $10. Service fees vary by card, so you should check the list of fees associated with different types of transactions before you activate a new prepaid debit card. To avoid surprises, consumers need to be aware of the types of fees levied along with possible ways to avoid them.
- Reloading fees: Many prepaid cards charge a fee to deposit money onto the card account.
- Monthly service fees: Much like a checking account with a traditional bank, many prepaid debit card accounts charge a monthly maintenance fee. Some cards reduce or eliminate the monthly service charge if you set up direct deposit or make monthly deposits that exceed a minimum threshold. Specific cards may have other ways to reduce or eliminate the monthly fees, such as linking your card to a bank account. Check the card issuer's website to find out how to eliminate or reduce fees.
- Transaction fees: Some prepaid card issuers charge a fee per purchase transaction, usually around $1. Most prepaid debit cards charge foreign transaction fees up to 3% for purchases made with vendors outside of the U.S. Be sure to check the fee schedule and find the card with the most reasonable rates before traveling internationally.
- Withdrawal fees: Prepaid debit cards charge a fee for ATM usage in addition to charges assessed by the ATM owner. Consumers should check for free ATMs and partners to minimize the cost of ATM withdrawals.
- Additional fees: Some prepaid cards also charge ATM balance inquiry fees, inactivity fees, stop payment fees and decline fees. You will likely have to pay a fee to replace or cancel your card.
- Are prepaid cards safe?
- Prepaid debit cards are generally safe to use and are likely safe to use for online shopping purchases. A prepaid debit card for international travel also lets consumers make more secure purchases when spending abroad.
- Who uses prepaid debit cards?
- Prepaid cards are typically used by consumers who either don't have a traditional bank account or can’t get a credit card due to a poor credit history. These consumers are often referred to as “the underbanked'' because they lack access to traditional banking relationships. If you’ve struggled in the past with overdrafted accounts or have a low credit score, a prepaid card can be especially helpful.
- Online shoppers: Making purchases online can open consumers up to a variety of security risks. By using prepaid debit cards, some of the risk factors may be minimized.
- Habitual overdrafters: A prepaid debit card is a great alternative for consumers who routinely overdraft their checking accounts. Since the cardholder can only spend the amount loaded onto the card, they won’t face overdraft fees.
- Low credit scorers: Prepaid debit cards may be a good option for consumers with a low credit score and those ineligible for a credit card. The card can make buying more convenient online and in retail stores.
- Young adults and teens: Parents can help teens and young adults learn to manage their money by using a prepaid debit card.
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Prepaid card reviews
Green Dot is a prepaid and reloadable debit card company that allows customers to pay rent and send out other payments. Green Dot’s products are sold at thousands of major retail locations in the U.S.
Walmart Money Cards can be used anywhere Visa or Mastercard is accepted. Cardholders earn rewards when they shop at Walmart stores.
RushCard is a prepaid Visa card that lets consumers load their own money onto the card. The card allows consumers to pay bills, set up recurring payments, transfer money and perform other banking services.
Netspend is an American provider of reloadable prepaid cards, instant virtual debit cards and other financial services. Netspend has more than 70,000 distribution locations and 130,000 places to reload cards.
Vanilla Prepaid Cards are simple prepaid cards you can use anywhere Mastercard or Visa is accepted. They are available at many retail stores.
American Express Serve offers three prepaid debit card options. Cards are free to register and allow ATM withdrawals at more than 24,000 MoneyPass ATM locations around the nation.
AccountNow offers Visa and MasterCard prepaid cards that let customers add money through a variety of ways and also directly deposit their paychecks into their accounts. The company has 135,000 locations around the country.
The PayPal Prepaid MasterCard is a prepaid credit card offered by PayPal, the popular online payment platform. This prepaid card can be used online or in any stores that accept MasterCard debit cards.
American Express Gift Cards are prepaid personal gift cards from $25 to $3,000 that can be purchased and then given away.
Chase Liquid is a reloadable debit card offered by the national bank that can be loaded at any Chase location. It is accepted anywhere that Visa debit cards are accepted.
Kaiku is a prepaid debit card company that offers a convenient, low-cost and hassle-free way for customers to manage their money. Customers can upload payments by cash, check or electronically through methods like PayPal.
Pex Card offers a suite of business expense management solutions, including prepaid expense cards for businesses that want to offer employees a better way to make company purchases.
Compare Top Prepaid Debit Card Companies
Read 26 Reviews
Offers prepaid debit cards for $0 purchase price. Charges a $4.95 monthly fee. Free withdrawals at Chase ATMs and free cash reload. No wire transfers. Minimum initial load of $25. Access to Chase Mobile banking and account alerts.
|Kaiku Visa Prepaid Card||Read Reviews|
Provides prepaid cards to manage finances online. Offers multiple designs. Waives $3 monthly fee if you load more than $750 each month. Free withdrawals at 55,000 ATMs. Multiple reload options. Up to $5 fee for mobile deposits.
|PEX Card||Read Reviews|
Provides prepaid expense cards for businesses. Charges a $49.95 setup fee and monthly fees that start at $75 for 20 cards with balances from $25 to $25,000. No cash access. Helps control staff spending.
Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.
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