Prepaid debit cards can be used anywhere credit cards are accepted, but prepaid debit cards won’t let you fall into debt. You load a balance onto your card, based on your means and budget, and once that money has been spent, the card will be declined should a transaction be attempted. However, not all prepaid debit cards are the same. While some cards offer good benefits and low fees, others should be avoided. If you’re looking for the best prepaid debit card, we’ve done the research for you. Here are the best prepaid debit cards of 2019.
Best Prepaid & Debit Cards of 2019:
- Kroger REWARDS Prepaid Visa® Card
- NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card
- Fifth Third Access 360° Reloadable Prepaid Card
- MOVO Virtual Prepaid Visa Card
- American Express Serve®
- 24k Prepaid Visa® RushCard (currently unavailable)
What to Look for in a Prepaid Debit Card?
There are plenty of prepaid debit card options to choose from and some may be more appealing than others based on your individual preferences. Here are just some of the criteria to look out for and compare on your search for the best prepaid cards.
- Convenient card loading options
- Flexible ways to spend and pay bills
- Minimal or no monthly fees
- Free direct deposit
- Retail networks or online connections
- Widely accepted
- Ability to send money to friends and family online or via mobile device
- Free cash withdrawal
- Fraud protection
Although new prepaid cards come on the market every year, some have stood the test of time. As you read through the details on each card we’ve highlighted, consider how each card would work with your personal spending habits. Then consider the fees associated with each option to see how they stack up.
Kroger REWARDS Prepaid Visa® Card
Who Should Get It
If you do your grocery shopping at Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the U.S., then the Kroger REWARDS Prepaid Visa® Card is a good bet for you. That’s because it’s one of the few prepaid debit cards with a rewards structure, allowing you to rack up free groceries.
How to Use It
- Earn a one-time $10 bonus when you sign up for direct deposit, and deposit up to $5,000 on your card for free.
- Or load up to $1,000 in cash at any Kroger location for a $3 fee.
- Free mobile app includes check deposit ability and budgeting tools.
- Automatically receive a $5 Kroger coupon on your card for every 1,000 points earned.
- No credit check required.
- Monthly maintenance fee is $4.95; no per-purchase fees.
Because this is the rare prepaid debit card that actually earns rewards, it’s fairly easy to offset the $4.95 monthly maintenance fee if you’re a frequent Kroger customer. You can earn 1 point per dollar spent on all purchases, 2 points per dollar spent at Kroger stores, and 3 points for every dollar spent on Kroger’s store-brand products. For every 1,000 points, you’ll receive a $5 coupon valid at any Kroger store.
NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card
Who Should Get It
The NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card is great if you’re looking for a card with an easy-to-understand fee structure, whether you want to pay as you go or make unlimited transactions without additional fees. With no credit check, minimum balance, or activation fee, you can be making purchases with your new NetSpend card faster than other card options.
How to Use It
- Load your card for free at more than 130,000 reload locations.
- Checks can be loaded onto your card through your phone.
- Funds are FDIC insured up to the current coverage limit.
- Online banking makes it easy to manage and pay bills online.
- No minimum balance and no credit check.
- Free text alerts let you know about new transactions, deposits, or low funds in real time.
The card comes with three separate plans – a no-fee plan with a $1 fee for signature purchases and a $2 fee per PIN purchase transactions, a Fee Advantage Plan with a $9.95 monthly fee and free unlimited transactions, and a Reduced Monthly Plan with a $5 monthly fee and free unlimited transactions.
If you only make a handful of transactions each month, you might be better off going with the pay-as-you-go plan with no monthly fee, but if you make lots of purchases, you should probably choose one of the plans with a monthly fee and unlimited transactions.
You can qualify for the cheapest plan, the Reduced Monthly Plan, by setting up a direct deposit of at least $500 during one calendar month. There is an annual fee to consider, but at less than a dollar per month, it’s affordable.
24k Prepaid Visa® RushCard
Who Should Get It
This is a prepaid Visa card for people who don’t want to deal with a lengthy application process. Much like the AccountNow® Gold Visa® Prepaid Card below, the 24k Prepaid Visa® RushCard isn’t too hard to get ahold of. In fact, there’s no credit check or minimum balance required – you just need to prove that you are who you say you are with a valid ID. There are also transaction plan options that make it easier to prevent fees from adding up.
How to Use It
- Receive real-time alerts letting you know of any account activity or if your funds are running low.
- Just like a prepaid credit card, your funds are protected, thanks to the Visa Zero Liability policy.
- Take advantage of easy online bill pay.
- 24-hour customer service.
- Receive funds up to two days faster with direct deposit.
There are several ways to reload your RushCard, including MoneyGram, Western Union, and retail locations. There is a fee to reload, though. Money can also be withdrawn easily and, as long as you use an in-network ATM, without a fee.
Another way to avoid fees is with their unlimited monthly fee plan. If you use your card on a regular basis, you can avoid being charged $1 per transaction and instead pay $7.95 per month for unlimited transactions. If you don’t use your RushCard that often, keep in mind that there is an inactivity fee if you’re not signed up for the unlimited plan. Overall, this prepaid Visa card is a simple option with easy approvals and a choice of fee options.
Fifth Third Access 360° Reloadable Prepaid Card
Who Should Get It
This is a great choice for people who are already Fifth Third Bank customers, as the monthly fee is voided for banking customers. It’s also a great card for those who need to make ATM transactions, as you can easily withdraw cash fee-free from more than 50,000 ATMs nationwide.
How to Use It
- The $4 monthly fee is waived if you’re a Fifth Third banking customer, or if you add more than $500 per month on your card.
- Use the card anywhere MasterCard is accepted.
- Fee-free access to more than 50,000 ATMs nationwide.
- Add money in a bank branch or using the mobile app.
- Co-account holders can be added so that the right people have access to funds when they need it, like family members or babysitters.
The Fifth Third Access 360° Reloadable Prepaid Card offers utmost convenience and a ton of handy perks. Better yet, acquiring the card and using it can be insanely cheap. This card doesn’t charge any fees to sign up, nor does it charge fees for adding, withdrawing, or transferring money. You can use it anywhere MasterCard is accepted, and you can add money to the card in a bank branch or by using their mobile app.
One downside to consider is that fuel purchases made with this card need to be completed inside a gas station — that’s right, you cannot pay at the pump. However, the low or nonexistent fees associated with this card make it far superior to even some of the best prepaid credit cards.
MOVO Virtual Prepaid Visa Card
Who Should Get It
If you want a prepaid card that’s easy to acquire and nearly free to use, MOVO’s prepaid Visa card is a solid choice. The card is issued by Metropolitan Commercial Bank and can be obtained by downloading the associated app and simply opening an account. You’ll have your card within 10 business days — so if you need a card today, MOVO might not be your answer. But if you’re looking for the easiest way to get a prepaid debit card, this is it.
How to Use It
- No credit check.
- No monthly fees and no fees for activation or inactivity.
- Withdraw cash for free from 6,000 ATMs nationwide; pay $2 to withdraw cash from out-of-network ATMs.
- Add cash to your card via direct deposit, a bank account transfer, withdrawal from PayPal or Venmo, or a cash load at qualifying retailers like Walgreens and Safeway.
You don’t need a credit check to sign up, and there are no monthly fees or fees for inactivity or activation. There are no fees for purchases made with the card either, making this a good card for people who want to keep costs down.
While MOVO lets you withdraw cash from included ATMs for free, there are only 6,000 ATMs in their network. This could make it a poor card option for anyone who withdraws cash frequently or doesn’t live near an included ATM. Fortunately, the MOVO Virtual Prepaid Visa Card does make it easy to load cash onto your card via direct deposit, a bank account transfer, withdrawal from PayPal or Venmo, or a cash load at certain retailers like Walgreens.
American Express Serve®
Who Should Get It
This is a card for those who want an American Express card in their wallet with few fees and lots of reload options. This card is also great for families. It’s a low-fee alternative to traditional bank accounts and offers more than most prepaid cards.
How to Use It
- The $1 monthly fee is already very low, but the fee is waived if you use direct deposit and load just $500 onto your card each month.
- You can load cash for free at CVS and 7-Eleven stores. Most other cards offer large retail networks, but those retail partners often charge their own fees to add cash at their locations.
- You can set up sub-accounts for your kids and set spending limits for them.
- The card also has a reserve function, so you can set aside money each month for a large purchase or family vacation.
- Withdraw cash for free at over 24,000 ATMs nationwide.
The American Express Serve® is one of the best prepaid debit cards out there simply because of its low fees. With a little planning, the monthly fee can be waived every month. The ability to set up sub-accounts with spending limits also makes it a great choice for families who want to introduce responsible spending to their kids.
Comparing American Express Serve® Options
American Express Serve® is also offering two alternate cards with their own unique benefits – the American Express Serve® FREE Reloads and the American Express Serve® Cash Back. Both options charge a monthly fee, but offer their own set of perks. This chart can help you compare options:
|American Express Serve®||American Express Serve® FREE Reloads||American Express Serve® Cash Back|
|Card Price||$0 online, up to $3.95 at retail locations||$0 online, up to $3.95 at retail locations||$0 online, up to $3.95 at retail locations|
|Monthly Fee (No fee in TX, NY, and VT)||$1 or $0 when you direct deposit $500||$4.95||$5.95|
|1% Cash Back on Purchases||n/a||n/a||Yes|
|Cash Reloads||up to $3.95 (fees vary by retailer)||$0 at CVS Pharmacy, Family Dollar, Walmart, and participating 7 Eleven locations||up to $3.95 (fees vary by retailer)|
|Mobile Check Deposit||$0||$0||$0|
|In-network ATM withdrawals||$0||$0||$0|
|Online Bill Pay||$0||$0||$0|
Please Note: The American Express Serve® is currently unavailable through this site.
Best Prepaid Cards Comparison
Take a close look at the table below to get a better understanding of which prepaid card is best for your situation.
|Activation Fee||Max Monthly Fee||ATM Fees||Foreign Currency Fee||Max Balance|
|24k Prepaid Visa® RushCard||$0||$7.95||$3.00 with out-of-network ATMs||3%||$10,000|
|PayPal™ Prepaid MasterCard®||$0||$4.95||$1.95||2.5%||$15,000|
|Fifth Third Access 360° Reloadable Prepaid Card||$0||$4||$0 with in-network ATMs||3%||$25,000|
|MOVO Virtual Prepaid Visa Card||$0||$0||$2||3%||$10,000|
|NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card||$0||$9.95||$2.50||3.5%||$15,000|
|American Express Serve® (currently unavailable)||$0||$1||$0 at MoneyPass ATMs||2.7%||$5,000|
Honorable Mention: American Express Bluebird®
Who Should Get It
While our list covered over half a dozen excellent options, we’d be remiss if we didn’t touch upon one other. When you’re shopping for the best prepaid cards, the deserves an honorable mention for its lack of fees and ease of use — particularly if you’re a frequent Walmart customer.
How to Use It
- Transfer money for free out of your checking or savings account.
- Add cash for free at almost any Walmart checkout register.
- Pay bills with online bill pay or paper checks.
- Free ATM access at more than 25,000 MoneyPass ATMs.
- No overdraft or stop payment fees.
- No foreign transaction fees.
Not only does Bluebird come without any minimum balance requirements, but it also comes without monthly or annual fees, overdraft fees, foreign exchange fees, bill pay fees, inactivity fees, or card replacement fees.
Even though American Express Bluebird® is light on fees, it still offers a ton of perks. For example, Bluebird offers its users an amazing online bill pay feature and the ability to write paper checks. Meanwhile, card owners can add cash for free using mobile check deposit or at any Walmart checkout register.
One feature this card doesn’t have is the ability to request cash back on debit transactions. Luckily, you can withdraw money for free at one of their 25,000 in-network ATMs.
How Does a Prepaid Debit Card Work?
A prepaid debit card allows you (or your employer) to load money onto a debit card, which you can then use to make purchases wherever credit cards are accepted or to withdraw cash from an ATM. It’s easy to qualify for a prepaid card, and it can be a convenient option if you don’t have a bank account. Here are the basic functions about prepaid debit cards you should know.
Getting started: You can purchase a prepaid debit card online or from a retailer. You must then activate the card by supplying your personal information. There’s no credit check required for a prepaid card. Most cards require you to deposit an initial load on the card at the time of setup, which becomes your prepaid card’s balance.
Making purchases: Prepaid cards are accepted at any merchant that displays the name of the payment network your card belongs to, such as Visa, MasterCard, or American Express. Every time you use your prepaid debit card, the amount of the purchase will be subtracted from your available funds. If you attempt to make a purchase made in excess of your available funds, it will be declined.
Reloading: Most prepaid debit cards offer you a variety of ways to reload money onto your card, including direct deposit, transfers from bank accounts, and cash reloads at retailers that belong to a reload network.
Fees: A prepaid debit card may have several fees, including a fee to purchase the card and activate the account. Other fees can include monthly fees, reload fees, ATM withdrawal fees, and foreign transaction fees. Unlike credit cards, you can’t incur interest charges or late fees on a prepaid card.
Who Should Use a Prepaid Debit Card?
Depending on your situation, there may be better options than a prepaid debit card, so make sure you consider alternatives, too. The best checking accounts, for example, offer debit cards with fewer fees and stipulations when compared to prepaid debit cards. And the best secured credit cards are similar to prepaid debit cards, but allow you to build your credit score over time. That being said, there are scenarios where a prepaid debit card can come out as the winner.
You should consider getting a prepaid debit card in these four cases:
- You can’t open a free or low-cost checking account. People who have a history of not paying bank fees or overdrawing their account will get flagged in ChexSystems, which is a special credit system that banks use.
- You don’t like certain bank fees, like overdraft or service fees. Most banks offer some free checking options but, if you overdraft your account often, you’ll rack up fees.
- If you don’t want online purchases to have any link to a bank account or credit card. You can limit the amount of money on the card, so if anyone gets a hold of your information, your downside is limited to what’s on the card — instead of your entire bank account.
- If you want to use a prepaid card to issue your kids gas money, allowance, or college-spending cash. This ensures your kids don’t go rogue and overspend on the family credit card.
If you don’t fit into any of the categories above, then your best bet is to sign up for a low-cost or free checking account.
And because even the best prepaid debit cards don’t report your activity to the credit bureaus, if you’re someone who’s looking to rebuild your credit, you may be better off with a secured credit card in addition to a prepaid card.
- Read more: What Is a Secured Credit Card?
Do I Need Credit to Get a Prepaid Debit Card?
No, a credit history is not required to secure a prepaid debit card. In fact, one popular reason consumers seek out prepaid cards is that they can enjoy the convenience of credit cards without the credit history needed for an application to be accepted.
If you’re considering a prepaid debit card because you don’t have any credit, good or bad, just yet, you can still be approved. In some cases, you don’t even need a bank account to get a prepaid card.
Unlike credit cards, you’re spending your own money — so you can’t spend beyond your means with a prepaid debit card. And, once the pre-loaded funds run out, the card will be declined (unless you buy reloadable packs – more on that later). However, prepaid debit cards will not help you rebuild or establish a good credit history. You’ll need to use other methods, such as paying down debt and making payments on time.
Which Banks Offer Prepaid Debit Cards?
You can find a variety of banks and credit unions nationwide that offer prepaid debit cards. However, the types of prepaid debit cards and their various perks will vary. To get a better perspective for your situation, we highly recommend ing your local bank or credit union to ask about their offerings. Additionally, prepaid debit cards can be purchased in most major drugstore chains and supermarkets.
If you do decide to go with a prepaid card from a bank, start by looking at the bank you use for your savings or checking account. Some banks wave prepaid debit card fees for banking customers.
Do Prepaid Debit Cards Have Fees?
Here are the most common types of fees to watch out for when you’re shopping for a prepaid debit account:
- Monthly fee: This is a fixed monthly fee that you must pay even if you don’t use your card.
- Transaction fee: This is a fee you’ll pay every time you use the card. The amount could vary depending on the vendor, and can also be different depending if you sign for your purchase or put in your pin number.
- Cash reload fee: If you add money to your card from a retail location, you may be charged a $3 reload fee. (Direct deposit reloads are often free.)
- Paper statement fee: If you don’t opt into paperless statements, you might be charged a fee for your monthly statement.
- Bill payment fee: Some prepaid cards have online portals, but using them to pay your bill incurs a small fee — usually around $2.
- Inactivity fee: If you don’t use your card for an extended amount of time, you may be charged an inactivity fee.
- Cancellation fee: If you decide to cancel your card before it expires, you could be charged as much as $30.
Almost every prepaid debit card has at least one fee; the best ones keep their fees low and straightforward. So rather than trying to find a card without any fees at all, find one with the perfect combination of affordable, understandable fees and convenience.
Are Prepaid Debit Cards Safe?
As of April 1, 2019, prepaid debit cards are much safer than they were before. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s new prepaid card rule means that you can feel more confident swiping your prepaid card. Here are the main points to know.
- Prepaid cards now receive the same basic protection from errors, unauthorized charges, and fraud that standard debit cards receive.
- Consumers are provided with a simple fee chart, so they don’t fall victim to hidden charges.
- Cards that are not FDIC insured (which is rare) must carry a statement on the outside package.
- Companies can’t charge for consumers to find out their prepaid card balance or transaction information.
- Consumers are not required to accept payroll cards (prepaid cards with paychecks deposited onto them) and must be provided with other options.
With this rule, consumers are better protected against fraud, less likely to succumb to hidden fees, and are more informed about their payment options.
How Much Does It Cost to Get a Prepaid Debit Card?
This can vary depending on the kind of prepaid card you’re getting and the issuer. In some cases, you may have to pay a small purchase fee or activation fee. Most cards rely on monthly fees for revenue, which can vary. Some are as low as $1 a month while others can be almost $10 a month.
While the fees can seem like a disadvantage, they might be the lesser of two evils if you tend to overspend with traditional debit cards or credit cards, leaving you with expensive overdraft fees or high interest charges.
Are Prepaid Debit Cards Reloadable?
Yes, in most cases, prepaid debit cards are reloadable. This is largely due to the fact that you cannot overdraw on a prepaid debit card. The only funds available are the funds you put on the card. If you use up the available funds, you must add more money or “reload.” This is usually done either by purchasing “reload packs” or making a direct deposit from a checking or savings account.
What Are Prepaid Debit Card Loans?
Say you’re looking to apply for a short-term loan. In some cases, a lender can deposit the amount of that loan onto a prepaid debit card for immediate use. This is what’s known as a prepaid debit card loan. In most cases, the ease of use made possible by a prepaid debit card means you can use that loan money for a variety of everyday expenses. These include but are not necessarily limited to:
- ATM withdrawals
As with anything loan related, though, you want to be especially diligent when it comes to prepaid debit card loans. Make sure you’re fully familiar with any hidden service charges and don’t rush into anything.
Can You Use a Prepaid Debit Card for Online Shopping?
In most cases, the answer is yes. Prepaid debit cards should have the same range of use where most regular credit cards are accepted. This is because prepaid debit cards utilize the same card networks, like Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover.
So whether it’s online shopping or buying groceries, you should be all set with a prepaid debit card.
How Do I Add Money to My Prepaid Debit Card?
There are a couple of ways you can add money to your prepaid debit card. You can add funds via direct deposit from a checking or savings account as well as another prepaid debit card. There are also times when a retailer can add funds straight from the register once you’ve made a purchase. In some cases, you might be able to add funds via purchasable “reload packs” from prepaid debit card issuers.
Can I Transfer Cash from My Prepaid Debit Card to My Bank Account?
While adding money to your prepaid card is simple, transferring money from your card to your checking account can get tricky. Most prepaid cards charge a fee for that service, and doing so can essentially void the benefits associated with prepaid cards.
Instead of transferring money from your prepaid card to your bank account, transfer the money from a different account. Most banks will do this free of charge as long as both accounts are within the institution.
If you’re transferring money to pay bills, don’t forget that you can most likely use your prepaid card do so, eliminating the need to transfer money in the first place.
Best Prepaid Debit Cards: Summed Up
|Prepaid Debit Cards||Monthly Fee|
|1||Kroger REWARDS Prepaid Visa® Card||$4.95|
|2||NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card||$5|
|3||24k Prepaid Visa® RushCard||$0, $5.95, or $7.95|
|4||Fifth Third Access 360° Reloadable Prepaid Card||$4 unless you’re a Fifth Third banking customer|
|5||MOVO Virtual Prepaid Visa Card||No monthly fee|
|6||American Express Serve®||$1|
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