My Quick Points
- Where can prepaid credit cards be obtained?
- Are prepaid cards beneficial?
- Options other than prepaid cards
- How do I purchase a prepaid card?
- Best Prepaid Cards for Card Account Access
Where Can I Get Prepaid Credit Cards
How We Chose These Cards
The best prepaid cards are not only great budgeting tools, but they also offer many other features and are relatively affordable. When compiling our list, we considered several factors, including fees, additional benefits, free top-up options, and ways to get money back.
We also wanted to highlight cards that go beyond the norm. The cards we chose have special features, such as a high-interest savings account, compatibility with popular digital wallets, or perhaps a huge free ATM network.
How Do I Get A Prepaid Card?
Depending on which card you want, there are a few different ways you can apply.
- In store — At some stores, such as Walmart, you can buy a new card and put money on it.
- Online — Many cards allow you to apply through their websites.
- At a bank branch — Some banks, such as Chase, offer prepaid cards that you can request at your local branch.
Are Prepaid Cards Harmful To Your Creditworthiness?
They do not affect your creditworthiness. Unlike credit cards prepaid, you don’t borrow money from the card issuer – you have access to your own money that you have uploaded to the card account.
That’s why they don’t require a hard credit check, which can have a slightly negative effect on your credit scores.
But they also have no positive effect on your credit. With a credit card that reports to the three largest consumer credit bureaus, paying on time and in full and keeping your overall balance low will help you build a credit history. These cards don’t report any of your activities to the agencies, so they don’t help you build credit.
Are Prepaid Cards Worth It?
The cards can make sense in certain situations, such as if you don’t have a checking account or you just don’t want to be tempted to use credit.
But they can also have drawbacks. The relatively high cost only for holding, loading or even withdrawing money from the card. And you don’t build up credit by using a visa prepaid card. If you already have a bank account, or think you might want to open one, consider your alternatives.
Alternatives To Prepaid Cards
If you’re deciding whether a prepaid card is right for you, here are some alternatives to consider.
Free Checking Account
If you are looking for a prepaid master card for your fund management because of the costs that can be associated with bank accounts (such as overdraft fees), you may be interested in a free checking account from a bank or credit union.
Secure Credit Card
Prepaid debit cards can’t help you build creditworthiness the way a secured card can. Compare secured credit card offers to learn more about your options – some secured credit cards don’t require credit checks or even bank accounts. However, keep in mind that they do ask for a deposit, so you have to put down money to use a prepaid card.
How Can I Buy A Prepaid Card?
When looking for a prepaid card, compare the features and costs of different cards to find the one that best suits your needs. You can buy a card online or in person at a store. When buying, make sure to register it for protection in case your card or money is lost or stolen.
Shop Around To Find The Best Prepaid Card For You
There are many types of pre-paid cards, each with different features, costs, and rate structures. By asking a few questions, you can choose the right card for your situation.
Make sure that the card can be used at the locations accepted. These cards with a major network brand (such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover) can be used in any location that accepts that network brand.
Other types of cards may have restrictions on where or how they can be used, such as only at ATMs or at specific types of stores. Keep in mind that they can look like debit, credit, or gift cards, but they’re often very different.
The card packaging lists the main costs and other information about the prepaid account so that you can compare the cards in the store. You can visit the website on the map to view additional information about the program. Read more about the costs you have to pay.
Buy A Prepaid Card?
You can buy these cards at stores (such as supermarkets and drugstores), online, by phone, or from some banks and credit unions. If you buy the card online, you may get the card or they may send you a physical card in the mail.
When you buy the card, you pay the cost of the card plus the amount you want to load onto it, often referred to as the ‘initial charge’. Some cards require a minimum initial charge.
How To Register Your Reloadable Prepaid Card
It is important to register your card so that it is protected in the event of loss or theft. When you register your card, you may be asked for personal information such as:
- First and last name
- Street address (no PO boxes)
- Date of birth
- phone number
- Social Security Number, Tax Identification Number, or other identification number if you are not a US citizen
This personal information is used to verify your identity, which may be necessary before you can use certain card features, such as topping up money on the card or using it online or at an ATM. Also, you generally need to register your prepaid card to be eligible for deposit insurance.
Best Prepaid Cards To Access Card Account
They are sometimes referred to as “prepaid credit card” or “prepaid debit card”, but unlike credit card, they do not borrow money, meaning no checking credit is required. And unlike debit cards, they are not linked to your bank accounts.
Instead, you add money directly to the account. When your purchases made with the card, you use the funds you have loaded.
A prepaid card can be a good alternative to a credit card if you don’t want to be tempted to build up debt. It can also offer the convenience of plastic if you don’t qualify for or don’t have a checking account.
Best With No Monthly Fee: Bluebird® American Express® Prepaid Debit Account
Many pre paid cards charge different fees. But if you’re averse to fees, you’re not completely out of options – the Bluebird® American Express® Account could be a solid choice for you.
It comes with the following:
- No monthly fees and card opening fee
- No cost to get the online card ($5 card price in store)
- No MoneyPass ATM withdrawal fee ($2.50 fees at other ATMs, plus any ATM operator fees)
- No cash and debit card charging fees at Walmart (but up to $3.95 at other retailers)
- You also have the option to put funds on your card for free via a direct deposit or a mobile check deposit.
The only downside to free mobile deposits is the 10-day waiting period. If you want sooner, you must pay either 1% or 5% of the check amount, depending on the type of check, with a minimum fee of $5.
Approval Odds compares your credit profile with the profiles of already approved applicants or against lender criteria.
Best For Saving Money: Mango Prepaid Mastercard®
Here’s why: While some other cards allow you to put money into a separate savings account, you’ll be hard pressed to find a card that will reward you more for it than the Mango Prepaid Mastercard.
The savings account offers an annual percentage return, or APY, of up to 6% on balances as high as $2,500. You will get an APY of 0.10% on balances higher than that.
To qualify for the 6% APY, you must make at least $1,500 in “signature purchases” each month and have a balance of at least $25 in your savings account at the end of the month. ‘Signature’ purchases are transactions where you do not use your PIN to authorize sale.
But there are some costs to keep in mind.
- There is a $5 monthly charge, which the card issuer waives if you receive at least $800 in direct deposits each month.
- There are no activation costs.
- There is a $3 charge for domestic cash withdrawals (plus any fees charged by the ATM operator).
- You can pay a charge to load cash on the card, but it depends on how and where you load money onto the card.
- Read more about the Mango Mastercard in our editorial review.
Best For Cash Back Rewards: American Express Serve Cash Back®
Here’s why: Rewards are one of the biggest features you’ll miss out on if you avoid credit card. But with the American Express Serve® Cash Back, you will earn 1% cash back on every purchase, which will be applied to your account and can be used towards future purchases.
While that doesn’t compete with the best cash back credit, it’s better than nothing. Here are some of the costs associated with the American Express Serve Cash Back®.
- Monthly fees of $7.95 unless you live in New York, Texas or Vermont
- No cost to get the online card (up to $3.95 card price in store)
- No fees for withdrawals at MoneyPass ATMs (up to fees of $2.50 per transaction for out-of-network ATMs, as well as any fees charged by the ATM operator)
- Reloading cash at retail locations can cost you up to $3.95 depending on the retailer
- Read our editorial review of all three Serve® cards to learn more about the American Express Serve® Cash Back.
Best For Walmart Customers: Walmart Moneycard
Here’s why: If you shop frequently at Walmart, you might appreciate that you can use the Walmart MoneyCard to earn 3% cash back for shopping at Walmart.com and in the Walmart, 2% at Walmart gas stations, and 1% at Walmart stores – for a total of up to $75 in cashback per year.
But the card comes with some costs, including the following:
- There is a charge for $1 ticket purchases.
- You pay a $5.94 monthly usage charge, which is waived if you set up a qualifying direct deposit.
- There’s no charge for adding cash with the app in the store at Walmart — but adding cash at the register will set you back $3, and at other locations you can go up to $5.95.
- Expect to pay fees for ATM withdrawals, ATM withdrawals, overdrafts, foreign transaction fee, and more.
- You can also bank with the Walmart MoneyCard. Some of the banking features include overdraft protection, early salary access through direct deposit, and bill payment. You can also earn 2% APY on all your savings.
Best For Kids: Famzoo
Here’s why: The FamZoo card gives parents a prepaid option to give their kids the chance to earn and spend money. It also has built-in tools that can help teach financial responsibility.
Parents load up a main payment card, which they can then use to transfer funds between each family member with a card. As a parent, you can use your card to hand out money for things like groceries, chores, or allowance – it’s up to you. You can also apply for benefits or contributions to a shared family fund.
Here are some of the other key card features and costs that you should know.
- There’s a $5.99 monthly family plan, but you’ll save if you prepay for 6, 12, or 24 month packs.
- FamZoo does not charge certain common fees, such as for cash withdrawals, but other fees may apply.
- There are multiple ways to top up, but charges and transfer speeds may vary.
- You can only load $2,500 per day and the maximum total you can keep on the family cards is $5,000. In addition, there are different limits for loads, transfers and withdrawals.
- There are also handy financial tools that help kids learn to control expenses, create budgets, and save through automatic deductions. Parents can choose to reward responsible financial behavior with parental interest and parental chore commissions.
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