10 Best Prepaid Debit Cards

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Prepaid debit cards have been around for a while, and they’re another financial tool you may find valuable.

For some people, a prepaid card is an alternative to a checking account. You can have your pay direct deposited onto the card, and then use it to make payments or get cash.

But if credit cards aren’t an option for you, a prepaid debit card may be right for you. Here are our top picks for you to choose from.

Top Prepaid Debit Cards

It’s possible to get prepaid debit cards from many retail stores, gas stations and even online directly from the card issuer website. But not all prepaid debit cards are created equal.

Some cards charge high activation fees or monthly maintenance fees. Here are a few of our top picks.

1. Netspend

Netspend home page

Another prevalent prepaid debit card network is Netspend, which has both Visa and Mastercard prepaid cards.

You’ll choose from three different pricing plans, which determine your monthly maintenance and purchase fees.

Your monthly plan fee can be as high as $9.95, but that fee drops to $5 if you have a monthly direct deposit of at least $500. On all plans, Netspend doesn’t charge an activation fee.

You will, however, pay $2.50 per withdrawal plus any third-party ATM fees with all three plans. Except for free direct deposit, plan on paying a reload fee if you reload your card.

Although it’s harder to avoid the different prepaid debit card fees than it is with other cards, Netspend has an added benefit: It offers a high-yield online savings account that pays up to 5% APY interest.

That compares really well with other high-yield online savings accounts. And you can earn cash rewards when you shop at select retailers.

Pay-As-You-Go Plan

  • Monthly plan fee: $0
  • Signature purchase transaction fee: $1
  • PIN-based transaction fee: $2
  • Activation fee: $0

This à la carte plan can be one of the cheapest among prepaid debit cards if you only use your card four times a month or fewer.

But if you think you’ll use it six or more times a month, both the Netspend FeeAdvantage Plan and the Premier FeeAdvantage Plan (below) are cheaper.

Although you pay a monthly fee for those plans, you won’t pay purchase transaction fees.

And if you if you fund your card with a monthly direct deposit of at least $500, the Premier FeeAdvantage Plan is free!

FeeAdvantage Plan

  • Monthly plan fee: $9.95 a month
  • Signature purchase transaction fee: $0
  • PIN-based transaction fee: $0
  • Activation fee: $0

You can reload your card for free with bank account and PayPal transfers. A third free option is mobile check deposit if you’re OK with waiting 10 days for the deposit to clear.

Premier FeeAdvantage Plan

  • Monthly plan fee: $5 with a direct deposit of at least $500 a month
  • Signature purchase transaction fee: $0
  • PIN-based transaction fee: $0
  • Activation fee: $0

If you can have a monthly direct deposit of at least $500, you qualify for the Premier FeeAdvantage Plan. Your monthly fee is only $5 and you don’t pay any purchase transaction fees.

If direct deposit is going to be your primary balance reload method, enrolling in the Premier FeeAdvantage plan instead of the standard FeeAdvantage Plan saves you money.

Two other Premier Plan benefits include $10 overdraft protection and a free custom card design.      

What We Like About Netspend

  • Two flexible ways to waive or reduce the $9.95 monthly fee
  • Premier FeeAdvantage members get $10 in overdraft protection
  • Earn cash rewards at select retail partners
  • Option to open a high-yield online savings account

2. Acorns

Acorns home page

If you’re looking for a little different prepaid debit card, you might like Acorns. You may know the Acorns app already.

It rounds up your credit and debit card purchases and invests the extra amount.

For example, you buy a coffee for $2.73 and Acorns “rounds up” the purchase to $3 and invests the extra 27 cents. The prepaid card can do the same thing.

The Acorns Spend feature gives you an FDIC-insured checking account and Acorns Visa debit card that reimburses your ATM withdrawal fees and invests your spending roundups.

The spending roundups are optional. If you don’t want to use the investing tools, you can just use the prepaid debit card like any other prepaid.

Acorns offers three different subscription tiers.

  • Lite Plan at $1: Invest spare change, earn bonus investments, protect what you love, and grow your knowledge.
  • Personal Plan at $3: All-in-one investment, retirement, and checking, plus a metal debit card, bonus investments, money advice, and more.
  • Family Plan at $5: Investment accounts for kids, plus personal investment, retirement, and checking accounts, and exclusive offers and content.

You can make free bank-to-bank transfers, which makes it easy to fund your account from your current checking or savings account, or to send money from your Acorns Spend account to friends.

One drawback with the Acorns card is that you won’t be able to fund your account as easily as with other prepaid debit cards.

Your three funding options are direct deposit, mobile check deposit and linking to another bank account or a digital wallet app like PayPal or Venmo.

If you can handle the relatively inflexible account reload options, the $3 monthly fee is very reasonable.

Plus, you can easily invest your spare change or make fee-free ATM withdrawals at no additional charge.

Learn More: Acorns App Review

3. Bluebird

Bluebird home page

If you shop at Walmart, you may find a Bluebird prepaid debit card to be convenient. And Bluebird makes it easy to not pay any monthly fees or reload fees.

The one downside is that this card is issued by American Express. American Express credit cards and prepaid cards don’t have the same nearly-universal acceptance rate as Visa or Mastercard prepaid debit cards.

Fees

  • Monthly maintenance fee: $0
  • Reload fee: $0 for direct deposit or at Walmart stores
  • ATM fee: $0 at 24,000+ MoneyPass ATMs ($2.50+ at non-MoneyPass ATMs)
  • Activation and purchase fee: $0 when purchased online; up to $5 at a Walmart store

Bluebird doesn’t charge a monthly maintenance fee for any cardholder. You also won’t pay a fee when you make purchases.

As long as you reload your balance at a Walmart store or enroll in direct deposit, you never pay to reload your balance.

If you reload at a non-Walmart retail location, you will pay a reload fee of  up to $3.95.

You can also reload your balance for free via mobile check deposit with a 10-day waiting period, or online when using another debit card.

Other fees you might pay are $5 for in-store activation, non-MoneyPass ATM withdrawals and instant mobile check deposit.

Mobile check deposit is free if you don’t mind waiting up for 10 days for your deposit to clear.

You can also make free money transfers to other Bluebird cardholders.

Why We Like Bluebird

  • No monthly fees or purchase transaction fees
  • Free ATM withdrawals within the MoneyPass network
  • Can manage up to four cards in one account
  • No foreign transaction fee (most cards charge 3%)

4. American Express Serve

American Express Serve home page

If you want an American Express prepaid debit card, but their Bluebird option doesn’t make sense, you might like the Serve lineup.

These cards offer more flexibility with balance reloads, which can be especially attractive if you don’t live near a Walmart.

Three are three different versions of the American Express Serve prepaid debit cards. Each card offers a slightly different fee structure, so you need to decide which one matches your spending and balance reload habits the best.

These are the three different Serve cards:

  • Serve
  • FREE Reloads Serve
  • Serve Cash Rewards

With all three cards, you can make free withdrawals at MoneyPass ATMs. Direct deposit is free, as is Ingo Money mobile check deposit when you opt for the 10-day deposit wait time.

And you can transfer funds from your bank account to your Serve debit card free of charge.

If your only option is paying $9.95 on other prepaid cards with another card issuer, you’ll find a cheaper monthly fee with Serve.

The highest monthly fee you’ll pay with Serve cards is $6.95.

None of the cards charge a transaction fee for signature-based or PIN-based transactions.

There is a $3.95 card activation fee, but you can avoid it by requesting your card online.

American Express Serve

  • Monthly fee: $6.95 or $0 with a $500+ direct deposit
  • Cash reloads: Up to $3.95 (fee varies by retailer)
  • ATM $0 with MoneyPass. $2.50 with non MoneyPass.

This entry-level Serve prepaid debit card is similar to the Netspend Premier FeeAdvantage Plan. The main difference is the Serve Card is issued by American Express, while Netspend has Visa and Mastercard debit cards.

Fewer merchants accept the American Express label, which can become an inconvenience.

This version of the Serve card lineup is the best option if you have a monthly direct deposit of at least $500.

If you reload in person, the Serve FREE Reloads (below) can be a better option. With it, you pay the $6.95 monthly fee but avoid the $3.95 reload fee.

American Express Serve FREE Reloads

  • Monthly fee: $6.95
  • Reload fee: $0 at 45,000 national retail locations

This is the best option if you want to reload your prepaid debit card for free in person.

If you don’t have a bank account to transfer funds to the card, or a monthly direct deposit of at least $500, in-person reloads can be the easiest way to fund your prepaid debit card.

Other prepaid debit cards charge a $3.95 reload fee when you replenish your balance at most retail stores. One notable exception is reloading a Bluebird card at Walmart.

You can reload for free at national chains including:

  • CVS
  • Dollar General
  • Family Dollar
  • Walmart
  • 7-Eleven Convenience Centers   

When you rely on in-person reloads to fund your debit card, those reload fees add up quickly. Having so many retail options for reloading may be an important benefit if that’s how you want to reload your card.

You can also reload your card balance with from your bank account or 10-day mobile check deposit for free.

American Express Serve Cash Back

  • Monthly fee: $6.95
  • Cash reloads: Up to $3.95 (fee varies by retailer)

One downside of prepaid debit cards is that most don’t let you earn cash rewards, like credit cards do. The Serve Cash Back card lets you earn 1% back on all purchases.

Expect to pay a reload fee when doing so at a store.

Because of the possible reload fee, only choose this card if you can reload for free via direct deposit or bank account.

Also, make sure you think the 1% cash rewards will justify a monthly fee that’s $1 higher than the other two Serve cards.

Why We Like American Express Serve

  • The monthly fee can be lower than other options
  • Get free in-store reloads with the Serve FREE Reloads Card
  • Earn 1% back on all purchases with the Serve Cash Back Card

5. Chase Starbucks Reward Prepaid Card

Chase Starbucks Reward Prepaid Card home page

The Starbucks Reward Prepaid card allows you to earn Starbucks points with no monthly, annual or reload fees.

You will earn $1 for every $10 you spend on your card.

To load your card, simply transfer funds from your Chase checking or savings account. Or use your debit card from any financial institution to add funds.

Your funds are FDIC insured up to the maximum allowed by law.

Fees

  • Monthly maintenance fee: $0
  • Reload fee: $0
  • ATM fee: Not available
  • Activation and purchase fee: $0

Why We Like Chase Starbucks PrePaid Card

  • The only fee is the $0 monthly fee
  • $0 purchase fees

6. Fifth Third Access 360

Fifth Third Access 360 home page

Another large U.S. bank is Fifth Third Bank. Its Access 360 prepaid debit card is free if you have a Fifth Third checking account or a monthly $500 direct deposit. Otherwise, the monthly fee is a reasonable $4.

With the Access 360 card, you have free access to Fifth Third, Allpoint Network and 7-Eleven convenience center ATMs.

Non-network ATMs cost $2.75 per transaction plus any third-party fees.

Fees

  • Monthly maintenance fee: $4
  • Reload fee: $0 via direct deposit or bank transfers (Up to $4.95 for most in-person reloads)
  • ATM fee: $0 at 50,000+ in-network ATMs ($2.50 at non-network ATMs)
  • Activation and purchase fee: $0

Why We Like the Fifth Third Access 360

  • Fee-free access to over 50,000 in-network ATMs
  • Can waive the $4 monthly fee with direct deposit or a Fifth Third checking account
  • Free reload via direct deposit or bank transfer

7. MOVO

MOVO home page

MOVO offers prepaid cards in either physical cards or digitally.

Digital Cash is card free. They have simplified using your cell phone to pay with the MOVO Digital PrePaid Visa debit account. Set Up Direct Deposit.

Load Cash at 1000s of Stores Using Green Dot® Reload @ Register, Green Dot® MoneyPak or Visa ReadyLink. Transfer Funds from Another Bank Account.

To add funds to your account with a check, use the Ingo Money App to take a picture and use the app to ensure when and where you want your money.

As for your plastic MOVO prepaid card, once you have applied, it should take 7-10 days to receive the card. Use the Ingo Money App to add funds.

There are roughly 6,000 ATMs across the entire United States in this network — far fewer than in the MoneyPass or Chase ATM networks.

But the MOVO prepaid debit card makes up for relatively few free ATMs by not charging a monthly fee and making it easy to reload your card balance from digital wallets, including:

  • Paypal
  • Venmo
  • Bitcoin

If you’re someone who makes money with PayPal, this card makes it easy to spend your earnings.

Fees

  • Monthly maintenance fee: $0
  • Reload fee: $0 via direct deposit, bank transfers and digital wallet apps
  • ATM fee: $0 at Visa PLUS Alliance ATMs ($2 at non-network ATMs)
  • Activation and purchase fee: $0

8. RushCard

RushCard home page

The RushCard is a prepaid Visa card issued by MetaBank. It’s one of the more expensive card options, which is why you might consider another option first.

Also, RushCard doesn’t have the cleanest reputation. The company was fined for an outage in which many customers couldn’t pay their bills or access their RushCard accounts.

GreenDot (the largest prepaid debit card provider) now owns RushCard, and no new outages have been reported since the acquisition.

If these facts don’t scare you away and the other choices on this list aren’t a good fit, RushCard might work for you.

When you get started with the card, you can choose from four different designs. You’ll pay a one-time card fee of $3.95 for each RushCard you order.

Your monthly fee is a flat $9.95, or $5.95 if you enroll in direct deposit with your employer paycheck or government benefits.

But you won’t pay a transaction fee when making purchases. Alternatively, you could pay $1 per transaction and in return, skip the monthly fee.

You can make free ATM withdrawals within the MoneyPass ATM network. Non-network ATM withdrawals cost $2.50 each.

Your RushCard balance is free to reload via direct deposit, but you will probably pay a fee if reloading at a store.

You can reload at more than 130,000 GreenDot retail partners across the United States.

Fees

  • Monthly maintenance fee: $1 per transaction or a monthly $9.95 or $5.95 flat fee
  • Reload fee: $0 via direct deposit (fees can apply for other funding options)
  • ATM fee: $0 at MoneyPass ATMs ($2.50 for non-network ATMs)
  • Activation and purchase fee: $3.95 ($9.95 if you change your card design after funding).

Why We Like RushCard

  • Monthly fee reduction when enrolling in direct deposit
  • $1 transaction fee waived when paying the monthly flat fee
  • Free MoneyPass ATM access
  • Free mobile check deposit

9. PayPal Prepaid Mastercard

PayPal Prepaid Mastercard home page

Having a PayPal Prepaid Mastercard can be one of the easiest ways to use the money you get paid to your PayPal account from friends or ever side hustles.

This card is relatively fee-heavy, as you pay $4.95 to purchase the card and an unwaivable $4.95 monthly fee.

But you won’t pay a transaction fee when making in-person or online purchases. And you have fee-free access to the 55,000+ Allpoint ATM network.

Remember that most prepaid debit cards give you access to the MoneyPass network, which only has 35,000 free ATMs.

That’s still a sizable amount of free ATMs, but an extra 20,000 free ATMs can make a huge difference in your hometown and when you travel and want to avoid fees.

You can reload your PayPal debit card for free with direct deposit or PayPal transfers. Reloading is also possible at local stores and banks, but expect to pay a $3.95 reload fee.

Fees

  • Monthly maintenance fee: $4.95
  • Reload fee: $0 via direct deposit or PayPal ($3.95 for most in-person reloads)
  • ATM fee: $0 at Allpoint Network ATMs ($2.50 at non-network ATMs)
  • Activation and purchase fee: $4.95
  • Non-Mastercard-member fee: $3.00

There isn’t a way to avoid the one-time card purchase fee or ongoing monthly maintenance fees.

While you might pay a few extra dollars initially, the relatively low monthly fee and access to fee-free Allpoint ATMs can save you money in the long run if most of your free cash is in your PayPal account.

Why We Like the PayPal Prepaid Mastercard

  • Check your PayPal App account balance anywhere
  • Monthly fee of $4.95 is cheaper than other debit cards that charge $9.95, and you don’t have to use direct deposit to get this discount rate
  • Fee-free access to over 55,000 Allpoint ATM

10. FamZoo

FamZoo home page

FamZoo is an app that functions as a prepaid card and allowance system for kids, teens and parents.

As far as the prepaid debit card feature goes, you as a parent can transfer money onto the card for your teen to use.

You can make a one-off transfer at any time, or tie the transfer to completed chores. Your teen can use their prepaid debit card to spend money how they wish.

However, there are parental controls as well that you can manage to help kids spend their money wisely.

FamZoo also helps your child learn to budget and provides options for spending, saving and giving within their FamZoo account.

Fees

  • $5.99 per month
  • 6-month prepay of $25.99 (averages out to $4.33 per month)
  • 12-month prepay of $39.99 (averages out to $3.33 per month)
  • 24-month prepay of $59.99 (averages out to $2.50 per month)
  • Additional card fee: (after four included cards) $3 per card
  • Cash reload: $4.95 each
  • Express delivery fee: $25
  • ATM withdrawals: Free for in-network and out-of-network (ATM owner may charge fees)

Note that the monthly, semi-annual, annual and bi-annual prices are per family, not per child. And you get four cards with each plan.

Why We Like FamZoo

FamZoo was created to help you teach your children to earn, manage, save and give money.

Features such as allowance charts, savings goals, budget plans, and parent-to-child loan tracking give your child the opportunity to learn to manage money and prepare for adulthood.

They can use the prepaid debit card to make purchases at retailers or to get money from an ATM machine.

Summary

Prepaid debit cards can offer the convenience of a traditional debit card with a built-in money management benefit.

You still have easy access to your money, but you’ll have less risk of overspending.

One downside with prepaid cards is that you can’t use them to build a credit score, as you can with a credit card.

Prepaid cards offer a great alternative to managing your money.

You can even get prepaid debit cards for your children as a to way to keep an eye on their spending and help them learn about electronic money.

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