10 Best Prepaid Debit Cards in 2019

Some of the links included in this post are from our sponsors. Read our disclosure policy.

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.

Other people may have a bank account, but still like to use a prepaid card instead of a regular debit card or credit card. A prepaid can help you avoid credit card debt and checking account overdraft fees because you can only spend up to your card balance. This spending limit can make it easier to live within your means and not accidentally spend money you are saving for the future.

You can even get 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 (a reality in today’s world).

One downside with prepaid cards is that you can’t use them to build a credit score, as you can with a credit card. But if credit cards aren’t an option for you, a prepaid debit card may be right for you.  

The Best Prepaid Debit Cards of 2019

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.

These fees reduce your spending power, which can defeat the purpose of using a prepaid card to save money.

With some cards, it’s possible to avoid recurring fees by enrolling in direct deposit. Other cards simply charge fewer fees overall. For instance, many cards let you avoid the initial purchase fee by ordering a card online instead of in person.

We chose the cards below because of their fee structures, convenience and other features that make them more attractive than competitors.

1.Card.com

You might appreciate the many flexible options that Card.com offers. The flexibility starts with your choice of fun card designs, which can be your favorite athlete, movie star, meme or image. There are more than a thousand designs to choose from, so have fun browsing.

Every Card.com prepaid debit card is issued either by Mastercard or Visa. This means nearly every retailer in the U.S. — and many overseas — will accept your payment. And you can make fee-free deposits at over 32,000 MoneyPass ATMs across the United States.

The reason Card.com can be one of your best options is that you can enroll in its Single Card Plan if you only need one card. Or you can join its Family of Cards plan to get up to three different prepaid cards.

Fees

  • Monthly maintenance fee: up to $9.95.
  • Reload fee: $0 for direct deposit, bank-to-card and card-to-card transactions. For other types of deposits, see below.
  • ATM fee: $0 at over 32,000 MoneyPass ATMs.
  • Activation fee: $0.

Card.com charges a flat $9.95 monthly maintenance fee for all members. Thankfully, you can avoid this fee if you only have one card and have a monthly direct deposit of $1,000. This fee waiver is only possible if you’re enrolled in the Single Card Plan.

As long as you make ATM withdrawals from the 32,000+ MoneyPass ATMs, the monthly maintenance fee can be the only fee you pay.

If you’re on the Family of Cards Plan and have two or three cards, you pay a flat $9.95 monthly maintenance fee that can’t be waived.

Reload Fees

You have several options for reloading your Cards.com card. If you have a checking account, you can transfer money electronically to reload your card free of charge. You can also deposit checks using remote deposit capture via Ingo Money. That’s free if you’re willing to wait 10 days for your deposit to process.

To get faster processing times for checks — within minutes — you’ll pay 2% of the deposit amount if you have a payroll or government check issued with a preprinted signature. For all other checks, you’ll pay a 5% for immediate deposit.

If you replenish your balance in person at a GreenDot or Western Union agent, you’ll also pay a fee (fees vary).

Why We Like Cards.com

  • You can avoid the $9.95 monthly fee on Single Card Plan with $1,000 direct deposit.
  • You can have up to three prepaid cards for a flat $9.95 monthly maintenance fee.
  • No fees for signature-based or PIN transactions.
  • Zero ATM fees at the 32,000+ MoneyPass locations.
  • Over 1,000 card designs to choose from.  

2. Netspend

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 a benefit that most of them don’t: 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.

3. Acorns

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.

Your monthly fee for Acorns Spend is only $3. And you don’t have to enroll in direct deposit to enjoy this monthly plan fee, which is lower than most prepaid debit card plans.

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.

Acorns Spend will offer free online bill pay in the future. Until this feature goes live, you can pay your bills for free using your mobile phone to send checks.

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 want to do ATM or in-store reloads, don’t get an Acorns card.

Fees  

  • Monthly fee: $3
  • ATM fee: $0 (Acorns reimburses your fees)
  • Activation fee: $0

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.

4. Bluebird

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. While most merchants accept American Express credit cards and prepaid cards, they 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%).

5. American Express Serve

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
  • Serve FREE Reloads
  • 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 $7.95. 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).

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. With the Amex Serve FREE Reloads, 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: $7.95
  • 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, and if 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

6. Chase Liquid

The Chase Liquid card gives you access to free Chase ATM withdrawals. You can also reload your card balance for free at any of the 5,100 Chase branches or 16,000 ATMs.

In major metropolitan areas, Chase ATMs can be more common than the MoneyPass ATMs. When you make multiple ATM withdrawals at out-of-network ATMs, the typical $2.50+ ATM fees can erode your card balance. So the Chase Liquid card is a good option if you live near Chase ATMs.

Chase Liquid is also nice because if you need to transfer money to a friend, you can do so quickly using the Chase QuickPay option with Zelle.

Fees

  • Monthly maintenance fee: $4.95 ($0 if linked to Chase checking account).
  • Reload fee: $0 at Chase branches and ATMs.
  • ATM fee: $0 at Chase ATMs. $2.50 at other ATMs.
  • Activation and purchase fee: $0.

The only fee for the Chase Liquid is the $4.95 monthly fee. Chase waives this fee if you link your Liquid card to a Chase checking account.  

Why We Like Chase Liquid

  • The only fee is the $4.95 monthly fee.
  • Free Chase ATM withdrawals.
  • Free card reloads at Chase branch and ATM locations.

7. Fifth Third Access 360

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.

8. MOVO

MOVO isn’t the best card if you want widespread free ATM withdrawals, as you can only make free withdrawals from the Visa PLUS Alliance network. There are roughly 6,000 ATMs across the entire United States in this network — far fewer than in the MoneyPass or Chase ATM networks.

You’ll pay $2 for ATM withdrawals outside the PLUS Alliance network.

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.

It’s also free to reload your MOVO card by direct deposit or a bank account. For in-store reloads, MOVO doesn’t charge a fee but the store might charge its own fee.

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.

What We Like About MOVO

  • No monthly fees.
  • Free to reload from digital wallet apps.
  • Can use Bitcoin to reload card balance.

9. RushCard

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 October 2015 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 in 2017. 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

10. PayPal Prepaid Mastercard

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, side hustles, or even cash-back apps like Ebates.   

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.

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

  • Can be the easiest way to access your PayPal account balance.
  • 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 ATMs.

How to Choose a Prepaid Debit Card

Which prepaid debit card is best will be different for each person. Your monthly fees will depend partly on how you reload your card balance and which ATM network you use for cash withdrawals.

It’s easy to only look at the monthly fee, but this might not be the only fee you pay.

Besides the fees, you also need to pick the card that’s easiest for you to reload. After all, your time is valuable. In addition, you should pick a card that’s cheap or free to reload.

If you plan on transferring money to the debit cards of family and friends, you should compare money transfer fees as well. Some companies offer family plans that let you transfer money to other cards in your account or to other cards issued by the same company.

With these thoughts in mind, here’s a quick checklist to help you compare card fees:

  • Is the monthly fee less than paying a per-purchase transaction fee?
    • Can a direct deposit reduce or let you avoid the monthly fee?
  • Can you reload your card balance for free?
    • If not, how much does it cost?
  • Are there fee-free ATMs near you?
  • Do you need additional cards for your family members?
    • If so, do these cards cost extra each month?
    • Can you transfer funds between these cards for free?

Before choosing a card, it’s a good idea to look at the miscellaneous fee schedules. For instance, prepaid cards might charge small fees for account balance inquiries, getting cash back from a cashier or making purchases from foreign merchants.

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. When you have bad credit and can’t get a credit card, or you don’t want to pay a monthly checking account fee, prepaid debit cards can be an attractive alternative.

What’s the most important thing you look for in prepaid debit cards? We’d love to hear your thoughts on what makes the best prepaid debit card.


Join Our Newsletter

Get more content like this delivered to your email.

0 COMMENTS

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Lets connect!

Well Kept Wallet in the press

Join Our Newsletter

Get more content like this delivered to your email.