It’s good to have a credit card and a debit card. But there are certain circumstances in which a prepaid debit card makes more sense.
Free and low fee prepaid debit cards make even more sense.
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Why Prepaid Debit Cards?
There’s been a surge in prepaid debit cards in recent years. A big part of that is security concerns. Prepaid debit cards limit your liability to the amount of money on the card – which you have complete control over. This is unlike a debit card, where a thief could potentially clean out all of your deposits with the same bank, or a credit card that can be spent up to the credit limit.
They are excellent for specific online purchases since the identity of e-commerce merchants isn’t always well known.
But security isn’t the only factor. There are millions of people who can’t get credit but need a card to navigate the world. Prepaid debit cards increasingly act much like credit cards. This includes not only making purchases, but often accessing ATMs, or acting as an account to receive direct deposits.
Some employers are even issuing employee pay using prepaid debit cards.
This lists consists of debit cards for adults (though our top pick is for families too) – we keep this separate list of the best debit cards for kids.
Here are 6 of the best-prepaid debit cards:
- ACE Flare™ Account by Metabank
- Netspend Visa Prepaid Card and Prepaid MasterCard
- PayPal Prepaid MasterCard
- Walmart MoneyCard MasterCard with Cash Back Rewards
- American Express Serve Card
FamZoo is a prepaid card designed explicitly for families. Most families create a “Bank of [Family]” and have cards for each of the children. Then the parents load money on each card as they see fit – allowance, chores, “just because,” etc. It’s a great way to teach kids about money management in a very simple sandbox.
The fees are straightforward. You pay a monthly fee to use FamZoo that is as low as $2.50 a month when you pre-pay. The month-to-month fee is $5.99 per month. There are no per-transaction fees, reload fees, or other hidden fees — which is how many prepaid cards make their money! (there are fees if you order a LOT of cards, but otherwise, the monthly fee is it)
Lastly, FamZoo does not have access to any of your financial information. To load money on FamZoo, you add it as an account at your bank and use your bank to send money to your FamZoo account. FamZoo cannot withdraw money from you because you never have to give them that information!
ACE Flare™ Account by Metabank
The ACE Flare™ Account by Metabank is a Visa debit card offered by Ace Cash Express but issued by MetaBank, which is FDIC insured #30766. One of the biggest draws for this card is that you can also open an ACE Flare Savings account that pays 6.00% on balances under $2,000. This means you can deposit funds and earn a high rate of interest on it – something you cannot do with practically any other debit card that we know of.
As for fees, there is a monthly fee of $9.95 if you do not have a direct deposit. If you have a direct deposit of $500 or more each month, the fee drops to just $5. There are other fees, much like the other cards on this list, but they’re generally reasonable.
For a full breakdown of this card, we have a detailed review of the ACE Flare Account.
Netspend Visa Prepaid Card and Prepaid MasterCard
With the Netspend Visa Prepaid Card and Prepaid MasterCard you can use the Netspend Mobile App to manage your account. You can even receive text messages or email alerts. The card is issued by MetaBank, and it can be used anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.
Netspend Visa Prepaid Card also allows direct deposit of paychecks and government checks. You can even receive your income tax return on the card. Other checks can be loaded on the card using the Netspend Mobile App.
Like other cards on this list, there is no credit check, and no activation fee required.
If you sign up for the Pay-As-You-Go Plan, there is no monthly fee, but there is a $1 charge for each signature purchase transaction and $2 for each PIN purchase transaction. Alternatively, you can enroll in the FeeAdvantage Plan at $9.95 per month and no fees for individual transactions.
If you have at least $500 per month in direct deposits, you can switch over to the Netspend Premier, which lowers the monthly fee to $5, with no fees for individual transactions.
Netspend does enable you to earn cash back on some everyday purchases when you use the card.
PayPal Prepaid MasterCard
Not to be confused with the PayPal debit card, the PayPal Prepaid MasterCard is issued by Bancorp Bank, but connected to your PayPal account. In fact, you can instantly transfer money from your PayPal account over to your PayPal Prepaid MasterCard.
As a prepaid debit card, you don’t need to concern yourself with late fees or overdraft charges. The card can be used anywhere Debit MasterCard is accepted.
One of the big advantages that the PayPal Prepaid MasterCard offers is getting direct deposit payments two days sooner. That includes both payroll checks and government benefits checks. Also, the card can be loaded and reloaded as necessary.
The account can be fully managed from your PayPal Prepaid mobile app, which is available for both Android and iPhone.
The card comes with a monthly fee of $4.95, which allows you to make unlimited purchase transactions. There is no purchase fee for the card itself.
Walmart MoneyCard MasterCard with Cash Back Rewards
Much like the PayPal Prepaid MasterCard, the Walmart MoneyCard MasterCard doesn’t require a credit check to get th card. You don’t even need to have a bank account.
The card can be used to pay most utility bills, as well as access ATMs. It also comes with a free direct deposit, enabling you to get your money up to two days ahead of time.
But the big advantage of this card is the cashback rewards. You can earn cashback rewards by shopping in the Walmart organization. For example, you can earn 3% cashback when you shop on Walmart.com. You can earn 2% cash back at Murphy USA and Walmart Fuel Stations, and 1% back when you shop at Walmart stores. You can earn up to $75 in cashback rewards each year.
The card can also be managed on a Walmart MoneyCard mobile app, available for iPhone and Android. You can even deposit checks onto the card using your smartphone camera. You can write checks to pay bills, or make payments through the free online bill pay service. There is no charge to load or reload the card, though there is a $3 per load charge if you’re using Walmart Rapid Reload.
The card has a monthly charge of $5, which will be waived when you have loaded $1,000 or more on your card in the previous monthly period. There is a $1 purchase fee, but no charge for direct deposit. However, there is a $2.50 per transaction ATM withdrawal and teller cash withdrawal fee.
American Express Serve Card
The American Express Serve Card comes the closest to being a no-fee prepaid debit card. There is a monthly fee of $6.95, but it’s waived if you have a direct deposit of at least $500 per month. They do charge $3.95 per cash reload, but there is no fee for direct deposit or adding money from a bank account. There are also no charges for ATM withdrawals, sending or receiving money, or online bill pay.
You can make deposits on your mobile phone. The card can be used anywhere American Express debit cards are accepted. You can load cash at thousands of locations, including CVS Pharmacy, Dollar General, Family Dollar, Rite Aid, Walmart and participating 7-Eleven locations.
Read our review of the American Express Serve Card to learn more.