Prepaid debit cards offer a simple way into the world of no cash and cyber shopping. You do not need a credit check or a bank account to get one.
Unfortunately, there are a plethora of options out in the market today, so it can be difficult to figure out which is the best prepaid card for your wants and needs. You should look at getting a prepaid credit card if:
- You are having trouble getting, or do not want, a checking account
- You need a credit card to do online shopping
- You want to avoid possible overdraft fees associated with regular credit cards
- You want to set yourself a spending limit
We’ve compiled a list of the top 5 prepaid credit cards on the market currently. They come strongly recommended and are worth considering based on customer experiences and what they have to offer. Take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each card, then choose the card that is right for you.
American Express Serve
Apply for this card if you want the best overall prepaid debit card with low fees. This prepaid card is the top consumer choice and has the lowest fees. It provides you with the following:
- A full service prepaid card.
- No hidden fees, no minimum balance and no credit check.
- You get access to your money up to two days faster with free direct deposit.
- Over 24,000 ATM machines nationwide allow you to withdraw money for free.
- There are money management tools, and you can pay your bills over the Internet.
- You have the bonus of receiving American Express security and service 24 hours a day and year-round.
- You get American Express Purchase protection when shopping on or offline.
- It is underwritten by the AMEX Assurance Company.
The American Express Serve card allows you to avoid the common fees of other cards. For example, there is only a $1 monthly fee, and if you live in New York, Texas or Vermont, there is no fee.
A direct deposit of at least $500 can get the monthly fee waived. Also, the card is free if you get it online, and it is only $3.95 at retail locations. The only drawback is there is a cash loading fee.
H&R Block Emerald Prepaid MasterCard
If you do not want to pay a single monthly service fee, and you do not expect to make a lot of cash withdrawals, then this might be the card you apply for.
The turnoff to a lot of prepaid cards are the usage fees or fixed monthly charges because they end up amounting to quite an expense. The H&R Block Emerald Prepaid MasterCard is one of the few prepaid cards available with no activation fee, and it does not charge a monthly fee either.
In addition to not charging activation or monthly fees, there are no fees for card transactions, incoming and external bank transfers, direct deposits or telephone customer service.
There are some fees though. You will have to pay $2.50 for an ATM withdrawal, and the fee will not include whatever the ATM might charge for cards not related to the specific bank. Also, you will have to pay for any retail location cash reloads and the online bill pay services.
The fees you have to pay for this card depends entirely on your usage. Since there are no fixed monthly cost, it is possible to not get any service fees at all if you just use it for online shopping and swiping. The standout attraction is no activation fee or monthly fee, and the summary of the drawbacks are fees for cash reloads, bill pay and ATM withdrawals.
Green Dot® Gold PrePaid Visa®
This is the card you want to apply for if you enjoy being able reload it at a wide range of physical locations.
With many prepaid cards, you generally are limited to a few locations to do cash reloads, but it is not the case with this card. Green Dot formed a partnership with several different retailers. Kmart, CVS, Rite Aid, Walmart and even 7-11 are all options for places to add funds to the card.
You are able to reload at the register, and there is no need for cash reload cards. The fee is a little steep for the convenient service though, and it can run you $4.95 for each register reload.
Fortunately, Green Dot prepaid cards are free if you decide to sign up on the Internet, but if you decide to sign up at a reload location, there is a $4.95 cost for the card and signup. There is a steep monthly fee of $7.95, but there are a couple of ways to get the fee waived.
The first option is you can load at least $1,000, and the second option is making at least 30 purchases a month. It is free to withdraw money from a MoneyPass ATM, but there is a $2.50 charge to the card at other ATMs not counting the ATM fee for a non-bank card.
Overall, the pros to the Green Dot card are a large network of cash reload locations, and the free ATM perk has a large network as well. The main downside to the card is the large monthly fee. As mentioned earlier, it can be waived, but making at least 30 purchases a month is generally not why people get prepaid cards. Also, the $1,000 minimum load is a little steep to stave off the monthly fee.
There really is not much to say about the Chase Liquid. It offers the closest experience to big banking available because it is remarkably similar to having a regular Chase bank account. All of the services of the bank’s branches, online banking, ATMs and mobile banking is free. You can’t write checks or do online bill pay, external transfers or any person-to-person payments though.
There is something called a biller’s website, which will allow you to pay bills online. There are no transaction fees, and cash and check withdrawals and deposits are free. There is one unavoidable drawback, however. There is a $4.95 monthly usage fee, and there is no way to get around it. The benefits are great as long as you are using Chase ATMs and banking services.
Bluebird by American Express
Prepaid cards do not allow check writing because of overdrafts, but you can receive checks and pay with them with your Bluebird card’s account because the funds are subtracted from the account and pre-authorized to ensure validity.
The Bluebird by American Express has no activation or monthly fee. There are a variety of methods to deposit funds for free, such as by debit card, ACH transfer, mailed check deposit, cash loading at Walmart and several other methods. It even offers free ATM withdrawals at MoneyPass ATMs.
There are drawbacks though. The free ATM usage is only good if you posted a direct deposit within the previous 30 days of your withdrawal. If you do not, your fee is $2. Also, the checks are a little expensive. You can receive 50 Bluebird checks for $19.94, or you can pay $26.94 for a 100 of them.
It truly is a unique prepaid option because you can get physical checks along with the card. It should be noted that prepaid cards do allow for electronic check writing, but this card allows for electronic and physical checks. It is something that is handy for paying rent.
Prepaid cards in general have pros and cons, and each one is different with its own pros and cons. The biggest things to watch out for are the monthly fees and any usage fees. They have to make their money too, which is understandable.
After reviewing many different cards, these were the five standouts. Choosing a card all depends on your circumstances. We all have different reasons for choosing prepaid cards, and hopefully, this list will help you decide the one that best suits your situation and needs.