A prepaid debit card can serve as a budgeting tool or an all-out replacement for a bank account — and the best prepaid cards offer convenience while charging few fees.
Prepaid cards are easy to get. There’s usually no credit check, and they’re often available even if you can’t get a bank account because of a bad banking history. Unlike with a credit card, you load funds onto prepaid cards before use.
Some companies also issue mobile-optimized bank accounts that don’t require a squeaky-clean banking or credit history — and they often cost less than prepaid cards.
Nerd Tip:If you need to build credit or have been denied a bank account, a prepaid debit card might not be the best option: Secured credit cards help build credit, and if you can’t get a regular checking account, try second chance checking. These accounts provide another shot at mainstream banking and its perks.
Here are our top prepaid debit cards based on fees and features.
MOVO® Digital Prepaid Visa® Card
Most prepaid debit cards either charge you each month or each time you make a purchase, but the MOVO® Digital Prepaid Visa® Card does neither. The “virtual” element lets you buy things online, but there’s also a physical card for in-person purchases, ATM withdrawals and cash back at retailers. MOVO also has a free ATM network, but making bill payments or funding the card with debit card transfers results in fees.
- General fees and features: No monthly fees and no costs for activation; no credit check required.
- Purchases: No fees.
- ATM withdrawals: Free at 6,000 ATMs in the Visa Plus Alliance network; $2 fee at other ATMs, plus any ATM operator fee.
- Reload methods: Direct Deposit; bank account transfer; withdrawal from PayPal or Venmo balance; debit card transfer (via Bitcoin-backed MovoCoin™, for a fee); cash load at retailers with Visa Readylink, Green Dot® MoneyPak and Reload @ Register locations, such as Walgreens or Safeway (for a fee set by the retailer).
- Other services: Online bill payments and free, instant Movo card-to-card transfers. You can also create one-time secondary virtual cards (“MovoCoin®”) with their own card numbers. These cards can protect your main account number during transactions.
- Downsides: Each bill payment costs 75 cents. Free ways to reload the card, such as bank transfers, can take two to three business days before funds are available.
Title: Best Prepaid Debit Cards 2018
Publish Date: Sept 24, 2018
Author: Spencer Tierney
We looked at 46 reloadable prepaid debit cards offered by some of the biggest banks, credit unions and prepaid debit card issuers. Where multiple card plans existed, only the basic monthly fee plan was considered.
We analyzed four categories for each card: general fees and features, purchases and withdrawals, reload fees and options, and other services such as bill pay and savings accounts. The cards that made this list had the best combination of these categories. Some cards in this roundup have nonbank program managers that partner with banks. Regardless, all the cards’ issuers are banks that insure consumers’ money through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. No cards above have overdraft fees.
Prepaid debit cards that we considered included:
ACE Elite Visa Prepaid Debit Card, AccountNow Gold Visa Prepaid Card, American Express Serve, BBVA Compass ClearSpend Card, Bluebird by American Express, Chase Liquid, Fifth Third Access 360° Reloadable Prepaid Card, Green Dot Prepaid Visa Card, Mango Visa Prepaid Card, Netspend Prepaid Card, PayPal Prepaid Mastercard, RushCardPrepaid Visa Card, Walmart MoneyCard.