Best Prepaid Cards

Alternatives to Credit Cards and Bank Accounts

Best Prepaid Cards
June 30, 2016

Prepaid cards can be useful tools for young adults who have no credit history as well as consumers who have bad credit. They act in a similar fashion to a debit card, in that the card cannot be used for more than the cash amount that has been deposited ("loaded") into the account. The difference is that there is no traditional checking account associated with the card.

Prepaid cards are popular as gifts, and are useful to those who want to avoid checking accounts for some reason — for example, to eliminate the risk of paying fees or incurring overdrafts. They also offer the convenience of credit cards without the possibility of paying interest on unpaid balances.

As you compare prepaid cards, look through the terms and conditions for all associated fees and how the card is loaded. There are multiple ways to load a card, but some carry associated fees. Other potential fees include a monthly fee, dormancy fee for lack of use, initiation/activation fees, cash withdrawal or balance inquiry fees, and fees for receiving paper account statements.

Here are a few of the best prepaid cards to get you started on your comparisons.

AccountNow® Gold Visa® Prepaid Card The AccountNow® Gold card offers a $10,000 balance limit and a $15 direct deposit bonus for meeting certain direct deposit qualifications, as well as a higher limit on withdrawals and purchases. There is no activation fee or minimum balance. Online Bill Pay services help you avoid transaction fees, and if you need to expedite a bill payment for any reason, you can do so for a $9.95 service charge.

READYdebit® Visa Prepaid Card Even if you cannot get a traditional bank account, as long as you have valid identification, you can receive a READYdebit® card — there are no credit checks or ChexSystems requirements. You can make your money instantly available by direct deposit. Choose from a "Control" plan with no monthly fee but a one-time setup fee of $4.95, or a "Select" plan that charges a $9.95 monthly fee but removes transaction fees (and other selected fees). For even greater control, you can set up mobile text alerts to notify you of important balance and account information. Note that third-party texting charges may apply.

American Express Bluebird® Backed by the power of an association with Walmart, the Bluebird® card offers one of the lowest fee packages with no monthly or overdraft fees, free bill paying, and free direct deposits. It also received the highest rating from Consumer Reports in their March 2016 prepaid card comparison under the category of cards substituting for a bank account. There are multiple free methods of loading the card, purchase protection benefits for purchases made with the card, no dormancy fees, and even no foreign exchange or replacement card fees.

ATM withdrawal fees generally apply with prepaid cards, but you can avoid these by simply avoiding ATMs. Many retailers allow you to get cash back along with a purchase, but you will have to select "debit" when asked what type of card you are using — and you will have to remember your assigned PIN number to use your prepaid card as a debit card.

With a prepaid card, you can enjoy the convenience of a credit or debit card without the need to maintain a bank account or the potential to incur interest charges. Shop around and look over the fees and terms of use to find the prepaid card that best fits your needs.

If you want more credit, check out MoneyTips' list of credit card offers.


Disclaimer: The editorial content on this site is not provided by the companies whose products are featured. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or evaluations provided here are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer(s). This content was accurate at the time of publication, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer affiliate program.


Photo ©iStock.com/adamdodd

  Conversation   |   10 Comments

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Jonathan | 06.30.16 @ 15:12
Been looking for a good CARD. THANKS!
Daniel Dohlstrom | 06.30.16 @ 15:12
Great info to share with someone you know can benefit from a card like these, as it seems more and more pop up all the time and not all are the greatest to use
Steffanie | 06.30.16 @ 15:13
As an 'older' adult I love prepaid cards. They really help keep your spending in check. I have talked with my young adults about them and they are slowly seeing the benefits of them.
Nancy | 06.30.16 @ 15:14
This list helps a lot. I've been thinking about looking into prepaid cards. I will certainly referred to this article.
Jo Ann | 06.30.16 @ 15:14
I have never gotten a prepaid card, It would be great to help rebuild credit.
Carla Truett | 06.30.16 @ 15:14
I try to always keep a prepaid card with me for emergencies. These are great options to consider next time.
brittany.martinez530 | 06.30.16 @ 15:16
I actually have only ever really used pre paid cards and I much prefer them to anything else. This is great info
Erin | 06.30.16 @ 15:17
This might be something I will pass along to a few people. I think it would be great for college-aged kids who are just starting out and need to manage their finances on their own.
Kyle | 06.30.16 @ 15:18
This is actually a great list of cards. I've been considering looking into getting a new pre paid card for my daughter.
mitzih | 07.01.16 @ 15:58
The Paypal Prepaid is (imo) better than these listed (tho Bluebird is the second best, imo).
$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 12.03.16 @ 16:03
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