Credit CardsGuides

2018’s Best Prepaid Cards

Ben Luthi, Contributing Expert | Updated November 15, 2018
Ben Luthi is a personal finance and travel writer and a total credit card nerd. He's written about credit cards and other finance topics at NerdWallet, U.S. News & World Report, Experian, Credit Karma, and more.

Prepaid cards are often used as an alternative form of banking and offer the same convenience as a credit card or debit card. Because you can only spend the amount of money you load onto a prepaid card, you can use it like cash without worrying about getting into debt or paying overdraft fees.

Prepaid cards do not require a credit check or a bank account to apply. Prepaid cards help manage your spending by setting limits and category or store restrictions. Most prepaid cards charge a fee per transaction or offer a monthly plan with unlimited transactions. Fees vary by the type and location of the transaction.

Best Prepaid Cards

The rising popularity of reloadable prepaid cards has created plenty of options. When looking at all the card offers that are on the market today, we asked, “what are the best prepaid cards?” The best prepaid cards offer convenience and flexibility and charge no or low fees while providing consumer protection. We have highlighted each card's most notable features below.

Guide Contents
  1. Our picks for best cards by category
  2. Compare card features
  3. How to choose a prepaid card for you
  4. 12 things to know before applying
  5. Recap & summary
We maintain strict standards of editorial integrity when writing our guides to help you make decisions with confidence. To help support our site, some of the products we highlight below are from our partners and we may receive compensation when you visit their sites.
Best for No Cost to Open Account
APPLY NOW

NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card

  • With Netspend Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster than a paper check.
  • No late fees or interest charges because this is not a credit card.
  • Use the NetSpend Mobile App to manage your account on the go and get text message or email alerts (Message & data rates may apply).
  • Card issued by MetaBank®, Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Visa Debit cards are accepted.
Our Review

Best for free account, setting up a direct deposit to reload. This card is one of the few free prepaid cards available on the market. Open an account, receive the first card and set up direct deposit for free. Use the card anywhere Visa is accepted, and your funds are FDIC insured by the issuing bank. Remember to use the card as credit (signature purchase) as it costs less compared to using as debit (PIN purchase).

  • No cost to open account and first card is free
  • $2.50 ATM cash withdrawal fee
  • $1 signature purchase (credit) or $2 PIN purchase (debit) fee per transaction
Best for Cash Back
APPLY NOW

Green Dot 5% Cash Back Visa® Debit Card

  • Earn 5% Cash Back on purchases, up to $100 per reward year
  • No overdraft fees, ever
  • No credit check to get a card
  • Get paid up to 2 days earlier with free direct deposit (subject to your payment provider's process and timing)
  • Track your money 24/7 with our mobile app. Deposit checks with your smartphone
  • Use it everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted in the U.S.
Best for Earning Miles
APPLY NOW

United Airlines Mileage Plus® GO Visa® Prepaid Card

  • Earn miles on qualifying signature purchases, up to 2,500 miles each month
  • No Credit Check
  • No interest payments
  • Use Anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted
  • Reload money for repeat use
  • Great option to manage expenses and spending
  • * Card issued by Republic Bank & Trust Company, Member FDIC.
Our Review

Best for earning miles on every dollar spent. The only prepaid card that offers frequent flyer miles when you make a signature transaction. The annual plan is slightly more expensive than a monthly plan but offers more miles per dollar spent. Purchase transaction fees are included in plan price. You can avoid ATM fees by doing a cash back transaction while making a DEBIT purchase at retail stores.

  • 1 mile for every $1 spent (annual plan) or $2 spent (monthly plan) and up to 2,500 miles per month
  • FDIC Insured and provides virtual card numbers for secure online transactions
  • Monthly fee of $5.95 or an annual fee of $85
Best for PayPal Users
APPLY NOW

PayPal Prepaid Mastercard®

  • Move money from your PayPal account in realtime
  • Take advantage of PayPal cash back rewards and earn on qualifying purchases from select merchants. With Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster than a paper check
  • No Late fees because this is not a credit card
  • Card issued by The Bankcorp Bank, Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted.
Our Review

Best for linking to a PayPal account and transferring funds from and to your account. The nice feature about this card is the ability to link to and transfer funds from a PayPal account for easy deposits. You also have the option to earn cash back rewards. It requires a PayPal account to link to the prepaid card, and only one card can be linked to an account. Two secondary card holders are allowed with free additional cards.

  • $4.95 monthly account fee includes all purchase transaction fees
  • Purchase cushion for up to $10 in negative balance after completing one successful direct deposit
  • $1.95 ATM withdrawal fee with a limit of $325 (individual) and a max of $940 (cumulative)
Best for Baseball Fans
APPLY NOW

Netspend® Prepaid Mastercard® – Proud Partner of MLB®

  • Show support for your team by using your team-branded Netspend® Prepaid Mastercard® each time you use your card
  • With Netspend Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster than a paper check
  • No late fees or interest charges because this is not a credit card
  • Use the Netspend Mobile App to manage your account on the go and get text message or email alerts (Message & data rates may apply)
  • Card issued by MetaBank®, Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Debit Mastercard is accepted
Our Review

Best for showing support for your favorite team. Designed for baseball fans who want to show their support with their team’s logo on the card. Offers three different plan options: Pay-as-you-go, Fee Advantage and Premier Fee Advantage. Select a plan based on your total monthly transactions and fees. Premier Fee Advantage is your best option If you can set up a direct deposit and complete at least five transactions per month.

  • A no-fee plan with standard transaction fees ($1 for CREDIT and $2 for DEBIT)
  • Optional cash back rewards based on spending habits
  • ATM fee of $2.50 per withdrawal
Best for No Fees to Reload or Withdrawl
APPLY NOW

Brink’s® Prepaid Mastercard®

  • Brink’s gives you the peace of mind you deserve. Securing cash and valuables since 1859
  • With Brink’s Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster than a paper check
  • No late fees or interest charges because this is not a credit card
  • Use the Brink’s Money Prepaid Mobile App to manage your account on the go and get text message or email alerts (Message & data rates may apply.)
  • Card issued by BofI Federal Bank, Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Mastercard Debit cards are accepted.
Our Review

Best for access to 130,000 participating NetSpend ATM locations with no fees to reload or withdraw cash. Brink’s provides a direct deposit option, and you can access your funds up to two days faster. You can use any of the 130,000 NetSpend locations to reload or withdraw cash. The card also sets some decent limits: $940 on daily ATM withdrawals, $15,000 for daily direct deposits and a maximum of $15,000 balance.

  • Three plan options to choose from that match your individual needs
  • Cash withdrawal fee of $2.50 at non-participating ATM locations
  • FDIC insured
Best for a Referral Bonus
APPLY NOW

Rush 24k Prepaid Visa® RushCard

  • Enroll in Direct Deposit and get your pay up to two days early.*
  • Real time activity alerts to let you know when a load goes through or if your balance is running low.
  • Your funds are FDIC-Insured through MetaBank®, Member FDIC. Card accounts are subject to ID Verification.*
  • Approval upon successful ID verification.* No credit check* or minimum balance required.
  • Your funds are protected if your card is lost or stolen thanks to the Visa Zero Liability policy.*
  • Easy Online Bill Pay— pay your rent, utilities or a friend.*
* Certain restrictions apply. See card site for details. Click on "Apply Now" to learn more about 24k Prepaid Visa® RushCard
Best for Sign-On Bonus
APPLY NOW

AccountNow® Gold Visa® Prepaid Card

AccountNow prepaid card can be used anywhere Visa credit or debit cards are accepted. The card provides an opportunity to earn a sign-on bonus after finishing two consecutive direct deposits of $500 or more. There is no activation fee. A monthly fee includes all transaction fees.
My three cents:
  • $15 sign-on bonus after a second direct deposit of $500 or more
  • $0 activation fee
  • $9.95 monthly fee covers all transaction fees
Best for Fast Direct Deposits
APPLY NOW

Carbon Prepaid Visa® RushCard

  • Get your government benefits up to two days early with Direct Deposit. Certain restrictions apply.*
  • Your funds are FDIC-Insured through MetaBank®, Member FDIC. Card accounts are subject to ID Verification.*
  • Easy to sign up. Set up your secure PIN and load money to your card with cash or checks or enroll in Direct Deposit.
  • Your funds are protected if your card is lost or stolen thanks to the Visa Zero Liability policy.*
  • Real time activity alerts to let you know when a load goes through or if your balance is running low.
  • Transfer money to another RushCard member for just $0.99 per transaction.
* Certain restrictions apply. See card site for details. Click on "Apply Now" to learn more about Carbon Prepaid Visa® RushCard.
Best for No Maintenance Fee Option
APPLY NOW

Gloss Prepaid Visa® RushCard

  • Stay connected — keep track of your money on your mobile phone with the RushCard app.*
  • Get your government benefits up to two days early with Direct Deposit. Certain restrictions apply.*
  • Safer than carrying cash. With the Visa Zero Liability policy your funds are protected if your card is lost or stolen.*
  • Real time activity alerts sent to your mobile phone via text or email.*
  • Your funds are FDIC-Insured through MetaBank®, Member FDIC. Card accounts are subject to ID Verification.*
* Certain restrictions apply. See card site for details. Click on "Apply Now" to learn more about Gloss Prepaid Visa® RushCard.
Best for Low Cost Monthly Plan
APPLY NOW

Midnight Prepaid Visa® RushCard

  • Easy to sign up. Set up your secure PIN and load money to your card with cash or checks or enroll in Direct Deposit.
  • Enroll in Direct Deposit and get your pay up to two days early. Certain restrictions apply.*
  • Easy Online Bill Pay — pay your rent, utilities or a friend.*
  • Shop online and in stores - everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.
  • Your funds are FDIC-Insured through MetaBank®, Member FDIC. Card accounts are subject to ID Verification.*
* Certain restrictions apply. See card site for details. Click on "Apply Now" to learn more about Midnight Prepaid Visa® RushCard.
Best for Mobile App & Text Alerts
APPLY NOW

Sequin KLS Prepaid Visa® RushCard

  • Get your government benefits up to two days early with Direct Deposit. Certain restrictions apply*
  • Shop online and in stores - everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.
  • Your funds are protected if your card is lost or stolen thanks to the Visa Zero Liability policy.*
  • Check your balance, view transactions, and even transfer money with the RushCard mobile app.*
  • Your funds are FDIC-Insured through MetaBank®, Member FDIC. Card accounts are subject to ID Verification.*
* Certain restrictions apply. See card site for details. Click on "Apply Now" to learn more about Sequin Prepaid Visa® RushCard

Compare Card Features

Card Best For Activation Fee ATM Fee Transaction Fee Other Fees
NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card Free account, setting up a direct deposit to reload $0 $2.50 + any third party ATM fees $1 for credit or $2 for debit $9.95 for a secondary or replacement card
Green Dot 5% Cash Back Visa® Debit Card Earn 5% Cash Back on purchases, up to $100 per reward year $0 $2.50 Withdrawal and $0.50 balance inquiry, plus any fees the ATM owner may charge $0 for online purchases, up to $1.99 for in-store purchases $9.95 per month; $5.00 replacement card
United Airlines Mileage Plus® GO Visa® Prepaid Card Earning miles on every dollar spent $0 Included in plan. $2.50 for out of network ATMs Included in plan $5.95 per month or $85 per year plan fees
PayPal Prepaid Mastercard® Linking to a PayPal account and transferring funds from and to your account $0 $1.95 plus third-party ATM fees Included in plan $4.95 per month
Netspend® Prepaid Mastercard® – Proud Partner of MLB® Showing support for your favorite team $0 $2.50 with pay-as-you-go plan $1 for credit or $2 for debit with pay-as-you-go plan No monthly fees with pay-as-you-go plan; $5.95 inactivity fee
Brink’s® Prepaid Mastercard® Access to 130,000 participating NetSpend ATM locations with no fees to reload or withdraw cash $0 $2.50 with pay-as-you-go plan $1 for credit or $2 for debit with the pay-as-you-go plan $0 pay-as-you-go plan or $9.95 monthly or $5.95 for preferred plans with all transaction fees included
24k Prepaid Visa® RushCard Referral bonus $3.95 $0 for in-network ATMs, $2.50 for out-of-network ATMs $1 per purchase without a monthly plan, N/A with a monthly plan $7.95 in monthly fees without direct deposit, $5.95 in monthly fees with direct deposit, or N/A with the pay-as-you-go plan
AccountNow® Gold Visa® Prepaid Card Sign-on bonus $0 $2.50 plus out of network ATM fees Included in plan $9.95 monthly fee; $10 for a replacement card
Carbon Prepaid Visa® RushCard Faster direct deposits and real time alerts $3.95 $0 for in-network ATMs, $2.50 for out-of-network ATMs $1 per purchase without a monthly plan, N/A with a monthly plan $7.95 in monthly fees without direct deposit, $5.95 in monthly fees with direct deposit, or N/A with the pay-as-you-go plan
Gloss Prepaid Visa® RushCard No maintenance fee with a monthly plan $3.95 $0 for in-network ATMs, $2.50 for out-of-network ATMs $1 per purchase without a monthly plan, N/A with a monthly plan $7.95 in monthly fees without direct deposit, $5.95 in monthly fees with direct deposit, or N/A with the pay-as-you-go plan
Midnight Prepaid Visa® RushCard Low-cost monthly plan with direct deposit set up $3.95 $0 for in-network ATMs, $2.50 for out-of-network ATMs $1 per purchase without a monthly plan, N/A with a monthly plan $7.95 in monthly fees without direct deposit, $5.95 in monthly fees with direct deposit, or N/A with the pay-as-you-go plan
Sequin KLS Prepaid Visa® RushCard Mobile app with text alerts on purchases and other transactions $9.95 $0 for in-network ATMs, $2.50 for out-of-network ATMs $1 per purchase without a monthly plan, N/A with a monthly plan $7.95 in monthly fees without direct deposit, $5.95 in monthly fees with direct deposit, or N/A with the pay-as-you-go plan

How to Choose a Prepaid Credit Card that Suits Your Needs

First, write down the main reason you want to get a prepaid debit card, whether it’s to manage spending, shop online, travel, improve your bad credit or merely avoid dealing with banks. All prepaid debit cards promise to be all-purpose, so consider each card and understand how they meet your requirements by keeping the fees to a minimum. It doesn’t make financial sense to pay fees for features you won’t use and don’t need.

Prepaid cards to manage your budget:

If managing a budget is your priority, a reloadable prepaid card is the best option. A prepaid credit card lets you preload money before you use it, and you cannot spend more than what you put on it. Look for cards with additional features like an option to limit the stores where you can purchase and other money tracking tools.

Prepaid cards for convenience:

You should be able to reload and access funds conveniently with your prepaid card. A free and big ATM network is important, but also ask about online bill pay, direct deposit, money transfers and retail network acceptance.

Prepaid cards for consumer protection:

Unlike bank accounts, FDIC and fraud protection are not standard features of a prepaid credit card despite the new rules set by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Remember to ask the questions “Are the funds FDIC insured?” and “Is there protection for unauthorized use?” Prepaid credit cards backed by a major bank are more likely to offer protection services compared to others.

Prepaid cards for bad credit:

Prepaid cards do not help build your credit history because they’re not associated with your social security number and don’t report to any credit bureau. That being said, reloadable prepaid cards are a good alternative to a traditional credit card for someone with poor credit while they wait on their credit history to improve.

Prepaid card fees:

Most prepaid cards charge some fees, such as an ATM withdrawal fee, reload fee, transfer fee and/or online transaction fee. Carefully read the terms and conditions of each card and note the various fees associated with your card usage.

12 Important Things to Know Before You Get a Prepaid Credit Card

  1. Do you have to pay for a prepaid card?

    You don’t have to pay to open an account, and you also don’t have to pay interest. But be aware of various fees charged by prepaid cards.

  2. What types of fees do prepaid cards typically charge?

    Some of the common fees charged by prepaid bank cards include ATM fee, transaction fee, reload fee, funds transfer fee, card replacement fee, foreign transaction fee, balance inquiry fee, statement fee, bill payment fee, account maintenance or inactivity fee and a monthly fee.

  3. Can they garnish a prepaid debit card?

    Yes, garnishment is possible on a prepaid debit card. However, the legal costs usually outweigh what would be gained, so garnishment of a prepaid card is not a common practice.

  4. How do you put money on a prepaid card?

    You can add money to a prepaid card by setting up a direct deposit or transferring money from a checking account to a prepaid card online. In most cases, the issuing bank will have options available to reload at their branch locations.

  5. Can you use a credit card to put money on a prepaid card?

    No. It is not possible to transfer money from credit card to prepaid card online, but you can try using a balance transfer check or a cash advance. Check interest rates on your credit card before you do this.

  6. How much money can you put on a prepaid card?

    Most prepaid cards can hold up to a maximum of $10,000. Prepaid cards also have limits on daily reload and transaction amounts. Check your prepaid card agreement for more information.

  7. Can you use prepaid cards online?

    If you own a prepaid Visa card, prepaid Mastercard or any other prepaid card linked to a major card network (VISA, MasterCard, American Express or Discover), you can use it online just like any other credit or debit card.

  8. Can you transfer money from a prepaid card to PayPal?

    Yes. PayPal accepts all prepaid credit cards associated with a major credit card network. Add the prepaid credit card to your PayPal account and start using it.

  9. Can you build your credit with a prepaid card?

    No. Because prepaid credit cards do not report to any credit bureau, they do not help build credit. If you are looking to build your credit score or improve your credit score because you have bad credit, secured credit cards are an excellent option.

  10. What is the difference between a debit card and a prepaid card?

    A prepaid card is not linked to your bank account, unlike a debit card which is linked to a checking account. Spending on a prepaid card is limited to the funds loaded on to the card, so you can’t get overdraft charges.

  11. What is a prepaid Visa debit card?

    Any prepaid card related to the Visa credit card network is considered a prepaid Visa. Compare major credit card networks to learn about different benefits offered, and pick one that matches your needs.

  12. What is a prepaid Mastercard debit card?

    Prepaid Mastercard is a prepaid card associated with the Mastercard credit card network. Selecting prepaid Visa or prepaid Mastercard depends on the services offered by each network.

Let's Recap Our Selections:

Methodology:

MyThreeCents’ personal finance team carefully evaluates each credit card and ranks them based on their merit. The process involves analyzing various factors, including but not limited to, Annual Percentage Rate (APR), fees, cash back offers, airline miles and other rewards. Our team independently collects the information and carefully assesses each credit card, looking for maximum consumer value. As always, we strive to help consumers to become better educated before making a purchase.

Advertiser Disclosure:

The information we provide and the analysis we share is always free. So, how do we survive? We get compensated by our partners, which may sometimes influence the products or services we review and the order in which they appear. Our suggestions and guidance are unbiased and are based only on our thorough research.