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Prepaid Cards

Prepaid cards are an increasingly popular financial product that consumers use for a wide range of purposes – including as an replacement checking account (for those who don't mind sacrificing a physical checkbook), an alternative check cashing tool and a means of teaching young people financial literacy. Make sure to compare the offers listed below, as available features vary by card and annual costs range anywhere from $0 to $400+, according to CardHub’s latest Prepaid Card Report.

NetSpend® Prepaid Card - Pay-As-You-Go


accountnow prepaid mastercard
  • Activation Fee None
  • Monthly Fee None
  • Transaction Fee $1
  • Annual Cost None
Additional Info
  • ATM Fee $card.getAtmTransactionFees()
  • Inactivity Fee $5.95/month after 90 days of inactivity
  • 100% approval - No credit check required.
  • No Minimum Balances.
  • Pay bills and make purchases online.
  • Put money on your card at any of more than 130,000 reload locations like Walgreen’s®, 7-Eleven® and Western Union®.
  • Bill Payment fee: In addition to one or more no-cost bill payment methods made available through third-party service providers, there are a full range of options, including ACH Debit/Preauthorized Payment Transactions, and the applicable fees in your online Account Center. Fees are determined and assessed by third-party service providers.
  • Fees assessed for customer service calls are mentioned for each balance inquiry.
  • See More Details & Reviews About The NetSpend® Prepaid Card - Pay-As-You-Go
CardHub Ranking

Comparing this credit card to more than 1,000 credit card offers, it grades well in the following categories.

Alternative Checking Account D Child Allowance Not Suitable Alternative Check Cashing Tool D Access To Electronic Transactions C

Vision Premier Prepaid Visa Card


accountnow prepaid mastercard
  • Activation Fee $9.95
  • Monthly Fee $9.95
  • Transaction Fee Free
  • Annual Cost None
Additional Info
  • ATM Fee $card.getAtmTransactionFees()
  • Inactivity Fee $3.95 per month if card is inactive for 60 days
  • Get 1% cash back on gas purchases.
  • Free roadside assistance.
  • Open a Savings Account and earn an annual percentage yield of 5.65%.
  • Pay any bill or send a check to anyone from your card for free.
  • $3.95 Monthly fee with Direct Deposit or 15+ transactions in a month
  • No fee for live customer service calls in the first 30 days; $1.95 per call after. No charge with Direct Deposit or 15+ transactions in a month.
  • See More Details & Reviews About The Vision Premier Prepaid Visa Card
CardHub Ranking

Comparing this credit card to more than 1,000 credit card offers, it grades well in the following categories.

Alternative Checking Account B Child Allowance C Alternative Check Cashing Tool Not Suitable Access To Electronic Transactions D

SilverCard Prepaid MasterCard®


accountnow prepaid mastercard
  • Activation Fee $9.95
  • Monthly Fee $3.95
  • Transaction Fee Free
  • Annual Cost None
Additional Info
  • ATM Fee $card.getAtmTransactionFees()
  • Inactivity Fee $3.95/month after 6 months of inactivity
  • Free Direct Deposit.
  • With Direct Deposit, your paycheck, government or Social Security check arrives to you instantly on payday. It's FREE - just provide your employer with the Direct Deposit form. Or you can add cash instantly at more than 100,000 retail locations nationwide.
  • Keep track of your SilverCard MasterCard activity online 24/7. View online statements, pay bills, check your balance and more. Also, sign up to receive card account balance alerts to your cell phone or email for free.
  • Transfer money from a PayPal account directly to your SilverCard for FREE.
  • Share money with any other SilverCard cardholder.
  • MasterCard® Zero Liability.
  • See More Details & Reviews About The SilverCard Prepaid MasterCard®
CardHub Ranking

Comparing this credit card to more than 1,000 credit card offers, it grades well in the following categories.

Alternative Checking Account C Child Allowance C Alternative Check Cashing Tool Not Suitable Access To Electronic Transactions C

READYdebit® Visa Select Prepaid Card


accountnow prepaid mastercard
  • Activation Fee None
  • Monthly Fee $9.95
  • Transaction Fee Free
  • Annual Cost None
Additional Info
  • ATM Fee $card.getAtmTransactionFees()
  • Inactivity Fee No Fee
  • Instant Account Number - A Great Card for your Money
  • Free Direct Deposit — Paycheck, Benefit Checks, Tax Refund Checks
  • Easy Online Bill Payment & Mobile Account Access
  • No Purchase Transaction Fees
  • No Risk of Overdraft Fees or Balance Minimums
  • Withdraw Cash at ATMs or Get Cash Back with Purchases
  • Choose Your Card Color - Blue or Pink
  • See More Details & Reviews About The READYdebit® Visa Select Prepaid Card
CardHub Ranking

Comparing this credit card to more than 1,000 credit card offers, it grades well in the following categories.

Alternative Checking Account C Child Allowance C Alternative Check Cashing Tool Not Suitable Access To Electronic Transactions D

RushCard with Pay As You Go Plan


accountnow prepaid mastercard
  • Activation Fee $3.95 - $9.95
  • Monthly Fee None
  • Transaction Fee $1
  • Annual Cost None
Additional Info
  • ATM Fee $card.getAtmTransactionFees()
  • Inactivity Fee $1.95/month after 90 days of inactivity
  • No ATM fees at over 23,000 MoneyPass® ATMs
  • Transfer money between your own RushCards. It’s free.
  • Get your payroll or government benefits check cashed and loaded to your RushCard at any participating Walmart. You can choose to deposit your entire check or just part of it.
  • See More Details & Reviews About The RushCard with Pay As You Go Plan
CardHub Ranking

Comparing this credit card to more than 1,000 credit card offers, it grades well in the following categories.

Alternative Checking Account D Child Allowance C Alternative Check Cashing Tool C Access To Electronic Transactions C

AccountNow Prepaid MasterCard®


accountnow prepaid mastercard
  • Activation Fee $4.95
  • Monthly Fee None
  • Transaction Fee $1
  • Annual Cost None
Additional Info
  • ATM Fee $card.getAtmTransactionFees()
  • Inactivity Fee Free
  • $0 Monthly Fee
  • No Credit Check or ChexSystems check
  • Instant Account Number
  • Free Direct Deposit — Paycheck, Benefit Checks, Tax Refund Checks
  • Easy 24/7 Online Account Access
  • Earn Refer-a-Friend Cash Bonus
  • Use it Everywhere Mastercard Debit Card Accepted
  • See More Details & Reviews About The AccountNow Prepaid MasterCard®
CardHub Ranking

Comparing this credit card to more than 1,000 credit card offers, it grades well in the following categories.

Alternative Checking Account D Child Allowance C Alternative Check Cashing Tool C Access To Electronic Transactions C

AccountNow Prepaid Visa® Card


accountnow prepaid mastercard
  • Activation Fee $4.95
  • Monthly Fee None
  • Transaction Fee $1
  • Annual Cost None
Additional Info
  • ATM Fee $card.getAtmTransactionFees()
  • Inactivity Fee Free
  • 100% Approval (subject to I.D. Verification)
  • $0 Monthly Fee
  • No Minimum Balance
  • No Credit Check or ChexSystems check
  • Free Direct Deposit and Online Bill Payment
  • Use it Everywhere Visa Debit Card Accepted
  • Perfect for Occasional Usage
  • See More Details & Reviews About The AccountNow Prepaid Visa® Card
CardHub Ranking

Comparing this credit card to more than 1,000 credit card offers, it grades well in the following categories.

Alternative Checking Account D Child Allowance C Alternative Check Cashing Tool C Access To Electronic Transactions C

Green Dot® Gold Prepaid Visa® Card


accountnow prepaid mastercard
  • Activation Fee None
  • Monthly Fee $5.95
  • Transaction Fee Free
  • Annual Cost None
Additional Info
  • ATM Fee $card.getAtmTransactionFees()
  • Inactivity Fee None
  • $0 Activation Online - with no credit check.
  • Free nationwide ATM network of over 20,000 MoneyPass® ATMs.
  • Free Direct Deposit.
  • Free Online Bill Pay - No special trips to pay your bills, no need to write checks, or pay for stamps.
  • No charge to Reload your card with Direct Deposit. Reloading your card at a retailer will cost up to $4.95.
  • No Overdraft fees.
  • No Transaction fees on US purchases.
  • If you use your card outside of the 50 United States, a fee equal to 3% of the transaction amount will apply.
  • *Monthly fee: $5.95; Waived if you load at least $1,000 or make at least 30 purchases in a month.
  • See More Details & Reviews About The Green Dot® Gold Prepaid Visa® Card
CardHub Ranking

Comparing this credit card to more than 1,000 credit card offers, it grades well in the following categories.

Alternative Checking Account A Child Allowance Not Suitable Alternative Check Cashing Tool C Access To Electronic Transactions C

AccountNow Gold Visa® Prepaid Card


accountnow prepaid mastercard
  • Activation Fee None
  • Monthly Fee $9.95
  • Transaction Fee Free
  • Annual Cost None
Additional Info
  • ATM Fee $card.getAtmTransactionFees()
  • Inactivity Fee No Fee
  • Get Paid up to 2 days Faster with Free Direct Deposit - Get Your Paycheck or Benefits Checks in Your Card Account and Access Your Funds up to 2 days Earlier Than Payday
  • 100% Approval - upon Successful ID Verification. No CreditCheck. No ChexSystems Check. No Existing Bank Account Required
  • $0 Activation Fee. No Minimum Balance. No Risk of Overdraft Fees
  • $15 Bonus with Qualifying Direct Deposit. Never Pay to Cash Your Paychecks and Get Your Pay Faster
  • Use it Everywhere Visa Debit Cards are Accepted and Pay Anyone with PayAnyone Bill Pay. Shop Online, Rent a Car, Pay Your Rent and More
  • Easy Mobile Account Access and Text Alerts. Get Your Account Balance, Transaction Details Sent to Your Phone within Seconds
  • BBB Accredited A+ Company. Excellent Customer Service
  • See More Details & Reviews About The AccountNow Gold Visa® Prepaid Card
CardHub Ranking

Comparing this credit card to more than 1,000 credit card offers, it grades well in the following categories.

Alternative Checking Account C Child Allowance C Alternative Check Cashing Tool C Access To Electronic Transactions D

Target Prepaid Card


accountnow prepaid mastercard
  • Activation Fee None
  • Monthly Fee None
  • Transaction Fee Free
  • Annual Cost None
Additional Info
  • ATM Fee $card.getAtmTransactionFees()
  • Inactivity Fee None
  • Use your Card virtually anywhere in the U.S. where American Express Cards are welcome—even online and at ATMs that accept American Express.
  • You can reload your Card as often as you wish. Adding funds is easy, either at Target stores, online or by phone.
  • Fraud Protection: If your Card is lost or stolen, you will not pay for fraudulent charges.
  • Save time by using Direct Deposit to automatically transfer all or part of your paycheck to your prepaid card. It's simple, secure, and can be set up by logging in to your account.
  • Entertainment Access: Special savings, exclusive events, and advance tickets to the latest shows - your Card can get you in where others can't. Be among the first to know about some of the hottest events in music, sports and theater with Entertainment Access.
  • American Express 24-Hour Customer Service.
  • Reload: $3.00 per initial load at Target and each subsequent reload (other than online & phone reloads using your designated checking or savings account).
  • See More Details & Reviews About The Target Prepaid Card
CardHub Ranking

Comparing this credit card to more than 1,000 credit card offers, it grades well in the following categories.

Alternative Checking Account Not Suitable Child Allowance Not Suitable Alternative Check Cashing Tool Not Suitable Access To Electronic Transactions C
ATM Withdrawals 3 per month
Purchases 12 per month
Load Amount $1,000 per month
Fewer Filters
Loading Method

per month

per month

per month
Online Bill Pay 2 per month
Statement

Age of Users

Ask our Experts

Expert’s Answers

What is a Prepaid Card and How Does It Work?

By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEOA prepaid card is essentially a debit card with two major exceptions: it does not require a bank account and it comes with guaranteed approval. The way it works is that you load money onto a pre-paid, re-loadable account, and spend it until that money runs out. You can easily add money to your prepaid account with cash and in person at thousands of locations, including major grocery stores, drugstores, and gas stations. Prepaid cards also give you the option to have your paychecks directly deposited into your account. This is a much cheaper way to cash your paychecks than going to check cashing stores. A prepaid card works the same as any MasterCard or VISA card. Not only is it useful for making purchases and withdrawing cash, but it also gives you the option to pay your bills online, as opposed to mailing in a check.

Prepaid Card Features & Limitations

By: Richie Bernardo, Personal Finance ReporterFeatures
  1. No need to carry cash: You can load a large amount of money onto your card, which eliminates the need for paper money and coins. Plastic also can protect you from being an easy target of pickpockets.
  2. Direct deposit option: Many prepaid cards offer the option to directly “load” your payroll or government benefits to your prepaid account. Either your employer or government agency will provide the prepaid card to you, in which case they are called a “payroll” or “government benefit” card, respectively.
  3. Online bill pay: Not only can you use a prepaid card to make purchases online, much like with a credit or debit card, but some prepaid cards also offer an online bill payment service that enables you to pay monthly billers that do not accept plastic, or even send checks to friends and family.
  4. ATM cash withdrawal: When you register your prepaid card, you also will receive a PIN number to help you access cash easily.
  5. No initial deposit: Unlike traditional checking accounts that require initial deposits, usually with a minimum amount, you won’t be required to “load” a specific initial amount onto your card when you purchase it.
  6. Second-chance checking: Prepaid cards are useful alternatives for consumers who’ve experienced difficulty qualifying for a traditional checking account or simply don’t want to open one.
  7. Overdraft fees: Prepaid cards do not allow you to overdraw your account, which means you don’t have to worry about overdraft fees.
  8. Multiple cards, single account: Some prepaid cards allow you to purchase a second card for a family member. Both cards will be linked to one account, so both cardholders will have access to the same amount of funds.
Limitations
  1. Credit building: As previously mentioned, you can’t use a prepaid card to build your credit. Neither debit nor prepaid card activities are reported to the three major credit bureaus. Some prepaid card issuers, however, will offer short-term loans after successfully making two direct deposits to your prepaid account. If you’re approved, your loan payments will be recorded on your credit history. If your goal is to build credit, you should instead apply for a secured credit card.
  2. Significant variability: Prepaid cards are a relatively new form of payment and have yet to be regulated in any significant fashion. As a result, there is very little uniformity in the market. That means the fees and features you’ll find from card to card may vary significantly. For instance, some prepaid card issuers make it very difficult to load a physical check into your account, while others make it as simple as snapping a picture with your cell phone. In addition, usage may be free or may cost a few hundred dollars a year, according to CardHub’s 2014 Prepaid Card Report. Consumers must therefore remain vigilant when it comes to comparison shopping.
  3. No credit line: Depending on your perspective, the inability to revolve a balance on a prepaid card may be construed as an inherent disadvantage. On the other hand, debt adverse consumers likely consider this a major plus.

Should I Get a Prepaid Card?

By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEOA prepaid card is a good option if you need an account that allows you to deposit money, pay bills, make purchases with plastic, and withdraw cash at ATMs. As a result, having access to a prepaid card allows you to buy things online and, depending on the policy of the particular company, even rent a car or book a hotel room. If you're wondering whether or not a prepaid card is right for you, it will help to know that prepaid cards have three primary applications: 1) As replacement checking accounts; 2) As financial literacy teaching tools; and 3) As check cashing alternatives. Below you will find an explanation of how prepaid cards serve these purposes and what you should look for when trying to find the right prepaid card for each:

Tips for Picking the Right Prepaid Card

By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEO
  1. Compare All Available Options: Much like choosing the best credit card for your needs necessitates comparing offers across issuers and product segments, the odds of finding the right prepaid card decline the more you refine your search. So, start by leaving preconceived notions at the door, compare multiple prepaid card offers, and consider whether or not other types of financial products can fulfill your particular needs at a lower cost.
  2. Evaluate Costs Based on Actual Needs & Spending Habits: People have a tendency to become overly focused on major fixed costs like annual and monthly service charges. Such costs are certainly important, but you also mustn’t forget that prepaid cards are known for charging many different small fees that can add up over time. As a result, it’s important to determine exactly how you plan to use your prepaid card (i.e. how you’ll load funds, the number of ATM withdrawals you’ll make, etc.) and then evaluate the cost of each offer in terms of that usage. After all, there is a wide disparity between the best offers on the market (which can be essentially free to use) and those that can end up costing you a few hundred dollars each year.
  3. Don’t Forget About Online Bill Pay, Loading Options, or ATM Access: While cost is undoubtedly important, even a free prepaid card will be effectively useless if it doesn’t offer all of the features you need. As many as 31% of prepaid cards are unsuitable to consumer needs due to a lack of key features.
  4. Read the Fine Print: This advice applies to any financial product you’d apply for, but it’s especially important to verify that there aren’t any hidden fees or caveats associated with a given prepaid card because their newfound popularity means they aren’t regulated quite as well as other, more established types of products.
  5. Use the Island Approach: While the Island Approach is more commonly associated with credit card use, the idea of using different financial accounts to meet different financial needs can apply to prepaid cards as well. For example, some folks may want to get one prepaid card to use as an alternative checking account and another to monitor a child’s spending.

What Does the Term Prepaid Credit Card Mean?

By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEOPrepaid credit card is a misleading term encouraged by prepaid card issuers because it implies that their products have a combination of the best attributes found on prepaid cards and credit cards. One might think that prepaid credit cards would offer lines of credit and credit bureau reporting in addition to standard prepaid card features like guaranteed approval and no initial deposit. However, none of the prepaid cards currently on the market offer lines of credit or report to the major credit bureaus. If you are looking for a second chance checking account, get a prepaid card. But if you want to build or rebuild your credit standing, you should open one a secured credit card.

Prepaid Card vs. Credit Card

By: Richie Bernardo, Personal Finance ReporterPrepaid, or stored value, cards and credit cards have several primary differences:

How to Activate & Reload a Prepaid Card

By: Richie Bernardo, Personal Finance ReporterActivating In order to activate your prepaid card, you must provide your full name, street address — P.O. boxes are not allowed — date of birth, Social Security Number or other taxpayer ID number. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you’ll be required to provide another type of identification such as your passport number, alien registration number or other government-issued document that displays your information and photograph. Prepaid card issuers are required by law to obtain this information from customers before activating a card. Reloading There are multiple ways to replenish or reload money onto your prepaid card. You usually can find reload instructions on the card’s packaging or the issuer’s website. Below are some of the common methods.

Can You Use a Prepaid Card Online?

By: John Kiernan, Personal Finance EditorYes, prepaid cards can certainly be used online. There is, however, one caveat. In order to use a prepaid card online, you may first need to register the card under your name. When you buy a prepaid card at a retail location, it is anonymous until you activate it, which means a lot of online merchants will not accept it since there will not be a name and address to match your card number.

What is a Virtual Prepaid Card and How Does it Work?

By: John Kiernan, Personal Finance EditorA virtual prepaid card is exactly what the name suggests: a prepaid card account that is not linked to a physical card and is tailored to online usage. The issuer of such an account provides you with a card number, expiration date, and CVV code so you can easily make transactions. Such cards are becoming more popular with the rise of online only banks and the virtual wallet technology that is becoming increasingly available on smartphones. Mango and Entropay are two of the issuers of virtual prepaid cards. It’s generally a good idea not to limit your search for a prepaid card to virtual cards because there is less variety in this niche segment of the market and you can make purchases online with a normal prepaid card anyway.

Can You Use a Prepaid Card at an ATM?

By: John Kiernan, Personal Finance EditorYes, as checking account alternatives, prepaid cards are certainly able to be used at ATMs. In fact, making a prepaid card ATM withdrawal is essentially the same as using a debit card. You simply insert your card into the ATM, input your PIN, and complete your transaction – whether you’re checking your prepaid card account balance or withdrawing cash. As is the case with a checking account and debit card combo, you need to watch out for incurring unnecessary fees when using your card at an ATM. The best way to minimize prepaid card ATM fees is to open an account that provides free withdrawals at a large network of ATMs and then only withdraw cash from in-network terminals. You can get a sense of what different prepaid cards charge for ATM withdrawals and how large their corresponding networks are by looking at the details pages associated with the cards listed above.

Do Prepaid Cards Expire?

By: John Kiernan, Personal Finance EditorYes, as is the case with credit cards and debit cards, prepaid cards do expire. The expiration date for a prepaid card will appear on the front of your permanent card, which you will receive after you have registered your account using your name and Social Security Number. The expiration date will make it easier to use your card online, as you will have something to input in the corresponding field on a merchant’s checkout page. When your card is nearing expiration, make sure your issuer has your latest mailing address on file and update any subscription or automatic billing information for which you are using your card as payment in order to avoid unnecessary service interruptions.

Community Discussion

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