Prepaid debit cards allow you to convert your cash into a more convenient payment method, so you can shop online and simply swipe at local retailers. You can use prepaid cards to completely replace a checking account or to help with your monthly budget, and it’s easy to get a prepaid card without impacting your credit.
You can even use prepaid debit cards to distribute funds to members of your family. If you send your teenager to the store with a $100 prepaid card to use on school supplies, you’ll ensure he or she doesn’t also return home with a Nintendo Switch.
The best prepaid debit cards have minimal fees, and some are packed with convenient features. We’ve narrowed down the options to make your decision easier — here are the best prepaid debit cards of 2020.
The best prepaid debit cards of 2020
- Best for Savings: Brink’s Prepaid Mastercard®
- Best for Cash Rewards: NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card
- Best for Infrequent Users: PayPal Prepaid Mastercard®
- Best for Buying Groceries: Kroger REWARDS Prepaid Visa® Card
- Best for Fifth Third Bank Customers: Fifth Third Access 360° Reloadable Prepaid Card
- Best for No Monthly Fee: MOVO Virtual Prepaid Visa Card
- Cheapest Overall: American Express Serve®
Prepaid debit cards at a glance
|Card||Monthly Fee||ATMs||Min. Deposit|
|Brink’s Prepaid Mastercard®||$9.95 (drops to $5 with at least $500 in direct deposits)||$2.50 per transaction||Varies by location|
|NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card||$9.95 (drops to $5 with at least $500 in monthly direct deposits)||$2.50 per transaction||$10|
|PayPal Prepaid Mastercard®||$4.95||$1.95 per transaction||$10|
|Kroger REWARDS Prepaid Visa® Card||$4.95||$2.50 per transaction||$10|
|Fifth Third Access 360° Reloadable Prepaid Card||$4 (waived for checking customers or anyone with at least $500 in monthly direct deposits)||$0 in-network, $2.75 out-of-network||$0.01 at branch; $1.00 at ATM|
|MOVO Virtual Prepaid Visa Card||$0||$2||Varies by location|
|American Express Serve®||$6.95 ($0 with at least $500 in monthly deposits)||$0 in-network, $2.50 out-of-network||$20 (may vary by retailer)|
Brink’s Prepaid Mastercard® – Best for Savings
This card allows you to earn cashback and set aside your money in an optional high-yield savings account.
# of Reload Methods5
However, there are a lot of fees to be aware of. You can choose a pay-as-you-go plan for $1.50 per transaction or a monthly plan for $9.95. The monthly plan drops to $5 if you get at least $500 in payroll or government benefit direct deposits at any time. This also gets you access to the optional savings account and $10 in purchase protection. You will also be charged for reloads at retailers, withdrawals, loading checks, and inactivity.
Our Two Cents — If you use direct deposit and want to keep an emergency fund, this card could serve you well. Just don’t let any of the fees sneak up on you.
NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card – Best for Cash Rewards
This card provides you with personalized offers based on your shopping habits that allow you to earn money back in your account.
# of Reload Methods5
NetSpend lets you pay as you go, charging $2 per transaction, or pay a monthly fee for unlimited transactions. You’ll also pay for cash reloads, withdrawals, and inactivity, but there’s no fee for loading checks through the mobile app.
Our Two Cents — In case you need another reason to spend your whole paycheck, NetSpend offers free mobile check loading and rewards you for certain purchases.
PayPal Prepaid Mastercard® – Best for Infrequent Users
This card comes with a low monthly fee and no fee for inactivity, making it a great choice for folks who don’t receive direct deposits and may not use the card every month.
# of Reload Methods3
Our Two Cents — You can get unlimited transactions with this card for less than the price of a latte.
RushCard® Prepaid Visa® – Best for ATM Access
This card lets you withdraw money for free at any MoneyPass ATM, and you can easily manage your account online or in-app.
- Monthly Fee: $7.95
- Reload Methods: 5
- ATMs: 32K MoneyPasss ATMs
- SimpleScore: 3/5.0
The RushCard® Prepaid Visa® has a per-use plan that costs $1 per transaction, or you can pay a monthly fee of $7.95 for unlimited transactions. That cost drops to $5.95 if you had a direct deposit in the prior month. We love the free ATMs access at thousands of locations, and the free mobile check load is an awesome feature, but there are a couple of fees you’ll need to worry about. There’s a $3.95-$9.95 fee to get your card and a $5.95 cash reload fee at retail locations.
Our Two Cents — If you count down the days until payday, you’ll enjoy the quick access to cash this card provides. Now, if only this card was capable of negotiating a pay raise on your behalf.
Kroger REWARDS Prepaid Visa® Card – Best for Buying Groceries
Shoppers who frequent the Kroger family of stores can earn up to three points per dollar spent and receive an automatic bonus check every quarter.
- Monthly Fee: $4.95
- Reload Methods: 6
- ATMs: 32K worldwide
- SimpleScore: 3.6 / 5.0
For shoppers who frequent the Kroger family of stores, this prepaid card has some of the best available rewards. You’ll get one point per dollar on every purchase, two points per dollar when you use your card at a Kroger store, and three points per dollar when you purchase generic Kroger brand products. However, keep in mind that each point is only worth $0.005 each, so this card doesn’t come close to the value you would get with a grocery store rewards credit card or even a basic cash back credit card. And points can only be redeemed for free groceries at Kroger stores.
Our Two Cents — This card provides Kroger fanatics with bad credit the opportunity to earn free groceries, but you’ll have to spend upwards of $38 just to earn a free banana.
Fifth Third Access 360° Reloadable Prepaid Card – Best for Fifth Third Bank Customers
If you already have a Fifth Third checking account and utilize Fifth Third ATMs, you’ll avoid almost all fees for using this card.
- Monthly Fee: $4
- Reload Methods: 3
- ATMs: 2,464 nationwide
- SimpleScore: 2.6 / 5.0
If you bank with Fifth Third, you can enjoy this prepaid card with almost no fees. There are no monthly fees for checking customers or anyone who deposits $500 each month onto the card. There are also no fees for in-network withdrawals or reloading and no inactivity fees. However, if you’re looking for perks like rewards and savings tools, or if you want to be able to use mobile check loading, this isn’t the card for you.
Our Two Cents — If you’re allergic to fees and enjoy shooting the breeze with the teller at Fifth Third, this card could be the optimal choice for you.
MOVO Virtual Prepaid Visa Card – Best for No Monthly Fee
Shop online, use a physical card in-store, send and receive money, and make payments without paying a monthly fee.
- Monthly Fee: $0
- Reload Methods: 7
- ATMs: 1M worldwide
- SimpleScore: 4.2 / 5.0
The MOVO Virtual Prepaid Visa Card comes with a number of attractive features with no monthly fee. You won’t need a bank account to send money to anyone with a smartphone free of charge. You can also use the card to pay bills, shop online, and get cash. There are plenty of reload options and it’s easy to manage your account from the mobile app. The only fees you’ll have to worry about are a $4.95 inactivity fee, a $5.95 card purchase fee, and a $2 ATM withdrawal fee. You’ll also pay a 2-5% fee for mobile check deposits.
Our Two Cents — If you want to easily avoid fees and pay your friends back for footing the brunch bill, consider the MOVO Virtual Prepaid Visa Card.
American Express Serve® – Cheapest Overall
This card makes it easy to avoid each and every fee. Deposit checks and access ATMs without paying a cent, and sign up for direct deposit to avoid monthly fees.
- Monthly Fee: $6.95 ($0 with at least $500 in monthly direct deposits)
- Reload Methods: 3
- ATMs: 1.5M worldwide
- SimpleScore: 4.2 / 5.0
If you add at least $500 in direct deposits to your card each month, it’s very easy to avoid all fees with this card. You can deposit checks, withdraw from an ATM, send money to a friend, and transfer money from your bank account without forking over any cash. You can also access your paycheck early and easily manage your account online or with the mobile app. Furthermore, American Express is known for its superior customer service, and you’ll get added perks like Amex offers and emergency travel assistance.
Our Two Cents — This card is ideal for someone who pockets ketchup packets at fast food restaurants and scoffs at the price of avocado toast — you’re price-conscious and pretty frugal.
What is a prepaid debit card?
A prepaid debit card is a method of payment that allows you to load money for use on purchases without needing a bank account. The money available to you is pre-loaded from your own funds, so it’s impossible to go overdraft with this type of card.
How prepaid debit cards work
With a prepaid debit card, you choose a method of loading money onto a card like direct deposit or adding cash at a retailer, and decide how much money to add. From there, you can use the card to make purchases online or in-store. Many cards also allow you to withdraw money from an ATM, send money to friends, earn rewards or set money aside in a savings account.
You can do all this without a bank account, making prepaid cards a great replacement for traditional banking. If you’ve been excluded from banks due to a poor banking history, have poor credit or tend to overspend, a prepaid debit card could be an awesome money management tool for you.
Prepaid debit cards vs. regular debit cards
A regular debit card is linked to a checking account at a bank or credit union. Some online accounts offer debit cards as well. A prepaid debit card, on the other hand, is pre-loaded with cash or funds from your paycheck or government benefits. You can’t spend more than you have loaded on a prepaid debit card (with the exception of cards that have purchase protection). With debit cards, if you opt into overdraft protection, you could face a hefty charge if a transaction gets declined. While prepaid cards are an excellent budgeting tool, they typically come with more fees than a regular debit card.
Reloading a prepaid card
Depending on the prepaid debit card you choose, you may have several options for adding funds that you can use for purchases. Typically, there’s no fee for direct deposits from payroll or government benefits, but adding cash at a retail location will usually cost you. Other methods of reloading a prepaid card include bank transfers, PayPal transfers, and mobile check deposits.
How to choose the best prepaid debit card for you
- First, decide if a prepaid debit card is the right choice for you. Many people use them as a divergence from traditional banking, but it can be difficult to keep track of expenses if there’s no mobile app companion. Furthermore, it’s extremely hard to save money without a savings account.
- Decide how you’ll use the card and list the features that are most important to you. Do you want cash back rewards, need a healthy buffer for transfers or plain to use the card sparingly? Make sure you understand exactly what you need out of a prepaid debit card in order to find the best prepaid debit card for your situation.
- Of the cards that have the features you need, add up the monthly fees you can expect to incur. Some cards allow for monthly fees to be waived under certain conditions. Can you meet those requirements each month to avoid those fees?
- Choose the card with the cheapest overall fees for the benefits you want.
Prepaid debit card FAQs
Where do I get a prepaid debit card?
You can order a prepaid debit card online from the card provider or pick one up at certain local retailers such as Walmart.
Who should use a prepaid debit card?
Prepaid debit cards are best for people who have poor credit, struggle with overspending or lack access to traditional banking tools. If you have good credit and a mainstream bank account, you’ll likely get more out of a regular credit card.
Where can I use a prepaid debit card?
Most online and brick-and-mortar retailers accept prepaid debit cards. If you’re using a prepaid debit card outside the U.S., you will most likely incur transaction fees.
Too long, didn’t read?
Prepaid debit cards can be a great alternative to a traditional bank account and help you stay within budget while enjoying convenience and perks you wouldn’t get with cash. They’re a good option for folks who have bad credit or are excluded from banks. However, most prepaid debit cards come with fees, and they won’t help you build credit. Consider your needs and your current financial situation when deciding between a prepaid debit card, a regular debit card, and a credit card.
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The SimpleScore is our proprietary scoring metric to compare products and services at The Simple Dollar in a transparent, evidence-based way. Our editorial team identifies five quantifiable aspects to compare for every brand, determines the rating criteria for each aspect score, then averages the five aspect scores to produce a single SimpleScore. For prepaid debit cards, we compared monthly fees, reload methods, limits, ATM networks and additional features for every major prepaid debit card. Our ratings are meant to be a directional tool to help you in the process of choosing a prepaid debit card. Be sure to continue your research and shop around for the best prepaid debit card that fits your specific needs.
Last updated August 2020 – Updated SimpleScore data.
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