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Prepaid debit cards—also known as “reloadable” debit cards—allow you to add money to your debit card in advance, so it’s there when you need it. Once you add money to the card, you can use it as you would use a traditional debit card. Uses might include withdrawing cash, paying bills, or purchasing online or in a store.
The main benefit of reloadable debit cards is the ability to add only as much money as you need. This prevents you from overdrawing your account or going into debt. Result—a flexibility that makes them a useful tool when it’s important to limit spending, such as with a child who gets their first debit card. The cards on this list are among the best prepaid debit cards available today.
Best prepaid debit cards compared 2023
|Card||Best for||Cash reloads fees||Free ATM network|
$0 with Walmart app, $3 at Walmart locations, up to $5.95 elsewhere
$20 or $25 per month; $149 or $199 per year
Bluebird by American Express
Over 37,000 MoneyPass® ATM locations
Serve American Express Prepaid Debit Account
$0 in network, $3.95 out of network
Over 45,000 retail locations
ONE VIP Visa Prepaid Card
Supporting underserved communities
FamZoo Prepaid Card
$4.95 for cash
Greenlight Prepaid Mastercard
Movo Virtual Prepaid Visa Card
Virtual debit cards
Varies, typically $3.95 or $4.95
NetSpend Visa Prepaid Card
Pairing with a savings account
Our recommendations for the best reloadable debit card for October 2023
Best for Walmart customers: Walmart MoneyCard
Purchases at Walmart.com earn 3% cash back with this card, while purchases at Walmart fuel stations earn 2% cash back. At Walmart stores you will earn 1% cash back. You can also earn 2% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings, up to a maximum average daily balance of $1,000. There is also up to $200 of overdraft protection and no monthly fee. Despite this card’s benefits, there is a big caveat to keep in mind: Cash back is limited to just $75 annually.
Best for building credit: Extra Debit Card
The Extra Debit Card is issued by Evolve Bank & Trust or Patriot Bank, N.A. With the Extra Debit Card, you use Plaid to connect the card to your existing bank account. It then uses your bank account balance to assign you a spending limit, which it calls Spend Power. When you buy something with the card, Extra covers the transaction and then pays itself back the next business day.
Although Extra reports your on-time and late payment activity to credit bureaus, a credit check isn’t necessary since you use your checking account balance to pay for your purchases. Two plans are available with this card: The Credit Building plan costs $20 per month or $150 per year. You can also opt for the Credit Building + Rewards plan, which costs $25 per month or $199 per year. With the rewards plan, you can earn 1% in points for everyday purchases.
Best for avoiding fees: Bluebird by American Express
The Bluebird by American Express has the lowest fees overall. It won’t nickel-and-dime you with card fees or monthly fees. In addition, there are no cash reload fees at Family Dollar and a lower $3.74 fee at Walmart locations. You can make free cash withdrawals at 37,000 locations in the MoneyPass ATM network. Plus, you can use the card to get paid up to two days sooner with Early Direct Deposit.
Best for earning rewards: Serve American Express Prepaid Debit Account
The Serve prepaid debit account from Amex earns unlimited 1% cash back on in-store and online purchases. Funds are added to your account as soon as the transaction settles with Serve. Debit cards aren’t known for earning cash back (that’s usually the province of credit cards), making the Serve prepaid debit account a notable exception. You can redeem your cash back on purchases made in-store or online.
Best for supporting underserved communities: ONE VIP Visa Prepaid Card
The ONE VIP Visa Prepaid Card is another prepaid card that earns cash back. This includes one point for every $2 you spend, plus 1.5 points for every $1 spent on Netflix, Uber, Sephora, and at select Black-owned businesses. Currently, there is a list of 25 Black-owned businesses that earn 1.5 points per $1 spent. The downsides are that this card has a $7.95 monthly fee and lacks a free ATM network.
Best for families: FamZoo Prepaid Card
The FamZoo Prepaid Card is great for the whole family. With FamZoo, parents control accounts and money rules. They can see their own account details and their kids’ accounts, while kids can only see their own account information. In addition, you can instantly move money between family member accounts, just in case someone is running low on funds. However, this account isn’t free. Fees start at $2.50 per month if you pay for 24 months or $5.99 per month if you pay monthly.
Best for kids/teens: Greenlight Prepaid Mastercard
The Greenlight Prepaid Mastercard is a great choice if you want to help your kids use a debit card responsibly. It includes a plethora of features, such as the option to tie allowance to chores and set spending limits for your kids. In addition, you can earn up to 5% on savings and 1% cash back. Parents can earn up to 3% cash back. Monthly plans start at $4.99.
Best for virtual debit cards: Movo Virtual Prepaid Visa Card
With more and more transactions happening online or with virtual wallets, the Movo Virtual Prepaid Visa Card feels like a card for the 21st century. Instead of having another physical card to avoid losing, this card is entirely digital. In addition, the card uses the Mastercard network, so millions of merchants in the U.S. and worldwide accept it. You can also use your card at a Mastercard ATM in your area.
Best for pairing with a savings account: NetSpend Visa Prepaid Card
The NetSpend Visa Prepaid Card has many benefits, including no credit check, no minimum balance requirements, and no activation fees. In addition, you can get paid via direct deposit up to two days early. There is also a “purchase cushion” that will cover you for up to $10 if you don’t have enough money to pay for a purchase. Other benefits include cash back and up to 5% APY on a linked savings account.
We selected the best prepaid credit cards based primarily on which cards have the lowest fees for cash reloads. Similarly, we also considered which cards have the largest networks of free ATMs. We also screened for other factors, such as finding prepaid cards that work well for families. Overall, we looked for cards that meet the needs of prepaid cardholders, which may differ from those with traditional debit cards.
How to select the best prepaid debit card
There are many features you may look for in a prepaid debit card, and those features won’t always be the same. However, below are some features for those with a prepaid debit card.
Prepaid debit cards often come with fees, and no one likes paying just to access their money. Fees might include monthly fees, cash reload fees, and ATM withdrawal fees. Pay attention to the fees and look for a prepaid debit card that doesn’t have an excessively long list of them.
Free ATM network
Most prepaid debit cards don’t come from big banks with a vast network of ATMs. This could be a problem, as you typically must pay a fee to withdraw cash from an ATM that isn’t in your network. However, some prepaid debit cards partner with large ATM networks, enabling fee-free withdrawals at ATMs around the country.
Ease of reloading
Reloading your prepaid debit card shouldn’t be a challenge, and the best cards have many reload options. This might include cash reloads, direct deposits, or bank transfers. Before signing up for a prepaid debit card, check to see if you can use your preferred reload method.
Benefits and perks
Prepaid debit cards sometimes have extra benefits and perks, such as cash back, rewards programs, or discounts at certain retailers. While these are mostly an added bonus, they could tip the scales if you are trying to decide between two cards. However, it’s worth noting that the prepaid debit cards with the best perks sometimes have monthly fees.
Low-fee alternatives to prepaid cards
Prepaid debit cards can be useful, but they may not always be the best choice. Depending on the situation, one of these low-fee alternatives may be worth considering:
- Online checking accounts. These accounts let you manage your money online, often with no monthly fees or minimum balances. Online banks typically have no physical branches, and they share those savings with customers. What’s more, these banks usually offer debit cards, giving you easy access to your money.
- Credit unions. Some credit unions may have lower fees than large banks. They also may be more willing to work with families and underserved communities. Of course, this varies by credit union, but it’s worth investigating choices in your area.
- Mobile money management apps. Apps such as Paypal offer money management services. In addition, they offer a debit card, allowing you to use them much as you would a prepaid debit card.
- Mobile payment apps. Mobile apps such as Venmo and CashApp also offer a debit card without charging monthly fees. These let you use only as much money as you have in your account, similar to a prepaid debit card.
- Secured credit cards. If you haven’t established a healthy credit history, a secured credit card can help you build your credit. These often report to the major credit bureaus, and some don’t charge usage fees.
The best choice depends on your personal situation. However, it’s best to look for options that do away with excessive fees and make it easy to access your money.
Where to buy prepaid debit cards
There are many ways to buy prepaid debit cards, both online and in person. Below are some common places and methods.
One of the easiest ways to buy a prepaid debit card is often on the card issuer’s website. Check the websites of the card issuers mentioned in the list above, as you can typically sign up online. For those who don’t have internet access, one of the methods below might work.
You can check your local retail stores to see if they sell prepaid debit cards. This might include grocery stores, convenience stores, and large retailers such as Target and Walmart. You may find them near the cashiers or in a display case near other financial products, like gift cards.
Bank and credit union branches
Some banks and credit unions offer prepaid debit cards to their customers. Even if you don’t have a checking or savings account with them, you can still visit a branch near you and ask if it offers prepaid debit cards.
Check cashing stores
Check cashing or payday loan stores sometimes offer prepaid debit cards along with their other products. If you visit one of these stores, you can find out if it offers prepaid debit cards.
Large pharmacy chains, such as Walgreens and CVS, often have prepaid debit cards available for purchase. If you intend to visit one of these stores soon, look for prepaid cards near the front of the store.
Prepaid vs regular debit cards: What’s the difference?
|Prepaid debit card||Regular debit card|
Typical funding source
Cash reloads, direct deposit, bank transfers
Maintenance fees, ATM fees, overdraft fees
Cash reloads, cash withdrawals, balance inquiry
TIME Stamp: Prepaid debit cards are safe and convenient, but watch the fees
Prepaid debit cards let you add money in advance and use them as needed. You can typically only spend up to the amount on the card, and overdrafts aren’t usually possible. This can help control overspending and be a good option for those who are unbanked. Just pay attention to the fees, which can be high.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
How do prepaid debit cards work?
Prepaid debit cards allow you to add money to the card in advance. Common reload methods include cash reloads, bank transfers, and direct deposit. Once the money is on the card, you can use them like traditional debit cards for in-store or online purchases. However, you typically can’t overdraw a prepaid debit card.
Who is eligible for a prepaid debit card?
Prepaid debit cards are available to almost anyone in the United States. There may be basic eligibility requirements, such as being 18 years old and providing a form of identification. However, some prepaid card accounts are intended for families and allow you to request debit cards for children who are under the age of 18.
Is there a fee to cancel a prepaid debit card?
Some prepaid cards may charge a fee to cancel, but this varies by card issuer. In some cases there may not be a fee to cancel the card if it has a zero balance. Others may charge a fee to close the account or for sending a check with the remaining balance. Check your card’s terms and conditions for specifics about fees.
How do you add money to a reloadable debit card?
There are many options, including in-person cash deposits, bank transfers, direct deposits, and check deposits via mobile app. Remember that there may be fees associated with some or all of these methods, so check with your card issuer for details.
How do you apply for a prepaid debit card?
Often, the easiest and most straightforward way to apply is through the card issuer’s website. However, you may also be able to apply at convenience stores, pharmacies, grocery stores, and other retail locations. Typically, you must fill out and submit the application, then wait for processing. If your application is approved, you should receive your prepaid debit card within seven to 10 business days.
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