Prepaid credit cards look just like regular credit cards and function much like regular credit cards. But don’t let looks deceive you. Prepaid credit cards are actually not credit cards at all. In many ways prepaid credit cards are more like debit cards than regular unsecured or even secured credit cards. The most significant distinction is that the credit limit for a prepaid credit card is almost always limited to the amount of cash that is loaded on the card. Prepaid credit cards also generally do not impact your credit profile or FICO score. Many prepaid cards also carry high fees and rewards programs are rare.
But if you’re willing to shop around, it is possible to find prepaid credit cards with lower fees and other benefits. The 15 best prepaid cards included on this list carry low fees. Many cards function as substitutes for checking accounts; others offer rewards programs. One prepaid card is specifically targeted for small business owners who wish to provide funds to their employees.
American Express Serve prepaid cardholders enjoy worldwide acceptance along with Purchase Protection and Roadside Assistance and other features unique to American Express cards. Serve cards are free online, $5 if purchased in a store. There is no minimum balance and no activation fee. The $1 monthly fee for the Serve card is waived if you load at least $500 on the card monthly or if your card has a $0 balance at the end of the billing cycle. Manage your account online or through the mobile app, with 24/7 customer service available.
The Vision Premier Visa card is a great option for prepaid card users. The added bonus of free money management tools and free bill pay make this card a great addition to your wallet. You can add money via direct deposit, through MoneyGram, Western Union or other money transferring services, or by purchasing a re-load card from local retailers. And since the card is FDIC insured, it is safer than carrying cash around.
American Express has teamed up with the world’s largest retailer to produce the American Express Bluebird prepaid card. More than a prepaid credit card, Bluebird by American Express and Wal-Mart is a fully functioning checking account. The card features online bill pay, ATM access and free direct deposit. Card users can establish a separate account to save for special occasions or items. Family accounts are also available. Online account management makes it easy to keep track of spending.
If you have an active PayPal account, the PayPal Prepaid MasterCard allows you to access your money without waiting for transfers to your bank. Load up to $300 per day and $2,000 every 30 days instantly from your PayPal account for no charge. Unlike the PayPal Debit card which requires a Premier of Business account, PayPal Prepaid MasterCards may be attached to Personal accounts. PayPal Prepaid Master card also offers a rewards program and available savings account.
If you thought H&R Block only did taxes, you’re behind the curve. The H&R Block Prepaid Emerald MasterCard carries no activation fees, no monthly fees and no ATM fees for withdrawals from Allpoint ATMs. Direct deposit of your paycheck or government issued check is free and your funds are protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. One drawback: a $2.50 inactivity fee after three months.
As a leader among prepaid credit cards, GreenDot offers both a prepaid Visa card and a prepaid MasterCard. Get the Green Dot card free by ordering online or purchase a temporary card for immediate use for $4.95. There are no ATM or activation fees for either the Visa or MasterCard. You can avoid the $5.95 monthly fee by making 30 transactions each month or loading $1,000 on the card. Reload the card with a GreenDot reload card or at the register at many of your favorite merchants.
The name may not be familiar, but the Kaiku Visa Prepaid card offers spending flexibility with few fees. The Kaiku Visa Prepaid Card provides direct deposit, mobile banking, withdrawals from network ATMs, mobile banking and customer service free for card holders. Manage your card account on your iOS or Android mobile phone or tablet through a dedicated app available through the iTunes Store or GooglePlay. However, the Kaiku Prepaid Visa card offers no rewards program or savings account.
The Mango MasterCard includes juicy features such as a mobile app that is compatible with both iOS and Android devices, plus the ability to be loaded directly through your PayPal account. You can avoid the $5.00 monthly fee by loading at least $500 onto the card. The Mango MasterCard also features a savings account to help you build a nest egg. Virtual cards keep you safe while shopping online.
With a name like Brink’s, you would expect the Brink’s Money Prepaid MasterCard to feature first class security, and The Brink’s Money Prepaid MasterCard lives up to its name. Features like the option to place your photo on the card, virtual accounts, and transaction text alerts protect you from unauthorized transactions. You can also earn cash back and payback awards. A $10 cushion allows you to avoid embarrassment when you go slightly over your card balance.
Like many prepaid credit cards, the AccountNow Prepaid Visa card and MasterCard also function as substitutes for a conventional checking account. Both the Visa card and the MasterCard include money-saving features like $0 monthly fees, no minimum balance, free direct deposit and online bill pay. You may use either card nearly everywhere regular MasterCard and Visa cards are accepted.
The AccountNow Gold Visa Prepaid card includes features associated with credit cards like mobile access and text alerts along with checking account features like bill pay and direct deposit. The AccountNow Gold Visa card carries no activation fee and no minimum balance. As an extra benefit, the AccountNow Gold Visa Prepaid Card provides a $15 bonus when you establish recurring direct deposit.
READYDebit prepaid cards are available in your choice of pink or blue. But the READYDebit Visa Prepaid card is more than colorful — free direct deposit for your paycheck, tax refund or other government issued payment is also available. Manage your account on the go with mobile access and pay bills online for no charge. Free ScoreTracker service allows you to keep tabs on your FICO score. You may also use the READYDebit Visa prepaid card to withdraw cash at ATMs or receive cash back with purchases.
Many prepaid cards have low loading and spending limits, which can put a cramp in your style. This is not the case with the READYDebit Platinum Visa Prepaid card. Load up to $10,000 on the card – enough to finance almost any shopping spree or cover the expenses of a big blowout – or the vacation of a lifetime. Deposits are fully FDIC insured. Online bill pay and check writing are free. The card also features free ScoreTracker service and a rewards program.
The Western Union NetSpend Prepaid MasterCard makes it easy to send and receive Western Union transfers nearly anywhere worldwide. Add cash to the card at Western Union outlets and at many of your favorite merchants as well as directly from your bank account. The Western Union NetSpend Prepaid MasterCard also features free direct deposit for your paycheck or government payment with funds protected by FDIC.
The BB&T MoneyAccount Card offers the usual conveniences of a prepaid card, such as online bill payments and account alerts. With the BB&T card you can also share an account with other members of your family and you can carry up to a $10,000 balance on this card which is much higher than some. The downside to this card is the monthly fee and the $500 daily ATM withdrawal limit.
Pros and Cons of Prepaid Credit Cards
Prepaid credit cards never carry overdraft fees or over limit fees. Therefore they provide a great way to impose discipline on out-of-control spending habits. Prepaid cards are also much safer to carry than cash. But if you’re hoping to establish or rebuild your credit profile or FICO score, a prepaid credit card won’t be of much help. With very few exceptions, prepaid credit cards do not report their transactions to any of the three major credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Equifax or Experian. As a result, your prepaid card account history is not included on your credit report. A secured credit card is a better choice than a prepaid credit card if you want to correct a limited or damaged credit history.