Best Prepaid Cards

Strict about your budget? Prepaid and debit cards can help you control your spending by setting your balance up front. Note that prepaid and debit cards are not the same as credit cards. If you’re looking for a credit card but are concerned about a low credit score, check out these card offers from our partners.

Strict about your budget? Prepaid and debit cards can help you control your spending by setting your balance up front. Note that prepaid and debit cards are not the same as credit cards. If you’re looking for a credit card but are concerned about a low credit score, check out these card offers from our partners.

Editor: Laura Mohammad | Writer: Mariah Ackary

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December 28, 2020

Brink's Prepaid Mastercard®

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Rewards Rate

This card doesn't offer cash back, miles, or points

At A Glance

Annual Fee
Variable Monthly Fees
Balance Transfer Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Western Union® Netspend® Mastercard® Prepaid Card

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Rewards Rate

This card doesn't offer cash back, miles, or points

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Annual Fee
Up-to $9.95 monthly*
Balance Transfer Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Brink's Prepaid Mastercard®

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Rewards Rate

This card doesn't offer cash back, miles, or points

At A Glance

Annual Fee
Variable Monthly Fees
Balance Transfer Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Netspend® Prepaid Mastercard®

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Rewards Rate

This card doesn't offer cash back, miles, or points

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Annual Fee
Variable Monthly Fee
Balance Transfer Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Control™ Prepaid Mastercard®

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Rewards Rate

This card doesn't offer cash back, miles, or points

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Annual Fee
Variable Monthly Fee
Balance Transfer Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Netspend® Small Business Prepaid Mastercard®

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Rewards Rate

This card doesn't offer cash back, miles, or points

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Annual Fee
Variable Monthly Fee
Balance Transfer Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Self — Credit Builder Account

No Credit History

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Rewards Rate

This card doesn't offer cash back, miles, or points

At A Glance

Annual Fee
One Time $9 - $15 Account Fee (Varies by Product)
Balance Transfer Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
12.03% - 15.98% variable
PayPal Prepaid Mastercard®

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Rewards Rate

This card doesn't offer cash back, miles, or points

At A Glance

Annual Fee
Variable Monthly Fee
Balance Transfer Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Netspend® All-Access® Account by MetaBank®
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No Credit History

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Rewards Rate

This card doesn't offer cash back, miles, or points

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$5 Standard monthly service fee
Balance Transfer Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
N/A

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by hfyhpf120.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank's website for the most current information.


Comparing Prepaid Card Offers

A prepaid card is a great tool for someone who needs a little help budgeting, doesn’t have the best of credit or prefers the convenience of not always pulling out cash. But they aren’t the same as credit cards and they don’t enjoy credit cards’ greatest advantage – the ability to help build your credit. That said, there are plenty of good reasons to get a prepaid card. Here we look at:

  • $352 billion by 2023.

    Yet, as popular as they are, there is a ton of misunderstanding about them. For example, there is no such thing as a prepaid credit card. In fact, they are opposites. Here we take a look at some common features of prepaid cards and how they compare to other card types.

    What are the different types of cards?

    Here are the 4 main types of cards you’ll encounter when looking for a financial card, along with how they work and what makes them unique.

    Prepaid cards

    A prepaid card, also called a pay-as-you-go card, is a product that only lets you spend money you’ve loaded onto it in advance. Instead of borrowing money from a bank that you must pay back later (as with a credit card), you are spending your own preloaded money. One of the conveniences of prepaid cards is that they are available almost anywhere, from grocery stores to gas stations, and you can use them anywhere their charge card requires you to pay your balance in full each month to avoid a penalty. Unlike credit cards, charge cards have no preset spending limit or APR. These cards tend to have excellent rewards and benefits and are primarily offered by American Express.

    Can you build credit with a prepaid card?

    No, there’s no way to build credit with prepaid cards. Credit is established through positive borrowing history. Since you provide the money upfront when you purchase a prepaid card, you’re not borrowing or repaying any money.

    While prepaid cards may make sense for some situations, it’s important to build credit. Good credit can be a bridge to the things you want. Having no credit or bad credit can be a roadblock in achieving your goals, such as buying a house, getting that next great job or lowering your insurance premiums. If you want to dip your toe into credit building, explore Consumer Financial Protection Bureau enacted a rule in April 2019 that makes the fees and other details of your card more clear with formatting that’s similar to the credit card Schumer Box.

    The new rule also allows you to access your account online, like a bank account or credit card. It also provides greater protection from loss, theft or incorrect charges, according to CFPB.

    Is a prepaid card a bank account?

    No. A prepaid card is a standalone financial product that you load with money, then it eventually runs out of money unless you reload more. A bank account’s card is called a debit card – it operates in a similar way, but it is tied to the account’s funds. Neither is a credit card, which basically provides short-term loans to the cardholder.

    A prepaid card can have similar features to a bank account, however. For example, you can use it to deposit your paycheck or auto-debit bills. This is because routing and account numbers can be assigned to the card.

    Neither a prepaid card nor a debit card can be used to build credit, while you can build credit with a credit card. If your credit isn’t its best, try taking out a secured credit card for credit-building. Just make sure the card issuer will notify the 3 major credit bureaus of your credit habits.

    Who should get a prepaid card?

    Prepaid cards are increasingly popular, with the number of U.S. adults who used these products at least once a month increasing by 50% from 2012 to 2014, according to a 2015 Pew Trusts study.

    But who should use a prepaid card? You might embrace them because you can’t land a checking account – according to the FDIC, 8.4 million households in the United States did not have a bank account as of 2017. Or perhaps you appreciate the convenience. One thing we know – consumers typically choose prepaid cards to control spending, control fees or make purchases.

    “A prepaid card may be a particularly good choice for a high schooler or college student,” says hfyhpf120.com Industry Analyst B&C Media LLC. “If you attempt to, the transaction will just be denied. So, prepaid cards impose a type of financial discipline – to spend only what you have. Credit cards, on the other hand, allow you to spend more than what you have. For some, the temptation is too great. That’s why 65% of credit card users carry a credit card balance. Those users not only spend beyond their means but also finance their over-spending with high-interest debt.”

  • It’s protected. If it is linked to a network, you’ll enjoy zero liability protections. And if you report the loss or theft of a registered card to the issuer, most will restore your original balance and issue a new card.
  • No interest. Unlike a credit card, you won’t be charged an interest fee because you are using your own money.
  • No credit check. A bank is not checking your credit, which can slightly impact your score.
  • Can’t overdraw. There are no overdraft fees.
  • Personal information is safe. Your personal information isn’t tied to a prepaid card.

Cons of prepaid cards

  • Fees. Some prepaid cards charge fees. “Fees typically include a monthly fee, cash load fees, and sometimes ATM fees,” says Clark. “For a credit card user that always pays her full monthly balance, a prepaid card will always be the more expensive choice. The same is true of checking account debit cards if the consumer qualifies for a free checking account and doesn’t overdraw his or her account.”
  • Can’t build credit. Unlike secured credit cards or other credit-building cards, prepaid cards don’t help you build credit, says Jeff White, senior financial analyst for FitSmallBusiness.com. However, “you can build credit through a credit card, and if you pay it off each month, then you’re not being charged any interest.”
  • Can run out of money. If you don’t pay attention to how much money you have on your card, you can wind up unable to pay at the counter.
  • Fewer protections. “Prepaid cards do not offer as many legal protections to consumers as traditional debit or credit cards,” says Monica Eaton-Cardone, co-founder and COO of Chargebacks911. “For example, let’s assume the cardholder needs to dispute a fraudulent or mistaken charge on her prepaid card. While many card issuers will still allow customers to dispute charges, the consumer doesn’t have a guaranteed legal right like she would with a conventional credit or debit card. Thus, the consumer takes on a greater share of fraud liability when using a prepaid card.”

What to look out for with prepaid cards

With all the advantages of prepaid cards, there are a few things to watch out for, including how it works and its features. For example, they actually have some protections and they can be used widely, yet they don’t work like a credit card. Here are 7 things to pay attention to:

  1. It’s not a credit card. A prepaid card is more like a debit card – once you’ve spent the money on the card, you’re done, unless you reload the card with more funds. With a credit card, you are borrowing money that you will pay back later.
  2. It’s not tied to a bank account. Unlike a debit card, a prepaid card isn’t tied to a checking or savings account. However, it can have routing and account numbers that you can use to auto-debit or deposit funds.
  3. A prepaid card has protections. Although it’s not a credit card, as part of a payment network, it has some protections similar to a credit card.
  4. You can buy it at a variety of places. From grocery stores to minute markets, there are a variety of locations where you can buy a prepaid card. Simply load it with the amount of cash you want, and you’re ready to go!
  5. It can be used for budgeting. You can load it for a specific type or purchase, such as groceries. Then, when your card runs out of money, you simply stop spending on that item.
  6. Watch out for fees. There are sometimes surprise fees in a prepaid card, so beware.
  7. You can’t build credit with a prepaid card. For that, you’ll need a credit card. Start with a secured credit card or an unsecured card for someone with bad or no credit.