Credit cards come in many shapes and forms, and one of the most convenient options is a prepaid credit card. They’re also the most misunderstood cards out there, so it’s time for a little clarification to help you fully understand what these cards are all about, what inherent potential they possess, and whether or not prepaid credit cards are right for you.
We’ll also show you some of the top prepaid credit cards available and what makes them so great. Let’s get started!
|Monthly fee||ATM withdrawal||Foreign transaction fee||Activation fee||Reload fee|
|Green Dot(R) Cash Back Visa(R)||$9.95||$2.50||3%||$1.95||Up to $4.95|
|Green Dot(R) Prepaid Visa||$7.95, waived over $1,000||$2.50||3%||$1.95||Up to $4.95|
|PayPal Prepaid MasterCard(R)||$4.95||$1.95||2.5%||None||Up to $3.95|
|Mileage Plus(R) GO Visa(R) Prepaid Card||$5.95/$85 annual||$0-$2.50 in US||3.5%||None||Up to $4.95|
|Walmart MoneyCard(R) Visa(R) or MasterCard(R) with Cash-Back Rewards||$5.00; waived over $1,000||$2.50||3%||None||None|
|RushCard Prepaid Visa(R)||$5.95 withDirect Deposit; $7.95 without||$2.50 out of network||3%||$3.95 or $9.95||None|
Top 6 prepaid credit cards at a glance
Here’s a quick look at the best prepaid credit cards on the market currently and what they’re all about:
If you want a Green Dot(R) card that offers a little more bang for its buck, check out the Green Dot(R) Cash Back Visa(R) Debit Card. It offers 5 percent cash back on all purchases, but only up to $100 annually. But something is better than nothing.
Get paid earlier
With the Green Dot(R) Cash Back Visa(R) Debit Card, you can get your paycheck two days earlier with free direct deposit. However, this is subject to your payment provider’s process and timing.
No Credit Check
Like the Green Dot prepaid card, the Green Dot Cash Back Visa also doesn’t require a credit check. That way you don’t have to worry about your credit score going down.
Some simple fees
While there’s no overdraft fee and no purchase transaction fees, the Green Dot Cash Back Visa does have a few fees associated with it, including:
- Reload fee: up to $4.95
- ATM fee: $2.50 withdrawal and $0.50 balance inquiry, plus any fees ATM owner may charge
- Foreign transaction fee: 3 percent
- Replacement card: $5
- Monthly charge: $9.95
The Green Dot Cash Back Visa comes with the same mobile app as the prepaid card. It includes the ability:
- Deposit checks with smartphone
- Send money to another Green Dot card instantly
- Write checks to pay rent and other bills
The Green Dot(R) Prepaid Visa is another great option for anyone looking to curb spending, spend wisely, or make purchasing more convenient.
The pricing structure is simple, a flat rate $7.95/monthly service fee applies to all cardholders unless you load $1,000 each month. Then, the fee is waived completely. You can load up your card at various locations, though loading up can cost up to $4.95 depending on where you choose to go.
Reload your card by:
- Direct deposit which is free
- ACH transfer which is free but may come with charges from your bank (and takes one to three days)
- Mobile check deposits for $0.95 for five-day clearance or $5.95 for same day deposit
- Via cash loading at select retailers for $4.95
The Green Dot(R) Prepaid Visa also comes with a convenient mobile app that lets you do all of the managing and arranging of your account anytime and from anywhere. So, you can check your balance, transfer monies, and set up SMS notifications for account activity and deposit alerts. Green Dot mobile pay options let you have paper checks or e-payments sent out from your debit card, or you can buy paper checks from Green Dot and use them after pre-authorizing it on the app (up to $3,000).
Foreign Transaction Fee
What’s more, Green Dot is a Visa card, so it is widely accepted all over the country. You won’t run into any problems with retailers using this card. The Green Dot(R) Prepaid Visa does charge a three percent foreign transaction fee, so if you plan on making several foreign transactions, we recommend using one of these great travel credit cards with no foreign transaction fees to save on that charge.
No Credit Check
The real beauty of the Green Dot prepaid card is that there are no credit checks so that you don’t have to worry about your credit score or history. You can make unlimited online purchases on the card for free, and get free direct deposits onto your card. ATM withdrawals cost $2.50, while an inquiry will cost $0.50. However, you can withdraw cash from a retailer at the time of purchase for free.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for decades, you are well aware of the PayPal services and its tremendous reach, which is why it makes complete sense that so many people (roughly 203 million) make use of the PayPal Prepaid MasterCard. It’s well-known and trusted by consumers and retailers alike, has an enormous network, and this prepaid credit card has pretty low fees compared to others in the industry. PayPal’s prepaid MasterCard charges $4.95 per month for unlimited purchases. And look at all the freebies you get:
- Free direct deposit
- Free money transfers from your PayPal account
- No activation fee
The card does charge you a $1.95 ATM fee (which is considerably lower than many of the other prepaid cards available), and you can also get cash back at select retailers and even restaurants. Set up direct deposit or transfer money from your PayPal account onto your prepaid card for fast access, or you can reload your card at any of the 130,000+ Netspend reload locations too.
The PayPal prepaid MasterCard charges a 2.5 percent foreign currency fee, which is lower than some of the cards on offer, but you can still get a better rate with no foreign transaction fee credit cards (if you get approved).
Best of all though, the PayPal prepaid MasterCard has lots of fun bonus offers it rolls out frequently. Some of the recent special offers included a refer a friend bonus that gives you and your buddy $5 cash when they sign up and load up their card or the five percent APR offer from The Bancorp Bank.
With so many convenient online retailers hooked up to the network, the PayPal Prepaid MasterCard is a great choice for online shopping.
The Mileage Plus(R) GO Visa(R) Prepaid Card is a slightly different card than the other prepaids we are featuring here. That’s because it has an amazing miles program that you won’t find in most other prepaid cards, making it a great option for people who travel or want to build up miles so they can travel for less. The Mileage Plus(R) GO Visa(R) Prepaid Card has two plans to choose from:
Monthly Plan for $5.95 Per Month
You’ll earn one mile for every $2 you spend on qualifying purchases.
Annual Plan for $85 Per Year
You’ll earn one mile for each dollar you spend on qualifying purchases.
Both plans offer you a way to earn big miles; the question is just how fast you want to earn. Like other prepaid cards, the Mileage Plus(R) GO Visa(R) Prepaid Card has an excellent mobile app for fast and easy account management, requires no credit check, and has free account management and inquiries. The Mileage Plus(R) GO Visa(R) Prepaid Card also offers the same five percent APY that the PayPal card offers, a huge benefit for those who like saving smartly.
Another benefit of this card is being able to take out money from an ATM for free. While this isn’t the case for every machine, the Mileage Plus(R) GO Visa(R) Prepaid Card has a big network of ATMs that won’t charge you a thing.
In addition to all the usual perks that a prepaid credit card offers you, throwing in a stupendous miles earning program makes the Mileage Plus(R) GO Visa(R) Prepaid Card one of the best options available to date.
Walmart offers two versions of their MoneyCard(R)—the Walmart MoneyCard(R) Visa(R) and the Walmart MoneyCard(R) MasterCard(R). Both cards are nearly identical and are great for anyone who shops at Walmart frequently. When you use the Walmart MoneyCard Visa(R) or MasterCard(R), you’ll earn 3 percent cash-back at Walmart.com, 2 percent cash back at Murphy USA and Walmart Fuel Stations, and 1 percent cash-back at Walmart, up to $75 in cash-back rewards per year.
No credit needed
Like the other cards on this, you don’t need to go through a credit check to be approved for the Walmart MoneyCard(R) Visa(R) or MasterCard(R) with Cash-Back Rewards.
There’s also no overdraft fees with this card, and no bank account required to sign-up.
- You can send money for free to another participating card issued by Green Dot Bank, including Walmart MoneyCard.
- Get access to your money up to 2 days early with free Direct Deposit, depending on your payment provider’s process and timing.
The RushCard Prepaid Visa(R) is great for those who want to get their finances in order. You can stay on top of bills with Online Bill Pay. You can pay your rent payment, phone bill, loan payments, or even your dentist or daycare center. You can also use RushGoals to set up savings goals and track your progress.
You can choose between two different RushCard plans:
- Unlimited Plan: Includes unlimited signature and PIN purchases, a $5.95 Monthly Fee if enrolled and using Direct Deposit, or a $7.95 Monthly Fee without Direct Deposit.
- Pay As You Go Plan: You’ll pay $1.00 per purchase with no monthly fee.
No credit needed
Since the RushCard is a prepaid card, there’s no credit check to be approved.
The RushCard Refer-a-Friend Program
The program pays you a $30 bonus for each friend who applies for a card, and funds their account. Your friend will also receive the bonus. You can earn as much is $600 per year by referring friends.
With the RushCard, you’re entitled to discounts with more than 90 merchants and vendors. For example, you can receive discounts at select restaurants, hotels, and retail outlets.
- Set up Direct Deposit on your RushCard Prepaid Visa(R) and access your paycheck and benefits up to two days sooner
- Transfer cash between your RushCards for free. Or, send money to a friend’s RushCard for just $0.99 per transfer.
- RushCard’s knowledgeable and friendly Support Team is available 24/7.
With so many credit card companies fighting for the spotlight, it can be hard to tell which one is worth your signup. We chose these prepaid credit cards for our list based on several criteria including how easy it is to load the card with money, what types of fees they charge, how easy it is to use the card, and additional features offered. The more of these check marks we could tick off for a card, the better score it received. This review is the result of all the testing we did on the numerous prepaid credit cards out there.
What is a prepaid credit card?
Prepaid credit cards let you put money onto them in different ways, and however much you put onto the card, that’s how much you can spend. So, if you put $100 on your prepaid credit card, you will be able to spend $100, no more. These cards are good for several reasons including:
Easy approval process even if you have poor credit
Like secured credit cards, prepaid credit cards are great if you don’t have the best credit history to show for yourself. Unlike secured cards though, prepaids don’t require any annoying collateral and the only limits on the account are the ones you set for yourself. So, if you can’t get approved for a standard bank account or credit card, you can still get a prepaid. They’re easy to get approved for because the best prepaid credit cards aren’t looking at your credit score and don’t require any credit check.
Help you stay within budget
Even if you have perfectly good credit and can get approved of for a great cash back credit card, a prepaid credit card is a helpful way to keep you on budget. These cards offer the same ease of a credit card (just swipe and go) without the fear of overspending.
Setting limits and teaching your kids how to spend responsibly
Plus, since you are the one to load money onto the card and you can only use however much money you have put on the card, this is a good option for young adults or teenagers who haven’t learned how to be responsible with money yet. It’s a good teaching tool to train them how to spend consciously. You can also look at some good credit cards for students if you want to compare benefits.
Not living in fee fear
With normal checking accounts, there are several fees you always have to be conscious of if you don’t want to get charged. With a prepaid card, you won’t ever have to worry about overdraft charges because you can only spend what’s on the card.
There are also no late fees or interest charges to consider, taking a big load off your shoulders. Interest payments can be a major cause of hefty and unnecessary credit card debt, so this is a big incentive for many people.
Finally, prepaid credit cards are some of the best credit cards for travel. This is because they aren’t linked to your checking account, so if someone steals your card, you’ll only be out the money that was loaded onto the card and not your entire savings or checking account balance. (There’s also theft protection, but we’ll talk about that later.)
Those who are new to credit card spending should be aware that prepaid credit cards don’t help you rebuild or build new credit. So, if that’s your end game, you should consider a secured credit card or poor-credit credit card , instead. If you want to avoid interest, bank fees, and saving or check cashing fees, want to keep spending in check, or can’t get approved for other cards, this is the credit card type for you.
Maximizing your prepaid credit card
If you decide that a prepaid credit card is the right way to go for you, then make the most of it by:
Shopping around for the best prepaid credit cards on the market
Compare the different features available on a card alongside the fees being charged to see if it’s worthwhile for you. We’ve done the majority of the work for you and made a chart of the better cards available below.
Setting up direct deposit
Since many cards will forgive the monthly fee if you load a certain amount of money onto your prepaid credit card each month, it’s a good idea to set up a direct deposit that automatically goes onto your card. This way you’ll always have that money in the account for you to access and reach the monthly load limit with ease. This can be your paycheck, social services payments, etc.
Using free online services
Some prepaid credit cards will charge you for checking your balance over the phone, while others do not. You can avoid these charges altogether by using the free online resources that let you manage your account on the computer or mobile devices.
Avoiding ATM withdrawals
Many prepaid credit cards will charge you for ATM withdrawals. Plus, you’ll have to pay whatever service charge the ATM provider charges. This makes each transaction more expensive than other options. In general, purchases are the best way to spend money with your prepaid credit card.
Most important features of pre-paid credit cards
So, what makes a prepaid credit card good? While air miles, cash back rewards, and APR offers are the usual factors to consider when thinking about credit cards, these are the most important features to look for in a prepaid credit card:
Easy to load card
You want a prepaid card that offers multiple locations around the country, as well as other convenient ways for you to load money onto your card (such as mobile payments, bank transfers, and online tools). If it’s a hassle to put money on, the card isn’t worth the plastic.
Where and how you can use the prepaid card is just as important as putting money onto it. Cards like PayPal, for example, have a huge network of online retailers that accept its prepaid card. Others, like the Green Dot Visa or MasterCard prepaid card, will be accepted anywhere Visa or MasterCard cards are accepted.
This is an important equation for you to make. Look at all the fees that are being charged by the prepaid card including monthly fees, direct deposit charges, bill paying fees, ATM withdrawal fees, and more to see how much you will actually be charged at the end of each month. If the sum seems high, it might not be a good card for you. We looked for cards that had minimal fees.
No credit check/Ease of approval
The whole beauty of these prepaid cards is that it’s easy to get approved for. If a prepaid credit card gives you a hard time about approval or asks to do a credit pull, drop it fast. We only recommended cards that were a cinch to get approved for.
Of course, mobile access and extra perks also factored into our equation. For example, PayPal’s Bancorp five percent APY offer helped push this card to the top of the list.
Frequently asked questions
Here are some of the most widely asked questions we get when our readers ask about prepaid credit cards:
Q: Do I need to have a good credit score in order to get a prepaid debit card?
A: No! That’s the best part of a prepaid credit card. You can get approved for the card even without any credit or poor credit. Since you aren’t borrowing any money off of the credit card issuer like you do with standard credit cards, issuers are more lenient about who they give these cards to. You won’t have your credit pulled with these cards, so credit history is irrelevant.
Q: I’m currently in college, sophomore year, and I’m trying to build up my credit. I’m having a hard time getting approved for regular credit cards. I know prepaid cards offer easy approval, is this a good option for me?
A: Actually, no. If your end goal is to build your credit history so that you can get approved for a standard credit card or have a better credit score later on in life, then prepaid cards are not the right choice for you, and I’ll explain why.
In order to build credit history, your credit card issuer needs to report your activity to the major credit bureaus. These bureaus keep records of your payment history and build a file on you. Responsible spending and repayment builds healthy credit. Prepaid credit cards don’t report to the credit bureaus, so you aren’t building your credit when you use these cards. I’d recommend looking into one of these excellent student credit cards instead. Good luck!
Q: These sound like credit card scams. Are prepaid debit cards safe?
A: Prepaid credit cards are perfectly safe as long as you go with a reliable issuer. With names like PayPal and Mileage, you don’t have to worry about scams. Plus, all of these cards are FDIC-insured, which means all of the money is insured so you won’t be left high and dry.
Q: My cousin told me he got a prepaid debit card to pay for his streaming subscription because it’s safer and more private. How does a prepaid card help protect my privacy?
A: Prepaid credit cards are not linked to your bank account, so purchases made using the card aren’t linked to your name. For this reason, exactly, many people prefer to use a prepaid credit card to make purchases that they’d rather not have other people knowing about.
Should you get a prepaid credit card?
So, should you get a prepaid credit card? That depends on your situation. If you’re looking for great cash back rewards credit cards, enticing APR credit card offers, or impressive travel perk cards , then there are better cards to meet your criteria. Prepaid credit cards are great for you, though, if:
- You can’t open a free checking account or one with low fees
- You are tired of paying for unnecessary bank fees
- You’re a privacy hog, conspiracy theorist, or just someone who prefers not to link their online purchases to a bank account or credit card in their names
- You’re a parent who wants to help teach your kids responsible spending or give them a set allowance
It’s also a good option if you don’t have the best credit to get approval for a full-fledged credit card, and don’t want to deal with the hassle of a secured credit card. The beauty of a prepaid credit card is that your credit won’t be pulled and that you don’t need to offer any collateral in order to get approved for the card.
An alternative to prepaid credit cards
Secured credit cards allow those with poor credit and no credit the chance to rebuild their credit. After you get approved for the card, you’ll have to put down a deposit to secure a credit line. That deposit will be used if you fail to pay your bill.
Why you should consider a secured credit card
- Secured credit cards allow you to build credit (unlike prepaid cards). Prepaid credit cards are more like debit cards, but secured cards are reported to the credit unions, which can help your credit if you make on-time payments each month.
- They offers better rates.
- Some secured cards offer rewards. Some cards (like the Discover it(R) Secured card we’ll talk about below) offer cashback.
- Charges on a secured credit card do not draw down your deposit balance. Prepaid cards you have to pay upfront. Secured cards act more like credit cards and you can pay off the balance at the end of each month.
- No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
- It’s a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
- Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit from $200-$2500 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
- Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
- 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
- Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO(R) Credit Score
- We automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.
- Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
- See additional Discover it® Secured details
|Regular APR||Annual Fee|
|N/A||N/A||10.99%||6 months||25.24% Variable||$0|
The Discover it(R) Secured is one of the only secured credit cards that offers a rewards program. Discover gives two percent back on all restaurant and gas station purchases made with the Discover it(R) Secured up to $1,000 spent per quarter. Plus, they offer one percent cashback on all other purchases.
- No annual fee, and all the credit building benefits with responsible card use
- Unlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
- You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200, determined based on your creditworthiness
- View Capital One(R) Secured Mastercard(R) details and how to apply »
Depending on your creditworthiness, you could get a Capital One(R) Secured Mastercard(R) with a $200 limit for as little as a $49, $99, or a $200 deposit. It also has no annual fee, making it perfect for those looking to build credit.
Prepaid cards are also helpful for keeping spending in check and are more economic options to expensive checking accounts with fees that are on the rise. If any of these reasons above apply to you, prepaid credit cards will make licfe easier and better.