A prepaid debit card is a more convenient alternative to cash and, in some cases, a safer alternative to an actual debit card. They are easy to setup and use, there are no credit checks or interest payments to worry about, and if you get the right reloadable card then you can use it pretty much everywhere you could use a normal debit or credit card.
In this guide we look at the best prepaid debit cards on the market. Also known as reloadable debit cards, these pieces of plastic could be just what you need if paper or credit isn’t quite doing it for you.
The Best Prepaid Credit Card: PayPal Prepaid MasterCard
Our number 1 best rated prepaid card is the PayPal Prepaid MasterCard. We have had a lot of good things to say about PayPal recently, even though we weren’t big fans of theirs in the past, and this is just another success in a long line of them for the world’s biggest online payment service.
One of the main benefits of the PayPal Prepaid MasterCard is that it can link to your PayPal account. This is a feature that many reloadable cards offer, but one that simply doesn’t work for most.
Maybe’s it’s the old Apple-proprietary trick, making customers choose PayPal’s prepaid card over any others. But we don’t have an issue with that because we’re not talking about overpriced cables that offer average performance. We’re talking about the best prepaid card around, period.
What You Need to Know
- The PayPal MasterCard costs $4.95 a month. One of the few downsides, but one that is common with reloadable debit cards.
- Easily linked with PayPal account through which you can add funds.
- Earn cashback from select stores.
- Funds can also be added by direct deposit and via NetSpend Reload locations.
- As it’s a MasterCard, it can be used in thousands of online and offline stores.
Other Top Rated Prepaid Debit Cards
Just because we prefer the PayPal Prepaid card to everything else, doesn’t mean you will. These are the other top rated reloadable debit cards we recommend.
Western Union NetSpend Prepaid MasterCard
Western Union doesn’t have the best reputation, but it’s through no fault of their own. Their name was dragged through the mud because their services offered exactly the sort of convenience and security that scammers were looking for, so they made Western Union their number 1 choice.
But unscrupulous clientele aside, this is a great company that always puts out solid options in the field of secure payments. This card is a prime example, offering free deposits of government benefits, no monthly fee and a few cool features. These include the option to access an additional savings account that pays 5% interest on savings up to $5,000.
What You Need to Know
- Easy to top-up via NetSpend at over 130,000 locations.
- Free to use, but with $1 charge for purchases and $2 for PIN transactions.
- Can instead opt to pay for a $5 or $9.95 membership which offers unlimited transactions.
- Can use the card to accept Western Union transfers free of charge.
- Can access government benefits up to 2 days faster.
Chase Liquid Card
There is one big limitation where this prepaid card is concerned: it is only available in 23 states. If you happen to reside in those states though, it’s a great option and one that offers a wealth of features.
You need to enter a Chase branch to signup for the card, but there is no fee and if you use a Chase ATM to add funds then you can avoid fees there as well. You will need to pay a monthly fee though and deposit an initial amount of $25.
What You Need to Know
- Monthly charge of $4.95, but you can waive this by linking your card to a Chase account.
- No charge for inactivity and your card will be replaced free of charge if it is lost or stolen.
- No PIN or Signature transaction fees.
- $2.5 ATM fee for out-of-network use and 3% for foreign ATM use.
American Express Serve Cash Back
AMEX is one of the biggest most instantly recognisable brand names in the world, so it should be no surprise to see their name on any list of the best prepaid cards. There are two types of card that carry the “Serve” name, with the “Serve Cash Back” being our preferred choice, but both cards have many features that ensure they deserve their place on this prepaid card list.
What You Need to Know
- No fees to deposit money via DD or mobile check deposit.
- $4.95 to $5.95 monthly fee.
- Accepted anywhere AMEX is.
- No withdrawal fees via network ATM. $2.5 for out-of-network ATM use.
- No charges for online bill payments.
- No minimum balance required.
- Free card replacement in the event it is lost or stolen.
- Around the clock customer support and purchase protection available.
- Cashback of 1% for every dollar that you spend on the card with no annual cap.
American Express Serve Cash Back vs American Express Serve
There are very few differences between these two cards, but it’s clear which the superior option will be for the majority of users.
- There is no cashback incentive on the standard Serve.
- Serve Cash Back charges $1 more per month, unless you reside in Texas, New York or Vermont, where the fee is waived.
- Serve Cash Back has a small fee for cash reloads (varies by retailer, average is $3.95) whereas Serve offers free reloads at several retailers.
What’s the Point of a Prepaid Card?
There are multiple reasons why you would use a prepaid debit card and two reasons why you should: security and convenience. A reloadable debit card can be used anywhere that a debit card can, but it doesn’t require a bank account, which means every time you give a website your card they do not have access to your bank (and, by definition, most of the money you own). If there is a security breach or you are the victim of phishing or malware, you only stand to lose the amount of money you loaded onto the card and not any sensitive data that would otherwise be attached to it.
The world is no longer as distrusting of online shopping as it once was. But as security gets better, the hackers get smarter, which is why hacks exposing credit card details are still commonplace (it happened with Home Depot in 2014 and it happened with Equifax in 2017) and why these prepaid debit cards are still popular.
They also help people with no credit and bad credit to shop conveniently, while providing options for those who either don’t trust themselves with a real debit card or don’t have the means to acquire one.