Prepaid debit cards are debit cards that you initially load with cash and don’t have to be attached to a bank account. You load the money when you get the card and then you can use it to make in-person or online purchases. They make a great alternative to traditional bank accounts.
The best prepaid debit cards offer many of the same features as checking accounts such as online bill pay, mobile check deposit, and direct deposit, but without the overdraft fees. They also don’t charge reloading fees, are easy to use, and offer additional services such as sub-accounts and fraud protection.
Best Prepaid Debit Cards of 2021
- Best for Cash Reloads: American Express Serve FREE Reloads
- Best for Cash Rewards: American Express Serve Cash Back
- Best for Direct Deposits: Netspend Prepaid
- Best for No Fees: Starbucks Rewards Visa Prepaid Card
- Best for Budgeting: Akimbo Prepaid MasterCard
- Best for Walmart Shoppers: Walmart MoneyCard Visa With Cashback Rewards
- Best for Kids: FamZoo Prepaid Debit Card
Best for Cash Reloads : American Express Serve FREE Reloads
The American Express Serve Free Reloads doesn’t charge reload fees, and it has a large reload network, making it our top choice for cash reloads.
No reload fee
Free online bill pay
Free early direct deposit
Monthly fee in most states
No cashback rewards
Out of network ATM fees
What we like: Our list includes two versions of the American Express Serve. This one charges no reload fees, which is a perk if you need to do multiple cash reloads in a single month. The reload network has over 45,000 locations and includes CVS Pharmacy, Dollar General, Family Dollar, Rite Aid, Walmart, 7-Eleven, and others. There’s also no fee to add money from a bank account.
You’ll have access to free online bill pay, fraud protection, and free early direct deposit. The card itself is free if you order online or $3.95 when purchased from a retail location. Card replacement is $5. Sub-accounts and customer service are free. ATM withdrawals are free if you use a MoneyPass ATM. Otherwise, you’ll pay a $2.50 ATM fee.
What we don't like: There’s a $6.95 monthly fee that can’t be waived. However, it doesn't apply in NY, TX, and VT.
- Card Purchase Fee: Free online; $3.95 retail
- Monthly Fee: $6.95
- Reload Fee: None
- ATM Fee: Free at a MoneyPass ATM; $2.50 elsewhere
Best for Cash Rewards : American Express Serve Cash Back
With the American Express Serve Cash Back, you can earn unlimited cash-back rewards with this card and it comes with fraud protection.
No-fee direct deposits
No waiting period on rewards
90-day purchase protection
Cash reload fee
Card purchase fee if purchased in a store
What we like: If you plan to spend more than $800 each month on your prepaid card, the American Express Serve Cash Back should be in your wallet. You’ll earn unlimited 1% cash back rewards each time you shop with your prepaid card. Your cash rewards are added to your card right after you earn them, and you can redeem rewards at any time.
Enjoy early direct deposits for no additional fee, free in-network ATM withdrawals, fraud protection, and 90-day purchase protection on purchases up to $1,000. The cash reload fee varies by retailer and is up to $3.95.
What we don't like: The card comes with a $7.95 monthly fee. You'll have to spend more than $795 each month to break even on the fee and get value from your rewards. The monthly fee doesn't apply in TX, VT, or NY, making the card more attractive for people in those states.
- Card Purchase Fee: $3.95 in retail locations
- Monthly Fee: $7.95
- Reload Fee: $3.95 for cash reloads
- ATM Fee: $2.50 if you use a non-MoneyPass ATM
Best for Direct Deposits : Netspend Prepaid
- Fees: Up to $9.95/month
- Availability: Almost everywhere Visa is accepted
- Rewards: Cash back from eligible purchases
Netspend Prepaid lets you get your paycheck up to two days faster, making it our top choice for prepaid debit cards that are best for direct deposits.
Mobile check deposit
Choose between two plans
Get a referral bonus
Fees add up quickly
Cash reload fee
Reward details aren’t spelled out
What we like: The Netspend Prepaid card allows you to get paid up to two days faster with direct deposit. You can load money onto your account using mobile check deposit, reload at over 130,000 locations, or receive money from friends and family who have Netspend cards.
Download the free Mobile App to easily manage your Netspend account, earn cash back from eligible purchases, and get a bonus added to your balance when a friend signs up.
You can choose between two plans that have varying fee structures depending on your deposit habits. Pay-As-You-Go is the default plan, which charges no monthly fee, but $2.00 for each signature or PIN transaction. The Premier Fee Advantage Plan is the best value if you have a direct deposit of $500 or more. You’ll pay $9.95 per month and transactions are included in the plan.
What we don't like: Fees can add up quickly. There's no way to avoid some kind of fee—you'll either pay the monthly fee or transaction fees. And keeping your card active is key to avoiding the inactivity fee of $5.95, which applies if the card isn’t used for 90 days.
- Monthly Fee: $0 for PAY-Go or $9.95
- Reload Fee: Up to $3.95 for cash reloads
- ATM Withdrawal Fee: $2.50
Best for No Fees : Starbucks Rewards Visa Prepaid Card
The Starbucks Rewards Visa Prepaid card can be used anywhere that Visa is accepted and it doesn't charge any reload, monthly, or annual fees.
Rewards don’t expire
Redeem rewards for beverage modifiers
Minimum load of $25
No ATM withdrawals
Must have a bank account to load the card
What we like: The Starbucks Rewards Visa Prepaid card Can be used everywhere Visa is accepted to earn Starbucks Rewards. Earn 1 Star for every $10 you spend on the card everywhere you shop. You can redeem as few as 25 Stars (which you earn after $250 in spending on your card) for beverage modifiers. Your Stars won't expire as long as your account is open.
The card doesn't charge any monthly, annual, or reload fees. You can keep up with your balance on the Chase Mobile App.
What we don't like: You can't use this card to make ATM withdrawals. You must load a minimum of $25 from a Chase checking or savings account or a debit card from any financial institution.
- Card Purchase Fee: None
- Monthly Fee: None
- Reload Fee: None
- ATM Fee: N/A
Best for Budgeting : Akimbo Prepaid MasterCard
Akimbo Prepaid MasterCard is ideal for budgeting because you can create a separate card for each of your budget goals and you can easily manage them all from the app.
No monthly fees
Separate cards for each budget goal
No enrollment fee
No rewards noted
$0.99 for each PIN purchase
What we like: Akimbo lets you create a separate prepaid card for each of your budget goals, and you can manage each card from within the Akimbo app. The first sub-account can be added at no cost and each one after that is $4.95 (one-time only). You can schedule weekly autoloads for recurring expenses. You can also disable and enable cards at any time from within the app, as well as receive text updates after each transaction.
There is no enrollment or monthly fee. Moreover, there's no transaction fee for signature purchases, but you’ll pay $.99 for each PIN purchase transaction. ATM cash withdrawals are charged $1.98 for each transaction and ATM balance inquiries are charged $.33 each.
What we don't like: If your account is dormant for 12 months, you’ll pay a $5.95 dormancy fee beginning in the 13th month.
- Card Purchase Fee: First 2 cards are free; $4.95 for each card thereafter
- Monthly Fee: None
- Reload Fee: Cash reload is $5.95
- ATM Fee: $1.98
Best for Walmart Shoppers : Walmart MoneyCard Visa With Cashback Rewards
This card is ideal for Walmart shoppers because it rewards these shoppers with cash back, savings interest, and free direct deposit.
Cash back on Walmart purchases
Free direct deposit
Online bill pay
Cash back is capped
ATM withdrawal limit
Fees can add up
What we like: With the Walmart MoneyCard Visa Card, Walmart shoppers can enjoy 3% cash back on purchases at Walmart.com and 1% cash back at Walmart stores, plus 2% cash back on purchases at Walmart fuel stations. Cash back is capped at $75 in rewards per year. You also earn 2% interest on savings.
The card comes with free direct deposit, mobile check deposit, as well as online bill pay. Reload fees are up to $5.95 depending on the reload method and location. ATM withdrawals are charged $2.50 per transaction and ATM balance inquiries are $0.50 per transaction.
What we don't like: You need to load at least $1,000 in a month to have the $5.94 monthly fee waived in the next month. Reload fees can also get expensive depending on when and where you add funds to your card.
- Card Purchase Fee: $1.00
- Monthly Fee: $5.94 waived if you load $1,000 in the previous month
- Reload Fee: Up to $5.95
- ATM Fee: $2.50
Best for Kids : FamZoo Prepaid Debit Card
You can use the FamZoo prepaid debit card to help teach your kids about spending habits and use the tools to monitor and control their card use.
Helps teach kids to manage money
Transfer money between cards
No reload fees for direct deposit
No cash-back rewards
Out of network ATM fees
What we like: Teaching kids to manage money can be tough in the age of debit and credit cards.
With the FamZoo prepaid card, you can create parent and child roles with cards that limit access and functionality. You can transfer money between cards and create automatic recurring transfers from one card to another, say for a weekly or monthly allowance. There’s a feature to tie chores and jobs to rewards or penalties and parents can lock and unlock cards for fraud protection or to control card access.
A paid FamZoo subscription allows you to order and use up to four FamZoo prepaid cards as long as your subscription is active. You can order additional cards for a one-time fee of $3 each.
There are no reload fees for direct deposit. FamZoo doesn’t charge reload fees for cash reloads, but they may incur a fee of $4.95 due to providers. Transfers between cards are free and instant. Pay no fees on purchases or with in-network ATM withdrawals.
What we don't like: You must have a paid FamZoo subscription, which is $5.99 per month (although it's less if you pay your subscription in advance).
- Card Purchase Fee: The first 4 cards are free; $2 for each card beyond the 4th
- Monthly Fee: $5.99
- Reload Fee: Up to $4.95 depending on the reload method
- ATM Fee: Free for in-network. Varies when out-of-network
All of the best prepaid debit cards that made our list have different things to offer. Some are designed specifically to encourage positive money management in children and others offer cash back rewards and additional features such as direct deposit, online bill pay, and fraud protection.
Overall, we recommend checking out American Express Serve Free Reloads. This prepaid debit card doesn’t charge reload fees and has a huge reload network with convenient locations.
Compare The Best Prepaid Debit Cards
|American Express Serve Free Reloads
Best for Cash Reloads
|American Express Serve Cash Back
Best for Cash Rewards
|$7.95/month||Almost everywhere||Cash-back rewards||Yes|
Best for Direct Deposits
|Up to $9.95/month||Almost everywhere||Cash back from eligible purchases||Yes|
|Starbucks Rewards Visa Prepaid Card
Best for No Fees
|None||Everywhere Visa is accepted||Starbucks rewards||No|
|Akimbo Prepaid MasterCard
Best for Budgeting
|No monthly fee||Everywhere Mastercard is accepted||None||Yes|
|Walmart MoneyCard Visa With Cashback Rewards
Best for Walmart Shoppers
|$5.94/month||Everywhere Visa is accepted||Cash back on Walmart purchases||Yes|
|FamZoo Prepaid Debit Card
Best for Kids
|$5.99/month||Everywhere Mastercard is accepted||None||Yes|
Guide to Choosing the Best Prepaid Debit Cards
Are Prepaid Debit Cards Right for You?
Your financial future is important and can be impacted by the type of cards that you use so it’s important to see if a prepaid debit card is right for you. Assess your spending needs and determine if a prepaid card will help you easily make purchases and keep track of your spending without paying too many fees.
A prepaid card may be a good option for you if you want to have emergency cash on hand, don’t have access to a bank account, or want to get an additional card for your teenager.
Comparing Prepaid Debit Cards
When choosing a prepaid debit card, you’ll want to compare different ones before deciding on the best choice. You’ll want to consider factors such as where the card is accepted, the reputation of the card issuer, and how easy it is to reload your card (and amount of locations to do so), spending or withdrawal limits, any other extra features such as cash-back rewards or if an app is available.
Consider your spending habits to see which prepaid debit card makes sense for you. For example, if you travel a lot, a large no-fee ATM network may be helpful. You might also want to check user reviews to see how others feel about the cards, and if they’ve had any problems.
Choosing a Prepaid Debit Card
When you’re choosing a prepaid debit card, you want to keep in mind things like how easy it is to apply and where the card is accepted. Also consider other factors including:
- Fees: Know the fees ahead of time. Consider which fees will affect you the most, such as dormancy or reload fees. You can find these by looking at the terms and conditions for each card
- ATM use: You’ll want to find out if you can use the card to withdraw money at an ATM and if there are limits to how much money you can take out at a time. You’ll also want to know about withdrawal fees or how big the ATM network is for your card.
- Rewards: Rewards are great if they apply to you. Choose a card that offers rewards such as cash back at your favorite retailer or discounts and points or using the card in certain places.
- Additional features: Take note of what extra features are offered that will come in handy. Maybe you can track your transactions on an app or take advantage of a free identity theft program.
- Number of cards available: If you want to give a card to a family member, see if multiple cards can be on the same account and how much each additional card costs.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Does a Prepaid Debit Card Work?
A prepaid debit card is a card that already has funds on it, so the credit limit is the amount of money left on the card. You don’t have to get approved for a certain limit like you would with a credit card. Instead, you load the amount that you want to be on the card, and that becomes your limit. You can use a prepaid debit card online and at most retailers that accept a regular debit card. However, you usually can’t rent a car with a prepaid debit card. When you use the card to purchase something, the purchase is immediately deducted from the balance.
How Much Does a Prepaid Debit Card Cost?
Prepaid debit cards vary in costs. Some are free, some charge upfront fees, and others charge monthly fees. You can typically expect to pay from $1 to $9.95 for the upfront card purchase fee. Monthly fees typically go up to $9.95. Keep in mind, there may be additional fees whenever you want to “reload” the card by putting more money on it. If you use the card at an out-of-network ATM, there are fees associated with that, too.
Is a Prepaid Debit Card Worth the Cost?
It is generally cheaper to get a debit card through your bank rather than getting a prepaid debit card. A prepaid debit card works best for a teenager or employee who you want to ensure stays within the card’s limit. If one of those situations applies to you, it may be worth the fees. Additionally, if your credit isn’t the best, or if you can’t open a bank account for whatever reason, then a prepaid debit card is worth the cost. Just know all of the associated costs before you get a prepaid debit card so you aren’t surprised by monthly fees, reload fees, or any other costs along those lines.
We reviewed more than a dozen of the most popular options when choosing the best prepaid debit cards. We chose cards that can be used in a variety of places and offer additional features, rewards, and perks, and can be managed online. We considered important factors such as monthly fees, ATM withdrawal availability and fees, as well as reload fees. We then assigned a category to each card depending on what it was best suited for.