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The 5 Best Prepaid and Debit Cards of 2022

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If you need to limit spending or use an alternative to bank accounts, the best prepaid cards can help. You can load and reload prepaid cards with funds and then use them like a debit card, avoiding checking accounts and some bank-imposed fees in the process.

At Bankrate, we’ve reviewed and rated 200 of today's top credit cards, with independence and transparency, so that you'll have an easier time making an informed decision. When reviewing the best prepaid cards of 2022, we considered fees, reload options and extra benefits to help you decide which prepaid card is best for you.

BEST FOR BUDGETING ONLINE

Blue Netspend® Visa® Prepaid Card

Apply Now Lock
On Netspend's secure site

Intro offer

N/A

Annual fee

Variable Monthly Fee

Regular APR

N/A

Recommended credit

See Terms
Info Hover for more

BEST FOR NO ACTIVATION FEE

Netspend® Visa® Prepaid Card

Apply Now Lock
On Netspend's secure site
Rating: 3.1 stars out of 5
3.1
Info Hover for more
Bankrate review

Intro offer

N/A

Annual fee

Up-to $9.95 monthly*

Regular APR

N/A

Recommended credit

See Terms
Info Hover for more

Best for no credit check

Pink Netspend® Visa® Prepaid Card

Apply Now Lock
On Netspend's secure site

Intro offer

N/A

Annual fee

Variable Monthly Fee

Regular APR

N/A

Recommended credit

See Terms
Info Hover for more

Best for building credit

Self — Credit Builder Account

Apply Now Lock
On Self's secure site

Intro offer

N/A

Annual fee

One Time $9 - $15 Account Fee (Varies by Product)

Regular APR

12.03% - 15.98% (Varies by Product)

Recommended credit

No Credit History
Info Hover for more

BEST FOR EARNING REWARDS

Brink's Money Prepaid Mastercard®

Apply Now Lock
On Netspend's secure site

Intro offer

N/A

Annual fee

Variable Monthly Fees

Regular APR

N/A

Recommended credit

See Terms
Info Hover for more

Compare Bankrate's top prepaid cards

Card Name Bankrate's pick for Fees
Visa Prepaid Card Budgeting online Variable monthly fee
Netspend Visa Prepaid Card No activation fee Up to $9.95 monthly fee
Pink Netspend Visa Prepaid Card No credit check Variable monthly fee
Self — Credit Builder Account Building credit One-time $9 to $15 account fee (varies by product)
Brink’s Money Prepaid Mastercard Rewards Variable monthly fee

A closer look at our top prepaid cards

Blue Netspend Visa Prepaid Card: Best for budgeting online

  • What we love about the Blue Netspend Visa Prepaid Card: Through Netspend Payback Rewards, you can earn cash back on select qualifying purchases, something rarely seen with easy-to-attain cards. The rewards program also gives cardholders personalized offers as an extra incentive.
  • Who this card is good for: Someone with a less-than-stellar credit score who wants less room for doubt when applying for a new tool to spend conveniently.
  • Alternatives: If your sole focus is building your credit, the unconventional Self — Credit Builder Account’s accessibility and opportunity to graduate to a valuable card make it a worthwhile choice for individuals just starting out.

Netspend Visa Prepaid Card: Best for no activation fee

  • What we love about the Netspend Visa Prepaid Card: When you start your card account, you’ll get access to a high-yield savings account that offers 5 percent APY on the first $1,000 you save. Also, if you refer a friend and they load at least $40 onto the card, you’ll each receive a $20 bonus.
  • Who this card is good for: Those looking for a guaranteed easy way to spend or someone who wants access to banking services without an activation fee to get started.
  • Alternatives: If you’re a fan of this card’s savings account option, Brink’s Money Prepaid Mastercard offers a similar benefit along with the ability to earn some ongoing cash back rewards.

Read our Netspend Visa Prepaid Card review.

Pink Netspend Visa Prepaid Card: Best for no credit check

  • What we love about the Pink Netspend Visa Prepaid Card: Although it’s a no-credit-check card, you can still take advantage of select cash back and personalized offers once you’ve opened your account.
  • Who this card is good for: Someone who wants a convenient way to spend and save while avoiding a credit check.
  • Alternatives: If earning cash back is one of your goals, consider checking out the Brink’s Money Prepaid Mastercard, which offers 1X points on signature purchase transactions, and additional points on select limited-time merchant offers.

Self — Credit Builder Account: Best for building credit

  • What we love about the Self — Credit Builder Account: Separating itself from the other options here, this account will report your payment habits to the three major credit bureaus—a surefire way to boost your credit score if you practice good habits. Making on-time, sufficient payments with this option can do wonders for your future financial health.
  • Who this card is good for: A beginner credit-user who wants to establish their credit through a unique, user-friendly account.
  • Alternatives: If you’re seeking access to a physical card right away, the Blue Netspend Visa Prepaid Card is a solid choice that offers potential rewards, albeit one that carries a series of fees.

Read our Self — Credit Builder Account review.

Brink’s Money Prepaid Mastercard: Best for earning rewards

  • What we love about the Brink’s Money Prepaid Mastercard: Thanks to Mastercard, you’ll get benefits to protect against fraud, including $0 liability for unauthorized purchases and a few others. Also this card is a cousin of the Netspend options, allowing you to utilize its reload network of 130,000+ locations.
  • Who this card is good for: Someone who wants a prepaid option that brings points and discounts. With this card, you’ll get 1X points on select purchases and limited-time offers, as well as the opportunity to receive up to 50 percent discounts on prescriptions with participating major pharmacies.
  • Alternatives: If earning rewards are not a main focus of yours, the Self — Credit Builder Account offers users strong credit-building features and a unique opportunity to graduate to a secured credit card after demonstrating good financial habits.

Read our Brink’s Money Prepaid Mastercard review.


What are prepaid cards?

Prepaid debit cards are similar to debit cards except prepaid cards are not connected to banking or checking accounts. Instead, funds are loaded onto the card, then reloaded when those funds run out. Think of them as a cross between gift cards and debit cards—they have a card number, CVV code and expiration date like debit and credit cards but no bank account associated with them.

How do prepaid cards work?

Similar to debit or checking accounts, prepaid cards allow users to spend up to the amount of money associated with the card. Prepaid card users load funds onto the cards—either online, in person at specific locations, by depositing checks or reloading with cash. Once the money is loaded onto the card, you can spend up to that amount at e-tailers, physical stores and to pay bills online before you have to deposit more money onto the card again.

Keep in mind that most prepaid cards have fees associated with them, such as:

  • Reload fees
  • Monthly fees
  • ATM withdrawal fees
  • Inactivity fees
  • Transaction fees

Prepaid cards vs. debit cards

What are the differences between prepaid cards and debit cards? Well, prepaid cards and debit cards function similarly—you can only spend the amount of money associated with the card. Prepaid cards and debit cards look similar, and both have card numbers, CVV codes, expiration dates and are often made of plastic with a magnetic stripe on the back.

Where prepaid and debit cards differ is where those funds are stored. Debit cards are linked to a checking account with a bank and are often accompanied by routing and account numbers. Checking account customers add more money to their checking accounts via mobile deposit, direct deposit, ATM cash deposit or bank-to-bank transfers and then use that money with their debit cards. On the other hand, prepaid cards aren’t linked to a checking account and customers load and reload money on the card, much like they would with a gift card.

Pros and cons of prepaid cards

Make sure to read the fine print before you apply for a prepaid debit card. Some of these cards have activation fees and monthly maintenance charges, which can eat into your spending cash. Compare cards thoroughly and shop for the best prepaid card for you that has as little fees as possible.

Pros

  • Checkmark

    No credit check needed—People with low or no credit can establish responsible credit habits without taking a hit to their credit scores.

  • Checkmark

    Budgeting tool—Because you’re limited to spending your deposit amount, prepaid cards make it easier to stay with your budget and cut back on monthly spending.

Cons

  • More fees than debit cards—Debit cards typically charge overdraft, monthly fees and sometimes ATM fees. On the other hand, prepaid cards can charge those fees on top of transaction fees, reload fees, inactivity fees and more.

  • Can’t build credit—Prepaid card issuers don’t report to credit bureaus, so users won’t improve their credit scores over time with this type of card. Secured credit cards are a better option for people with no credit or low credit to increase their scores.

Who should get a prepaid card

Prepaid cards provide several benefits to people who, for whatever reason, don’t have access to traditional bank accounts (unbanked people) or whose banking institutions don’t meet all of their banking needs (underbanked people). They’re safer to carry than cash and pose less of a risk for overspending than credit cards.

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Bankrate Insight

Although prepaid debit cards are often associated with younger shoppers, recent Bankrate data shows that the trend might be slowing. In January 2021, we found that 43 percent of 18- to 31-year-olds have at least one rewards credit card, a figure that was just 33 percent in 2016.

How to choose a prepaid card

Prepaid cards are an excellent option for anyone struggling to access traditional banking services, but not all prepaid cards are created equal. Here are some things you should keep in mind while shopping for a prepaid card.

What are the fees?

One of the reasons many people have a difficult time accessing traditional banking services is because of the fees and other costs associated with opening one. If your prepaid card charges a litany of fees, such as ATM fees, monthly service fees or reload fees you should seriously consider if the card will be worth it to you.

What are your loading options?

How difficult or easy will it be to reload your prepaid card? Some prepaid cards will allow you to reload your card with ACH transfers (though there are typically fees associated with that option). Oftentimes, you’ll reload your prepaid card manually at an ATM, so it’s important that your card provides access to several ATMs in your area.

Does the card offer mobile access?

Mobile banking is becoming increasingly popular, and for good reason. It’s convenient, safe and can give you peace of mind. The best prepaid cards will offer you the option to use the cards online and on a mobile app.

When to use a prepaid card

Prepaid debit cards let you use plastic when online shopping or at stores, without the need for a traditional checking account. It’s ideal to use a prepaid debit card in the following scenarios:

  • You’re a parent who wants to give your teenager a card that isn’t linked to your personal checking or credit card account to make purchases online or in-person. With a monthly spending limit, prepaid cards can teach teenagers budgeting and responsible card use early in life before they open their own account.
  • You’re cutting back on spending and need hard limits, which prepaid cards provide. You can reign in your spending every month by only using a prepaid card—once the money is spent, you can force yourself to wait until the new month to reload the card before swiping again.

Have more questions for our credit cards editors? Feel free to send us an email, find us on Facebook, or Tweet us @Bankrate.

Frequently Asked Questions