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In this guide:
A closer look at our top prepaid cards
Blue Netspend® Visa® Prepaid Card
Best for fast approval
- This card is best for: Someone with a less-than-stellar credit score who wants less room for doubt when applying for a new tool to spend conveniently.
- This card is not a great choice for: A beginner cardholder who wants to learn the ropes and build credit with a traditional credit card. Being a prepaid option, this card doesn’t feature some common components, such as APR or credit-building opportunities.
- What makes this card unique? 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.
- Is the Blue NetSpend Visa Prepaid Card worth it?Carrying the card comes with a monthly plan fee of up to $9.95, but the fast application and lack of a credit check make this an extremely accessible option. The cash back rewards are another reason the Blue Netspend Visa can be worthwhile, but many aspiring cardholders might benefit more from the ability to build their score with a card for bad credit.
Netspend® Visa® Prepaid Card
Best for no activation fee
- This card is best 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.
- This card is not a great choice for: Someone who knows they’ll often be using their card to pull cash from ATMs. This card comes with a $2.95 withdrawal fee.
- What makes this card unique? 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.
- Is the Netspend Visa Prepaid Card worth it? Netspend Payback Rewards will help combat the monthly plan fee that runs from $5 to $9.95, but unless you’re simply in it for the convenience, there’s likely more financially-savvy secured cards and other options that can help build credit on a better budget.
Read our Netspend Visa Prepaid Card review.
Pink Netspend® Visa® Prepaid Card
Best for no credit check
- This card is best for: Someone who wants a convenient way to spend and save while avoiding a credit check.
- This card is not a great choice for: Credit-builders and those who want to establish a credit score with a credit card.
- What makes this card unique? 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.
- Is the Pink Netspend Visa Prepaid Card worth it? Netspend’s monthly plan fees of $5 to $9.95 can be substituted for a pay-as-you-go plan where you’ll be charged $1.50 per transaction. In either case, you likely can get more benefit out of a traditional credit card.
Self — Credit Builder Account
Best for building credit
- This card is best for: A beginner credit-user looking to establish their credit through a unique, user-friendly account.
- This card is not a great choice for: Someone who wants to begin their credit-building journey with a credit card right from the jump. This option starts you off with a small loan that’s saved in a CD, which helps you build credit history while also saving money over time.
- What makes this card unique? 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.
- Is the Self — Credit Builder Account worth it? This option may be unconventional and you’ll have to come to an agreement on a monthly payment plan with Self, but its accessibility, credit-building capabilities and the opportunity to graduate to a valuable card makes this a worthwhile route to healthier credit.
Brink’s Money Prepaid Mastercard®
Best for Payback Points
- This card is best 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.
- This card is not a great choice for: Spenders who think they’ll often want to put more money into their card account. There’s a fee of up to $3.95 just to reload cash onto your card.
- What makes this card unique? 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 their reload network of 130,000+ locations.
- Is the Brink’s Money Prepaid Mastercard worth it? Although it comes with ongoing rewards on select purchases and some useful benefits, this card’s variety of fees and lack of credit-building opportunities leave it behind in a few areas. Credit-building cards or rewards cards are likely a better choice if you’re attracted to the perks here.
Read our Brink’s Money Prepaid Mastercard review.
What are prepaid cards?
Prepaid debit cards offer a way to pay for expenses without carrying cash or opening a line of credit with a lender. Once you make a deposit into an account, you can immediately use the card to shop in all the same places credit cards are accepted. There’s no need to worry about debt, because spending is limited to the amount of money deposited on the 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 a card with no costs.
Advantages of prepaid cards
There’s no credit check necessary in order to apply for one of these cards, meaning those with low credit scores can reap the benefits of these cards while establishing responsible credit habits. Because you’re limited to spending your deposit amount, prepaid cards make it easy to stay on budget and cut back on monthly spending.
Disadvantages of prepaid cards
Many prepaid credit cards have fees attached to them and limitations on transactions. Prepaid cards won’t help build your credit because they do not report to the credit agencies, making secured credit cards a more attractive offer for helping you boost low credit scores over time. Prepaid cards also offer very limited rewards incentives compared to most major credit cards.
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% of 18 to 31 year olds have at least one rewards credit card, a figure that was just 33% in 2016.
Who should get a prepaid card?
Prepaid cards and debit cards allow cashless shopping without a credit check, making them ideal for parents with teenage children, those with low credit scores and those who are wary of going into debt. With these cards, you only spend the money that you deposit, giving you the ability to track your expenses and easily limit your spending.
If you’re looking for a way to build credit, prepaid cards are not a good option for you. In order for your credit score to improve, you have to prove that you are creditworthy by effectively managing a line of credit. Because prepaid cards aren’t technically considered a line of credit, your spending habits aren’t reported to credit agencies.
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