Apply now
On Netspend's secure site
Terms Apply
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro bonus
N/A
Annual fee
Variable Monthly Fee
Regular APR
N/A
Recommended credit
See Terms 

Best for no activation fee

Apply now
On Netspend's secure site
Terms Apply
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro bonus
N/A
Annual fee
Variable Monthly Fee
Regular APR
N/A
Recommended credit
See Terms 

Best for no credit check

Apply now
On Netspend's secure site
Terms Apply
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro bonus
N/A
Annual fee
Variable Monthly Fee
Regular APR
N/A
Recommended credit
See Terms 

Best for building credit

Apply now
On Self's secure site
Terms Apply
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro bonus
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 
Terms Apply
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro bonus
N/A
Annual fee
Variable Monthly Fees
Regular APR
N/A
Recommended credit
See Terms 

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank’s website for the most current information.


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 often gets cash from an ATM as this card charges 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 people 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 who wants 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 certificate of deposit (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 often reload funds—there’s a fee of up to $3.95 just to reload cash onto the 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 its 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 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 of prepaid cards

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

  • 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.
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.

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

about the author
Former Senior Editor Barry Bridges has been writing about credit cards, personal loans, mortgages and other personal finance products since 2017. Before joining Bankrate, he was an award-winning newspaper journalist in his native North Carolina.
about the editor
Mariah Ackary is a personal finance writer who specializes in credit card rewards and small business credit. Mariah is a lifelong writer, but she began writing about finance in 2018. She joined the Bankrate team in 2019, excited by the opportunity to directly help people make good financial decisions. Send your questions to mackary@bankrate.com ...

* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.