Credit Cards

Prepaid Credit Cards With Low or No Fees

Editor's Note

You can trust the integrity of our balanced, independent financial advice. We may, however, receive compensation from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article. Opinions are the author's alone. This content has not been provided by, reviewed, approved or endorsed by any advertiser, unless otherwise noted below.

It is estimated that about 40 million Americans do not have a bank account. The reasons for this vary. For many, they are unable to qualify for a bank account because of past bounced checks. Bounce too many checks, and you’ll find yourself in the Chexsystems, which many banks use to evaluate potential new banking customers. For others, it’s simply a distrust of the banking system or frustration with limited hours or the hoops one has to jump through to get service.

Featured Prepaid Cards*

Netspend Prepaid Card

Card Features:

  • Use the Netspend Mobile App to manage your Card Account on the go and enroll to get text messages or email alerts (Message & data rates may apply).
  • Card use is subject to activation and ID verification. Terms and Costs apply.
  • Card issued by MetaBank N.A., Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Visa debit card is accepted.

Whatever the reason, the unbanked often turned to expensive check cashing stores to cash their weekly paychecks. Forbes wrote about this phenomenon, which costs consumers $10 billion a year in fees charged by check cashing stores, payday loan providers, and others. It’s not at all uncommon for consumers to spend 3% or more to get a paycheck cashed.

In addition to high cost, check cashing stores present several other problems to consumers. First, there is the question of security. Taking your paycheck to a check cashing store and walking out with hundreds of dollars in cash is like wearing a bulls eye on your back. Second, there is simply the question of inconvenience. The weekly trip to a check cashing store takes time and gas.

For those that can't get a checking account or simply don't want one, there is a no cost, convenient, and safe alternative to check cashing stores--a prepaid credit card with no fees or low fees.

List of Low Fee and Free Prepaid Cards

The key to finding the right prepaid credit card is to find one that charges no fees or very small fees. All prepaid cards charge various fees, but some of them waive some or all of the fees if you sign up for direct deposit. So here are the top free prepaid cards and low fee prepaid cards to consider.

Western Union Netspend Mastercard Prepaid Card

Card Features:

  • Send and Receive a Western Union Money Transfer, shop online or pay bills.
  • With Western Union Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster than a paper check.
  • No late fees or interest charges because this is not a credit card.
  • Subject to card activation and ID verification. Terms and Costs Apply. Issued by MetaBank, Member FDIC.
  • See additional Western Union Prepaid Mastercard Details

Brinks Prepaid Mastercard

Card Features:

  • Brinks gives you the peace of mind you deserve. Securing cash and valuables since 1859.
  • With Brinks Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster than a paper check.
  • No late fees or interest charges because this is not a credit card.
  • Use the Brinks Money Prepaid Mobile App to manage your Card Account on the go and enroll to get text message or email alerts (Message & data rates may apply.)
  • Card activation and identity verification required. Terms and Fees Apply. Card issued by Republic Bank & Trust Company, Member FDIC. Click for full details.
  • See additional Brinks Prepaid Mastercard Details.
  • Get your tax refund direct deposited to your Card Account and no more waiting in line to cash your paper check!

Netspend Prepaid Mastercard - Proud Partner of MLB

Card Features:

  • Show support for your team with your team-branded Netspend Prepaid Mastercard each time you use your Card.
  • With Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster than a paper check.
  • No late fees or interest charges because this is not a credit card.
  • Use the Netspend Mobile App to manage your Card Account on the go and enroll to get text messages or email alerts (Message & data rates may apply).
  • Card issued by MetaBank, N.A., Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Debit Mastercard is accepted.
  • See additional NetspendPrepaid Mastercard details

Netspend Prepaid Mastercard, now a WWE partner

Card Features:

  • Pay everywhere Debit Mastercard is accepted.
  • With Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster than a paper check.
  • No overdraft fees on Card purchases.
  • No late fees or interest charges because this is not a credit card.
  • Use the Netspend Mobile App to manage your Card Account on the go and enroll to get text messages or email alerts. (Message & data rates may apply).
  • Card use is subject to activation and ID verification. Terms and Costs Apply.
  • Card issued by MetaBank, Member FDIC.

Control Prepaid Mastercard

Card Features:

  • Confidence. Control. It’s more than just a prepaid card. It can be the difference between getting by and getting ahead!
  • With Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster than a paper check.
  • No late fees or interest charges because this is not a credit card. Card issued by MetaBank, Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Debit Mastercard is accepted. Click "Apply Now" for full details.
  • Get your tax refund direct deposited to your Card Account and no more waiting in line to cash your paper check!

PayPal Prepaid Mastercard

Card Features:

  • Move money from your PayPal Account.
  • Take advantage of PayPal Payback Rewards and earn on qualifying purchases from select merchants.
  • With Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster than a paper check.
  • Card issued by The Bancorp Bank, Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Debit Mastercard is accepted.
  • Click PayPal Prepaid Mastercard for additional features & program details, and to request a Card.

FamZoo

Card Features:

  • This is a convenient, affordable, reloadable prepaid Mastercard designed especially for families. Use it to share funds and teach your kids financial responsibility.
  • Link to it and access it through FamZoo’s Virtual Family Bank app.
  • A parent card, known as the primary funding card, is the default funding source for various transfers such as allowance, odd jobs, chores, one-time transfers, etc. Parents can monitor and control their children’s spending through a shared dashboard.
  • It’s simple to use: The parent loads their funding card and can instantly transfer funds to the children’s cards. The parent simply reloads the parent card when funds get low.
  • You can order more than one card per family member or allot a card for a dedicated purpose such as allowance, clothing, a vacation, or lunch money.

Alternative to Prepaid Credit Card

Chime Visa Debit Card

Card Features:

  • No monthly fees, minimum balances, foreign transaction fees or overdraft fees
  • Get cash back rewards on bills and purchases
  • Access over 24,000 fee -free MoneyPass ATMs and 30,000 cash-back locations
  • Put saving money on auto pilot with Automatic Savings
  • Get a daily balance update and real-time transaction alerts
  • Transfer funds, pay bills, send checks and pay friends instantly

Aspiration

Card features:

  • No required monthly fees including no in-network ATM withdrawal fees
  • Welcome bonus of $150 (or $200 with Aspiration Plus) when you spend $1,000 in the first 60 days
  • Cashback rewards of up to 3-5% at some of your favorite stores
  • Over 55,000 Allpoint ATMs around the world
  • Get access to high interest on your savings with [wp_shortcode_109] Plus
  • Easy mobile check deposits
  • Knowing a portion of your fees is pledged to charity
  • Supporting environmentally sustainable ventures

How a Prepaid Credit Card Works

A prepaid credit card works very similar to a bank debit or ATM card. You can add money to the prepaid card and use it anywhere Visa or MasterCard debit cards are accepted. Money can be added to most prepaid cards in one of several ways:

  • Direct Deposit: Most prepaid cards allow you to have your paycheck, government check, or benefits check deposited directly onto the card. As described below, the direct deposit feature is extremely convenient and allows you to obtain a prepaid card for free or for a small monthly fee.
  • Cash Networks: Cash can be added to most prepaid cards through one of several cash networks, including Green Dot, MoneyGram, Western Union, or Visa Money Link. These cash networks are located at many nearby stores, such as CVS, Walmart, Kroger, and UPS.
  • Money Share: Prepaid cards also permit you to transfer funds from one card account to another. This is a convenient way to transfer money to friends and family, and is why many college students carry prepaid cards.

Prepaid cards are part of either the Visa or MasterCard debit card network. As a result, prepaid cards can be used anywhere that Visa debit or MasterCard debit cards are accepted (which is just about everywhere). You can also use prepaid cards at ATM machines to withdraw cash.

Benefits of a Free Prepaid Credit Card

Prepaid credit cards offer several benefits beyond a simple ATM card. Perhaps the key benefit is direct deposit of paychecks, government checks, and benefit checks. There are several prepaid cards that will waive all fees if you have your paycheck direct deposited to the card. With direct deposit, your paycheck will be added to your card on payday. You don't have to go to the trouble and expense of driving to a check cashing store to cash your paycheck. And the money is available immediately. If you receive a government or benefits check, you can also have it deposited directly onto prepaid cards for no fee.

There is one other important benefit to these cards--online bill pay. The top prepaid cards can be used to pay bills online. Just like a bank account, you can have funds transferred from a prepaid credit card to pay car loans, the mortgage, utilities, or just about any other monthly expense. Because of this, a no fee prepaid credit card is about as close to a bank account as you can get, without getting a bank account.

Related: Why are Millennials Using Prepaid Credit Cards?

Here are some other benefits of no fee prepaid cards:

  • Guaranteed Approval: Unlike a bank or traditional credit card, prepaid cards won’t check Chexsystems or your FICO credit score before approving your application. Approval is guaranteed.
  • No Credit Check: Because prepaid cards do not extend credit, there is no credit check run when you apply.
  • No Bounced Checks: Because the prepaid card acts as a debit card, there is no risk of overdrawing your account. With no bounced checks, there is no risk of paying a bounced check fee.
  • No Over Limit Fees: Credit cards charge a hefty fee when cardholders exceed their credit limit. With prepaid cards, you can only spend what you've added to the card, so there is no risk of exceeding a card limit.
  • Free Direct Deposit: For the prepaid cards listed below, they all offer free direct deposit of paychecks, government checks, and other benefits checks. In fact, by using direct deposit, you can get the prepaid card for no fees at all.
  • No Interest Charges: Since you're not borrowing money on a prepaid card, you never pay interest. Prepaid cards keep you from spending more than you have.
  • No Fees or Low Fees: For the cards listed below, they either charge no fees if you use direct deposit, or their fees are very low (and a lot lower than using check cashing stores).
  • Online Bill Pay: This is a big advantage of prepaid cards. You can use your account to transfer payments to creditors or even other cardholders. It makes paying bills easy and safe, and reduces the risk you'll miss a payment by mistake.

Carrying credit card debt? Look into a 0% APR balance transfer card.

How to Choose the Best Prepaid Debit Card for You

Choosing the right debit card for you depends on your individual financial needs. Ask yourself: Why do I need a debit card? What would I most frequently use it for?

For example:

  • If you often shop at Walmart, the Walmart MoneyCard Mastercard would be a sensible choice since it would enable you to earn cash-back rewards and other perks.
  • If you have tweens or teens and want to control their spending while helping them learn about managing finances, you’ll want to look into FamZoos prepaid debit card.
  • If you want to avoid paying monthly fees, including hidden bank fees, check out the Chime Visa debit card.
  • Do you plan to use your prepaid debit card only occasionally? Consider the PayPal Prepaid Mastercard. It has a lower monthly fee and ATM withdrawal fee than other cards and you won’t have to pay the inactivity fees that many other providers require.
  • Do you often deal with international money transfers? Look into the Western Union Mastercard prepaid card.

Pros and Cons

Prepaid debit cards are a popular choice for people who don’t or can’t have a checking or savings account in a bank. A prepaid debit card allows you to do virtually anything you would be able to do with a regular credit or debit card. You can always reload the card when it runs out of money, and it’s more convenient than carrying a large amount of cash.

Prepaid Debit Card Pros

Here are some advantages of prepaid debit cards:

  • A prepaid debit card is not linked to your bank account. This means that if you misplace your card or it gets stolen, you only lose the amount on the card you don’t have to worry about someone gaining unlawful access to your checking account.
  • Prepaid debit cards do not carry your sensitive personal or financial data so nobody can steal your identity through your debit card.
  • A prepaid debit card carries a limited amount of money, just like cash. This keeps you from overspending and helps you stick to a budget.
  • You can use a prepaid debit card to teach your children about budgeting and financial responsibility. It also allows you to monitor their spending. Some prepaid debit cards send an instant alert to the parent as soon as their child makes a purchase.

Prepaid Debit Card Cons

Fees are a major drawback of prepaid debit cards. Few regulatory constraints exist to limit the card issuers, and some cards take advantage of this to charge fees that add up to considerable sums by the end of each month.

Prepaid debit cards may come with the following fees:

  • Activation fee
  • Monthly fee
  • A fee for every use
  • ATM cash withdrawal fee
  • A fee for checking your card balance
  • Deposit fee
  • Customer support fee
  • A decline fee if you try to make a purchase that exceeds your cash balance

To avoid unpleasant surprises and frustration, carefully check all terms and conditions before opting for any prepaid debit card. Many options are on the market, so do careful research and choose the card that makes the most sense for you.

How We Came Up With This List

We came up with our recommendations list after running a thorough and comprehensive check of the leading prepaid debit cards on the market. We compared the different card features, terms, and bonuses and aggregated a list of the best free prepaid debit cards and low-fee prepaid cards.

We did our best to compile an inclusive list featuring cards that cater to people with different priorities, from PayPal Prepaid Mastercard for occasional users to the family-oriented FamZoo prepaid card.

Final Thoughts

A prepaid debit card is an easy, convenient payment option for people who try to avoid overspending, want to control their teenage children’s purchases, or don’t have a regular checking account. While some prepaid debit cards come with high fees, others may be cheaper than checking account charges. Compare offers by various prepaid card providers and opt for the card that best suits your needs.

We will add additional free and low cost prepaid cards as well as free prepaid debit cards as they become available. And if you know of other prepaid card offers that you think should be added to the list, please leave a comment.


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