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Out of 80 Prepaid Debit Cards, Find the One for You.

Prepaid debit cards come loaded with charges, from monthly fees to ATM fees to fees for using the card. Answer a few questions to the left, and we'll figure out which one will cost you the least money.

Remember: prepaid debit cards don't improve your credit score! If you're looking to build or rebuild credit, consider a secured credit card. Also keep in mind that prepaid debit cards are rarely cheaper than traditional checking accounts.

Unsecured Credit Cards for Bad Credit

There are no good options for unsecured credit cards for people with bad credit, despite whatever the marketing material might say. 

Truth is, if you have bad credit, you’re pretty much stuck. Either you go with a secured credit card, or you’ll have to pay higher fees. Be careful: You may see advertisements for products that don’t build credit, like prepaid debit cards.

Your options if you have bad credit:

Secured credit card: If you have enough saved up to make a deposit of $200-$500, we highly suggest that you shoot for a secured credit card (or if you don’t, we advise that you save up to make the deposit). Secured credit cards require an upfront deposit, but will help you build credit and “graduate” to an unsecured credit card. They often have annual fees in the realm of $25-$50, but that isn’t terrible if you’re looking to build credit.

Prepaid debit cards: You’ll see these advertised a lot in a search for “unsecured credit cards.” However, these are NOT credit cards. You can’t spend money you don’t have, and you won’t build up your credit score. There are perfectly legitimate reasons for wanting a prepaid debit card, but building credit or getting a loan isn’t one of them. Watch out for prepaid cards that are misleadingly interspersed among credit cards.

High-fee, unsecured credit cards: Your last option, if you still want to get a secured credit card, will probably cost you a lot of money. Two big-name providers of unsecured credit cards are First Premier and First Progress. We refuse to participate in the referral programs of these banks, or to link to them directly, but you can find them via Google.

Calculate Prepaid Card Fees

Calculate Account Fees

Will you use direct deposit?
How much will you deposit each month?
Hint: Typically twice your bi-weekly paycheck.
How long will you keep the card?
1 year

How long will you keep the card?

We use this information to calculate the impact of activation and cancellation fees.

Calculate Usage Fees

How many purchases will you make each month?
Purchases where I punch in my PIN:
All other purchases:

How many purchases will you make each month?

A PIN transaction is a purchase where you enter your four-digit PIN, such as when you choose "debit" at the grocery store checkout terminal or gas pump.

A signature transaction is any purchase where you don't enter your PIN. This includes choosing "credit" at the checkout terminal, paying the check at a restaurant, or making a small purchase that does not require a signature.

How many ATM withdrawals will you make each month?
In-network ATM withdrawals:
Out-of-network ATM withdrawals:

How many ATM withdrawals will you make each month?

When you withdraw money from an ATM, you can potentially be charged two fees: one by the owner of the card, and one by the owner of the ATM. But thankfully, there are ways to avoid those fees.

Many prepaid and traditional debit cards have a network of ATMs that you can withdraw from without incurring a fee from the ATM owner. These are called in-network withdrawals, and they mean you only pay the card withdrawal fee (if there is one).

But if you withdraw from an ATM that your card isn't associated with (out-of-network), you have to pay an ATM surcharge ($2.60 on average) on top of any card fees, unless your card reimburses out-of-network ATM fees.

How many ATM balance inquiries will you make each month?

How many ATM balance inquiries will you make each month?
Many prepaid debit card issuers will charge you a fee if you look up your card balance at an ATM.
How many online bill payments will you make each month?

Calculate Reload Fees

How many times will you make a cash reload each month?

How many times will you make a cash reload each month?

Loading cash onto your reloadable prepaid debit card usually requires buying a physical "reload pack" like a MoneyPak at a store.

A cash reload usually costs somewhere between $1-$5.

How much will you load each month, excluding direct deposit?

More Sorting Options

Compare To A Checking Account

I want to include checking accounts in my results.
How often do you incur overdraft fees each year?
How often do you incur overdraft fees each year?

You overdraw on your account when you spend more than your balance. For example, if you have just $1 in your account but you pay for a $2 coffee, the bank can decide to approve your transaction and charge you an overdraft fee.

Remember, though, that you have to opt in to overdraft protection. You can always opt out of overdraft protection if you do not wish to incur large fees everytime you overdraw your account.

How often do you use a check cashing service each month?
How often do you use a check cashing service each month?

You typically can't deposit a personal check straight into your prepaid debit card – you have to pay someone to cash the check, then buy a cash reload pack and use that to load your card. By the time you're done, you've paid a check cashing fee and a retail reload fee.

Most checking accounts, on the other hand, let you cash or deposit your checks for free.

How much do you pay each time you cash a check?
How much do you pay each time you cash a check?

Check cashing centers usually charge anywhere from 1% to 3% of a check's face value, to cash a check.

More Choices

Include student cards.
Include area-specific cards.
I want an additional card.
I want an additional card.

Some prepaid debit cards let you add a card to your account (for your kids, your spouse, your babysitter...). Some give you the extra card for free, others charge a one-time card fee, and still others charge you an ongoing monthly fee. Many checking accounts don't have this option, which is why you may see the traditional checking account choices disappear from your results.

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Not sure what to look for?

Looking for a prepaid debit card? There are a number of reasons people want to avoid a checking account: monthly maintenance fees, overdrafts, and so on. But while it’s possible to find a low-fee prepaid debit card, we also suggest going to your local credit union for a free checking account, which might be cheaper in the long run.

If you’re set on going prepaid, we suggest that you use:

  • A card that lets you reload with cash and withdraw money for free. One of the best options for this is the American Express Bluebird, just so long as you use direct deposit. If not, you’ll get hit with an ATM withdrawal fee.
  • A card with a low monthly fee but no per-transaction fees, if you plan on using the card for a long time (or plan to use it heavily). These are often offered by big banks like US Bank or Chase.
  • A card that doesn’t have a celebrity’s name on it. Seriously.

But we do recommend that you first consider a no-fee checking account, or look to your local credit union for free checking.

More from our blog:
  • dee

    Can someone recommend a card that would allow deposits under an different last name

  • gezim

    what is the max cash can get from ATM my limit from the card US Money card is $2000

  • Danny

    Am an independent contractor and am trying to find the best debit card (for my employer)with the lowest fees, i have been used Wells Fargo in a past but the fees where incredible high !!! Please can someone give me advice what is the best debit card to receive money from my employer because am not for USA. Thank you in advance

  • tim bennett

    the fees for reloading a prepaid debit card is outrageous the social security administration is always reminding go direct deposit but i can’t afford a prepaid debit card they have not set a law requiring debit cards carry a fee of $3.00/month or more they’re a bad idea i prefer cash over a debit card prepaid cards aren’t a good idea they charge you more fees and if you use the card you get charged a fee

  • jacson william

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