6 Best Prepaid Debit Cards

Spencer TierneyJan 27, 2021

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  • Bluebird by American Express: Cheapest.

  • Movo Virtual Prepaid Visa: Cheapest.

  • Fifth Third Access 360° Reloadable Prepaid Card: Best for ATM withdrawals.

  • FamZoo Prepaid Card: Best for parents.

  • Greenlight Prepaid Mastercard: Best for parents.

  • Walmart MoneyCard: Best for shopping at Walmart.

  • Chime: Best cheap prepaid alternative.

What are prepaid debit cards?

A prepaid debit card can serve as a budgeting tool or an all-out replacement for a bank account — and the best prepaid cards offer convenience while charging few fees.

Prepaid cards are easy to get. There’s no credit check, and they’re often available even if you can’t get a bank account because of a bad banking history. Unlike with a credit card, you load funds onto prepaid cards before use.

Some companies also offer mobile-optimized banking accounts that don’t require a squeaky-clean banking or credit history — and they often cost less than prepaid cards. Skip ahead to read about these low-fee alternatives.

Prepaid debit cards vs. regular debit cards

You don’t need a bank account to get a prepaid debit card, but it’s a requirement for a regular debit card, which is linked to your checking account. For prepaid debit cards, you load the card with money when you get it, then use it to make purchases. For regular debit cards, the funds for your payments are taken directly from your checking account as you make payments.

» More from NerdWallet: What is a debit card?

Nerdy tip: If you need to build credit or have been denied a bank account, a prepaid debit card might not be the best option: Secured credit cards help build credit, and if you can't get a regular checking account, try second chance checking. These accounts provide another shot at mainstream banking and its perks.

Why trust NerdWallet: Our writers and editors follow strict editorial guidelines to make sure our coverage is fair and accurate, so you can choose the financial accounts that work best for you. See our criteria for evaluating banks and credit unions.

Here are our top prepaid debit cards based on fees and features. Scroll down for more detail on each account.

CHEAPEST

Bluebird
NerdWallet rating 
Read review

Bluebird by American Express

  • No monthly fees

  • Free ATM network

  • Great budgeting features

Movo® Prepaid Visa® Card

Movo Virtual Prepaid Visa Card

  • No monthly fees

  • Instant transfers between cards

BEST FOR ATM WITHDRAWALS

Fifth Third Access 360° Reloadable Prepaid Card
NerdWallet rating 
Read review

Fifth Third Access 360° Reloadable Prepaid Card

  • One of the biggest free ATM networks among prepaid cards

  • $4 monthly fee that's easy to waive

BEST FOR PARENTS

Prepaid Debit Card

FamZoo

  • Multiple subaccounts for kids

  • Costs $2.50-$5.99 per month

Greenlight®

Greenlight

  • Subaccounts for kids

  • Store-specific spending controls

  • Monthly fee from $4.99

BEST FOR SHOPPING AT WALMART

MoneyCard® Reloadable Prepaid Card

Walmart MoneyCard

  • 3% cash back at Walmart.com and in the Walmart app and other cash back rewards

  • Multiple subaccounts for family members

  • 2% APY on up to $1,000 in savings account

BEST ALTERNATIVES TO PREPAID

Chime Spending Account
NerdWallet rating 

at Chime, Deposits are FDIC Insured

Chime

  • No monthly fees

  • Has a savings component

Bluebird by American Express

Cheapest

Bluebird
NerdWallet rating 
Read review

Bluebird, issued by American Express and in partnership with Walmart, offers more than the average prepaid debit card, and you can load and spend money without paying fees.

But Bluebird does have limits when it comes to merchant acceptance, and it doesn’t allow cash back at retailers.

  • General fees and features: No monthly fees and no costs for online activation or inactivity.

  • Purchases: No fees.

  • ATM withdrawals: Free at ATMs in the MoneyPass network; $2.50 fee at other ATMs, plus any ATM operator fee.

  • Reload methods: Direct deposit, debit card transfer, card-to-card transfer, mobile check deposit (with a third-party fee for instant processing), cash load at Walmart or other stores. (Retailers other than Walmart may charge up to $3.95.)

  • Other features: Check writing, separate “set-aside” accounts for savings and up to four subaccounts for family members.

  • Downsides: No cash back at retailers. The card is issued by American Express, which isn’t accepted everywhere that Visa and Mastercard are.

» Learn more about how prepaid debit cards work

Movo Virtual Prepaid Visa Card

cheapest

Movo® Prepaid Visa® Card

Most prepaid debit cards either charge you each month or each time you make a purchase, but the Movo Virtual Prepaid Card does neither. The exception is if you go more than three months without activity; then a $4.95 inactivity fee is charged per month until there’s activity. A “virtual” element lets you buy things online, and you can request a physical card for in-person purchases, ATM withdrawals and cash back at retailers.

  • General fees and features: No monthly fees and no costs for activation; $4.95 inactivity fee.

  • Purchases: No fees.

  • ATM withdrawals: $2 at ATMs in the Visa Plus Alliance network; additional operator fees may apply at out-of-network ATMs.

  • Reload methods: Direct deposit; bank account transfer; instant card-to-card transfer; mobile check deposit (with a third-party fee for instant processing); cash load at retailers with Visa ReadyLink, MoneyPak and Reload @ Register locations, such as Walgreens or Safeway (for a fee set by the retailer).

  • Other services: Online bill payments are free. For a fee, you can also create one-time secondary virtual cards (“CASH Cards”) with their own card numbers. These cards can protect your main account number during transactions. Movo can be used with Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.

  • Downsides: Free ways to reload the card, such as bank transfers, can take up to five business days; no free ATM network.

» Looking for a traditional spending account? Check out NerdWallet’s best free checking accounts.

Fifth Third Access 360° Reloadable Prepaid Card

Best for ATM withdrawals

Fifth Third Access 360° Reloadable Prepaid Card
NerdWallet rating 
Read review

Fifth Third’s Access 360° prepaid debit card takes part in Allpoint’s massive U.S. network and has access to over 50,000 ATMs. This card is available in the 11 states where there are Fifth Third branches, which is the only place you can get the card.

  • General fees and features: $4 monthly fee that’s waived if you have $500 or more in deposits monthly or a Fifth Third checking account; no costs for activation or inactivity.

  • Purchases: No fees.

  • ATM withdrawals: Free at Fifth Third ATMs and ATMs in the Allpoint ATM network; free at Presto! ATMs inside Publix stores and at 7-Eleven ATMs listed on the bank's website or mobile app; $2.75 fee at other ATMs, plus any ATM operator fees.

  • Reload methods: Direct deposit, bank transfer, cash load at Fifth Third branch or ATM.

  • Other services: Card can have joint owners.

  • Downsides: There’s no access to a nationwide retail network for adding cash; the card’s not available in every state; and the card doesn’t have a separate savings feature.

FamZoo Prepaid Card

best for PARENTS

Prepaid Debit Card

FamZoo is a family-friendly prepaid Mastercard that lets parents become virtual bankers for their kids, even those younger than 13. Four cards can be part of one monthly plan, but more can be added for a one-time $3 fee per card. From the website or app, you can send allowances, split payments, see balances and activity across all cards and set up text and email alerts.

  • General fees and features: You can prepay $59.99 for two years of FamZoo — that works out to $2.50 per month. Other prepayment plans also offer a discount. The fee is $5.99 for a monthly subscription; no costs for activation or inactivity.

  • Purchases: No fees.

  • ATM withdrawals: No charge from FamZoo, but ATM operator fees can apply.

  • Reload methods: Direct deposit; bank transfer; PayPal transfer; PopMoney transfer (for a fee); add cash at retailers like 7-Eleven and Walgreens that participate in the Reload @ the Register, MoneyPak and Mastercard rePower networks (up to $6 retail fee).

  • Other services: Multiple accounts under one plan, free and instant FamZoo card-to-card transfers, ability to lock and unlock FamZoo cards, budgeting tools.

  • Downsides: Not part of any ATM network; maximum monthly fee is higher than average; no mobile check deposit feature.

Greenlight Prepaid Mastercard

best for PARENTS

Greenlight®

Greenlight stands out for a feature that other prepaid cards lack: store-specific spending controls. Parents can preapprove where their kids spend money, so $300 earmarked for school supplies can only be spent at a campus bookstore, for example. The prepaid card also offers real-time activity alerts, free card-to-card transfers for allowances and the ability to remotely lock lost cards.

A Greenlight account can have up to five subaccounts, so it works for a family. Given low purchase and withdrawal limits, it’s best as a family budgeting tool instead of a bank account replacement.

  • General fees and features: $4.99 to $9.98 per month, depending on selected plan (more expensive plans include features like investing education and identity theft protection); no costs for activation, inactivity or account closure.

  • Purchases: No fees.

  • ATM withdrawals: No fees from Greenlight, but ATM operator fees may apply.

  • Reload methods: Direct deposit, debit card transfer, bank transfer.

  • Other services: Up to 5 subaccounts, no international ATM withdrawal fee.

  • Downsides: No checks or cash can be deposited; the daily purchase maximum per family account is $1,000 and daily ATM withdrawal limit is $100, which are much lower than average for prepaid cards.

Walmart MoneyCard

BEST FOR SHOPPING AT WALMART

MoneyCard® Reloadable Prepaid Card

The Walmart MoneyCard offers its shoppers up to $75 per year in cash-back rewards: 3% for purchases made at Walmart.com and in the Walmart app, 2% at Walmart fuel stations and 1% at Walmart stores. The app, which gets decent ratings, is required to get fee-free cash reloads at Walmart stores. Walmart MoneyCenters and Customer Service desks also offer fee-free cash withdrawals.

This prepaid, reloadable card is family-friendly. You can order an account for free for up to four additional people who are at least 13 years old. The Walmart MoneyCard offers a free “Vault” savings feature. Savings will earn 2% APY on up to $1,000 on the card enrollment anniversary.

Because it’s not part of an ATM network, you’ll pay $2.50 for ATM withdrawals in addition to any operator fees.

  • General fees and features: $5.94 monthly fee waived with a monthly deposit of at least $1,000; $1 starter card purchase fee if purchased in store; no inactivity fees.

  • Purchases: No fees.

  • ATM withdrawals: $2.50 fee, plus any operator fees.

  • Reload methods: Free from your existing bank account; free to add cash via the Walmart MoneyCard app at Walmart stores; free mobile check deposit; free to add funds from checks cashed at Walmart stores; otherwise, $3 to reload cash at a Walmart store; up to $5.95 to reload elsewhere.

  • Other services: Up to four free additional accounts; savings account with 2% APY for first $1,000, and chances to win monthly cash prizes; option to lock and unlock your card via the app; text and email alerts.

  • Downsides: Fee to use ATMs; limited methods for reloading funds.

Earn more with the best savings accounts
Find out which accounts pay more and help you build your savings faster.

Low-fee alternatives to prepaid cards

The difference between prepaid debit cards and checking accounts is starting to blur, as many have similar features and services.

Mobile-optimized banking accounts fit in this middle ground — like most prepaid debit cards, many have no credit check; unlike prepaid cards, many are linked to a bank account.

Chime

TOP ALTERNATIVE TO PREPAID

Chime Spending Account
NerdWallet rating 

at Chime, Deposits are FDIC Insured

Chime isn’t a prepaid debit card or a traditional bank account but a free “spending account” in the Visa payment network. This account has many of the same functions as a checking account, but it doesn’t come with paper checks. Through the app, though, you can request that checks be mailed to a recipient, even yourself, for free.

You can also open a linked Chime savings account and set up automatic transfers.

  • General fees and features: No monthly fee and no costs for activation or inactivity; no credit check. Cash withdrawal and third-party fees may apply.

  • Purchases: No additional charge.

  • ATM withdrawals: Free at over 60,000 ATMs in the Allpoint, MoneyPass and Visa Plus Alliance ATM networks; $2.50 at other ATMs, plus any ATM operator fee. Cash withdrawal and third-party fees may apply.

  • Deposit methods: Free through direct deposit, bank transfer and mobile check deposit; add cash at retailers in the Reload @ the Register network (up to $5 retailer fee).

  • Other services: Optional savings account. Chime has two automatic savings programs: one where a percentage of every paycheck automatically goes into the savings account and the other where your purchases are rounded up to the nearest dollar and the rounded-up change goes to savings (see below for more information from Chime). You can also receive instant transaction alerts and lock your debit card if you lose it. Note that a Chime Spending Account is required to open a savings account.

  • Downsides: The out-of-network ATM fee.

Chime says: "Round Ups automatically round up debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and transfers the round up from your Chime Spending Account to into your savings account. Save When I Get Paid automatically transfers 10% of your direct deposits of $500 or more from your Spending Account into your savings account."

Best prepaid debit cards and alternatives: Summary

Account/card

Monthly fee

# of free ATMs

Bluebird by American Express

$0

30,000+

Chime account

$0

60,000+

FamZoo Prepaid Card

$2.50 to $4.33 if prepaid; $5.99 if billed

None

Fifth Third Access 360° Reloadable Prepaid Card

$0-$4

50,000+

Greenlight Prepaid Mastercard

$4.99 to $9.98

None

Movo Virtual Prepaid Visa Card

$0

None

Walmart MoneyCard

$0-$5.94

None


METHODOLOGY

We looked at 40 reloadable prepaid debit cards offered by some of the biggest banks, credit unions and prepaid debit card issuers. Where multiple card plans existed, only the basic monthly fee plan was considered.

We analyzed four categories for each card: general fees and features, purchases and withdrawals, reload fees and options, and other services such as bill pay and savings accounts. The cards that made this list had the best combination of these categories. Some cards in this roundup have nonbank program managers that partner with banks. Regardless, all the cards’ issuers are banks that insure consumers’ money through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. No cards above have overdraft fees.

Prepaid debit cards that we considered included: ACE Elite Visa Prepaid Debit Card, American Express Serve, Bluebird by American Express, Fifth Third Access 360° Reloadable Prepaid Card, Green Dot Prepaid Visa Card, Mango Visa Prepaid Card, Netspend Prepaid Card, PayPal Prepaid Mastercard, RushCardPrepaid Visa Card.

ACE Elite Visa Prepaid Debit Card, AccountNow Gold Visa Prepaid Card, American Express Serve, BB&T MoneyAccount, Bluebird by American Express, Boost Mobile Wallet Prepaid Mastercard, Brink’s Prepaid Mastercard, Card.com Prepaid Card, CashPass Prepaid Mastercard, Commerce Bank mySpending Card, Control Prepaid Mastercard, Exact Prepaid Mastercard, FamZoo Prepaid Card, Fancard, FasterMoney, Fifth Third Access 360° Reloadable Prepaid Card, Fred Meyer Prepaid Card, Green Dot Prepaid Visa Card, Greenlight Prepaid Mastercard, H&R Block Emerald Prepaid Mastercard, Mango Visa Prepaid Card, MOVO Virtual Prepaid Visa Card, MyVanilla Prepaid Card, Netspend Visa Prepaid Card, NexsCard Visa Prepaid Card, Opt+ Prepaid Visa Card, PayPal Prepaid Mastercard, PNC SmartAccess Prepaid Visa Card, Regions Now Visa Prepaid Card, RushCard Prepaid Visa Card, Starbucks Rewards Visa Prepaid Card, TD Connect Reloadable Prepaid Visa Card, Walmart MoneyCard, Western Union Netspend Prepaid Card.

We also looked at three alternative, or non-traditional, accounts from financial institutions: Chime, GoBank, Moven.

What the ratings mean:

— Among the very best

— Very good; only minor caveats for most customers

— Good; issues that might make a difference to some customers

— Fair; make sure strengths and weaknesses are a good match for you

— Poor; proceed with great caution

(or below) — Best to avoid

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