Why get a prepaid debit card?
The top performers in our review are Mango, the Gold Award winner; Kaiku, the Silver Award winner; and NetSpend, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a prepaid debit card to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these debit cards.
A prepaid debit card is a debit card that you load with a set amount of money. It is not connected to a bank, but prepaid debit cards are partnered with major credit card companies, such as Visa and Mastercard, so you can spend your money anywhere that major credit cards are accepted.
A reloadable debit card is a good option if you are looking to regulate your spending or manage your debt. Because there is a maximum balance and you control how much money you put on your card, you can never spend more than you have. They are also a good option if you want to give your children access to money but don't want them to have a credit card.
Prepaid debit cards are an option if you are unable to open a checking account or want to avoid bank fees. It is also an option if you want to avoid a high fee checking account. These cards do have fees of their own that you should be aware of. It's also important to note that these debit cards have no effect, for good or ill, on your credit rating.
Prepaid debit cards: what to look for
Unlike regular debit cards, prepaid debit cards have no banks involved with them and are linked with credit cards companies and so can be used wherever you could use a credit card. There's no interest with these cards, since you don't have to pay anything back, but there are fees and charges. When evaluating these cards, we examined the fees as well as other features they offer.
Fees and charges
Prepaid debit cards include a variety of fees and costs. These include monthly service fees and fees for receiving paper statements. Some cards will waive the monthly fee if you make a certain number of transactions with the card each month.
Prepaid debit cards can be used at ATMs, but the debit card provider often charges fees in addition to those charged by the ATMs. These include fees for withdrawing cash and finding out what your balance is. Some prepaid debit cards are part of ATM networks and have no fees if you use those ATMs. It's important to be aware of these fees when signing up for a prepaid debit card. Most card providers include a fee schedule in the user agreements they post online.
In addition to the basic functions of providing an alternative to paying with cash, many of the prepaid debit cards we reviewed had a variety of other features that made them stand out. All the cards we reviewed had basic features, such as online account management, text alerts and not having any credit checks. Many of the debit cards we reviewed also have smartphone apps that allow you to better monitor your account. The best of these prepaid debit cards contain features that make them a more versatile financial product. These features include savings accounts and rewards programs.
When you receive a prepaid debit card, it's important to know what options you have for adding money to your account and what your daily deposit and spending limits are. All of the cards we reviewed allow you to have your paychecks directly deposited into your account, but other methods of adding funds varied from card to card.
It's important that you know what your card's maximum balance is and also what limits there are on how much you can deposit and withdraw. These limits are usually spelled out in the card's customer agreement, so it's a good idea to read through that document before signing up for the card.
Help and support
Each of these prepaid debit cards provides you with a variety of options for help and support. FAQs on the websites can answer your most basic questions, but if you need to learn more, you can contact them through telephone or email.
Prepaid debit cards: our verdict & recommendations
The best prepaid debit card we reviewed is Mango, which earned the Top Ten Reviews Gold Award because it offers the strongest savings account and a variety of ways for you to load money onto the card. Kaiku earned the Top Ten Reviews Silver Award for having a wide network of ATMs and generally having lower fees than other cards. We gave NetSpend the Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award for having higher balance and deposit limits than other cards.
A prepaid or reloadable debit card is an option for you if you'd like to control your spending and manage your finances. These cards don't have interest rates or have any effect on your credit score. There are many fees associated with these cards, including monthly service fees and added costs for using ATMs. The best of these cards have other features, such as smartphone apps, savings accounts and rewards programs.