Not having a bank account can be a big hindrance to online shopping and managing your finances. Prepaid debit cards offer an interesting solution to those who might not be able to open up their own bank accounts.
Not being able to open an account is not the only reason to get yourself a prepaid debit card. Getting a better grasp on your personal finances using a prepaid debit card is a very viable strategy to limit spending and curb bad habits.
Let’s take a look at what different prepaid debit cards offer and a couple of different options to get you the best-suited deal possible.
What is a Prepaid Debit Card?
Before getting into more detail, I want to make sure that everyone's on the same page and we're just going to go over what a prepaid debit card is.
A prepaid debit card is an alternative banking product that only allows you to spend money that was preloaded onto the card by you or somebody else with access to your account.
Prepaid cards are accepted just about anywhere regular debit cards are so long as the retailer supports the associated payment network such as MasterCard, Visa, or American Express.
For example, if a retailer doesn't support American Express and you try using your Bluebird prepaid debit card, the payment will not be processed.
What is the Difference Between a Regular Debit Card and a Prepaid Card?
Regular debit cards are connected directly to your checking account and you always need to have an account to have a standard debit card. Prepaid debit cards allow you to use a debit card without the need for a dedicated bank account.
The only money that exists on the account is money that you had to put there yourself through various deposit methods that differ from provider-to-provider.
Some of the most common methods of reloading money onto the card are direct deposit, debit card transfers, PayPal, and cash loading through ATMs or certain retailers and banks.
My Credit is Bad, Can I Rebuild it Using These Cards?
If you're looking to build your credit rating, there are better ways to do that than with a prepaid debit card.
If your main priority is to build your credit score, then we suggest looking towards Secured Credit Cards, these types of cards will help you bump up that credit score and get you back on track.
They usually have a limit similar to your initial deposit to provide less risk to the issuer. Once you consistently make your payments on time you will eventually get your deposit back and even qualify for an unsecured card that doesn’t require a deposit.
Prepaid Debit Cards as a Budgeting Tool
Prepaid debit cards are a brilliant way to budget for not only yourself, but for many other situations such as allowances for children.
Prepaid debit cards can be used online like a regular debit card, except you cannot put a credit on the card.
Meaning, once the card runs out of money the transaction will not go through preventing any overspending. Prepaid debit cards are also extremely easy to acquire as they require no credit checks, meaning access to a great budgeting tool is pretty straightforward.
Best Prepaid Debit Cards
Since there is no single prepaid debit card that is the best all-around so we will go over different groups of benefits that these cards provide and pick out the best for each individual category.
There's a plethora of available prepaid debit cards out there but we're going to go over the best cards for: being the cheapest, having the best ATM withdrawals, best worldwide transfers, best option for parents, and the best option for discounts at retailers.
Bluebird by American Express
Bluebird, issued by American Express and in partnership with Walmart, offer a way to spend less money without paying any of the fees.
The only drawback to the Bluebird American Express card is that the American Express Network is not as expansive and widely accepted as Visa or MasterCard. This means that you may find yourself in certain situations where your card will not be accepted and suddenly your funds are less usable.
The card does not offer cashback at any retailer either.
This card may not be accepted in as many retailers as the competition offers, however, the Bluebird card by American Express has a fee structure system that is difficult to compete with, and for that reason is one of the top contenders for Cheapest Prepaid Debit Cards.
Movo Virtual Prepaid Visa Card
A lot of the competition out there charges you on a month-to-month basis or each time you make a purchase for the privilege of using their card. This is not so with a Movo virtual prepaid card.
The only fee that Movo charges is if you go more than three months without any activity. if that were to happen you get slapped with a $4.95 inactivity fee that is charged per month until there is activity.
The reason Movo calls this a virtual card is because well, it is exactly that, virtual. Ideally meant for easier online purchasing, you can request a physical card for when you wish to use your debit card in person.
The lack of any fees for for activation and purchases easily put this card as one of the top contenders for the cheapest prepaid debit cards available.
The only downside to this card is the $2 fees for ATM withdrawals which shouldn't be too much of an issue considering you don't have any fees on debit purchases.
The only other small gripe I have with this card is how long it takes to reload using certain methods. Overall though, I think this is a fantastic choice for anybody looking for a great budgeting tool that comes with very few fees and many benefits.
Fifth Third Access 360° Reloadable Prepaid Card
Fifth Third Access 360° Reloadable Prepaid Card is definitely my top pick for the cheapest ATM withdrawals.
With over 50,000 ATMs to choose from, there are plenty of places to have access to your cash. Unlike some competitors, this card does not offer a separate savings feature which can be a hindrance to those looking to use it as a budgeting tool.
Western Union Netspend Prepaid Mastercard
Although this prepaid debit card has higher than average standard fees it has a few benefits that may be worth looking into.
Firstly, this card offers no fees to receive money transfers through Western Unions reliable money transfer service but the standard fee still applies for sending money.
This makes this card a great choice for those family members who like to send money to each other using Western Unions transfer service.
The card has an associated app where you can get up to date information on your account, send and receive money, and find locations to reload your account.
Overall, I very much like the Western Union Netspend Prepaid Mastercard for its ability to use their money transfer service easier.
This is a fantastic card for those that are sending and receiving money through Western Union. It just makes the process simpler and more streamlined.
Unfortunately, as a day-to-day card, I cannot recommend the Western Union Netspend prepaid Mastercard. However, if you find yourself using the Western Union money transfer service quite often then this is definitely at the top of my list for the most efficient ways to send money to others, especially other Western Union Netspend MasterCard users.
FamZoo Prepaid Card
FamZoo is a prepaid Mastercard that is very family-oriented and helps parents become virtual bankers for their kids, even those younger than 13 years old.
Developing strong financial skills for your children at an early age can only help them prosper later on in life.
The FamZoo prepaid card offers up to 4 cards on one monthly plan, but more can be added for a one-time fee of $3 per card.
It's possible to set allowances, split payments, see balances and see activities across all the cards and set up text and email alerts from the website or from the associated FamZoo app.
The FamZoo prepaid card takes the top spot for the best choice of prepaid cards for parents, for the variety of tools and ease of managing and shaping your children's spending habits.
Although the fees may be a little bit on the higher side, prepaying for 2 years brings that cost down significantly, and coupled with fantastic budgeting tools, this prepaid card option is one of my favorite choices.
The Walmart Moneycard offers its Shoppers up to $75 cash back rewards per year. 3% for purchases made at walmart.com and in the Walmart app, 2% at Walmart fuel stations, and 1% at Walmart stores.
Reloading money through the Walmart app is easy and free and there are a couple other free options for funding your account. There are four cards available for use for your family members who are at least 13 years of age or older.
The Walmart money card is the best prepaid card available for cash back rewards at retailers. Walmart has locations all over, allowing for the ability to easily fund your account and for earning cash back on all your purchases. A significant amount if you are an avid Walmart shopper.
A lot of prepaid debit cards were looked at and analyzed to make sure we gave you the best choices possible.
All the choices presented today are from banks that insure consumers’ money through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, and none of the cards in the list have any overdraft fees.
Prepaid debit cards can be an incredibly powerful asset to help strengthen your spending and budgeting habits for the future.
I hope the cards presented to you today can help you make a decision towards a better financial future for yourself and for your family.