The Best Prepaid and Debit Cards of 2022 (2022)

BEST FOR BUDGETING ONLINE

Blue Netspend® Visa® Prepaid Card

Apply now

On Netspend's secure site

Rewards rate

N/A

Intro offer

N/A

Annual fee

Variable Monthly Fee

Regular APR

N/A

Recommended credit

See Terms

Despite the myriad of fees associated with this card, it does offer some much-needed flexibility if you don't have access to a traditional bank account. You can load paper checks to your account at no extra charge using the card's Mobile Check Load feature, and you can manage your budget with the card's app.

Pros

  • This card works well for consumers who don't have a traditional checking account.
  • The application process is speedy and doesn't generate a credit inquiry.

Cons

  • The card is associated with several fees, an ATM withdrawal fee, an inactivity fee and a cash reload fee, just to name a few.
  • The card's activity isn't reported to the three credit bureaus.
  • 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 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.
  • See additional Blue Netspend® Visa® Prepaid Card details by clicking Apply Now
additional features

Purchase intro APR

N/A

Balance transfer intro APR

N/A

BEST FOR NO ACTIVATION FEE

Netspend® Visa® Prepaid Card

Apply now

On Netspend's secure site

star iconstar iconstar iconstar iconstar iconstar iconstar iconstar iconstar iconstar icon3.1Bankrate review
(Video) The 5 BEST Prepaid Debit Cards for 2022

Rewards rate

N/A

Intro offer

N/A

Annual fee

Up-to $9.95 monthly*

Regular APR

N/A

Recommended credit

See Terms

If you want the convenience of a debit card without opening a traditional bank account, the Netspend Visa Prepaid Card may be worth a look. You can have your paycheck, tax refund, or government benefits deposited directly to your Netspend Visa and can use the card anywhere Visa cards are accepted.

Read our full Netspend Visa Prepaid Card review.

Pros

  • There are no application fees.
  • The card allows you to generate up to six virtual credit card numbers to protect your account information when shopping online.

Cons

  • The card's monthly fee is $9.95 (it goes down to $5 if you receive at least $500 in payroll checks each month).
  • Card activity is not reported to the three credit bureaus.
  • 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 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.
  • See additional Netspend® Visa® Prepaid Card details by clicking Apply Now
additional features

Purchase intro APR

N/A

Balance transfer intro APR

N/A

Rewards rate

N/A

Intro offer

N/A

Annual fee

(Video) Best CASHBACK Rewards Debit Cards of 2022 // Debit Card SHOWDOWN

Variable Monthly Fee

Regular APR

N/A

Recommended credit

See Terms

This prepaid card could be a good fit for savings-minded cardholders. The Pink Netspend prepaid card can help you save money via cash back on qualifying purchases. Choose from several cash back offers, shop and have your rewards credited to your account at the end of the following month.

Pros

  • The card does offer some cash back rewards.
  • There's no credit check required when opening the card.

Cons

  • This card doesn't report to any of the three credit bureaus, so it won't help you to improve your credit score.
  • Cardholders will be charged a monthly fee of $5 to $9.95 with the monthly plan or $1.50 per transaction with the Pay-As-You-Go Plan.
  • 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 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.
  • See additional Pink Netspend® Visa® Prepaid Card details by clicking Apply Now
additional features

Purchase intro APR

N/A

Balance transfer intro APR

N/A

Best for building credit

Self — Credit Builder Account

Apply now

On Self's secure site

Rewards rate

N/A

Intro offer

N/A

Annual fee

One Time $9 - $15 Account Fee (Varies by Product)

Regular APR

12.03% - 15.98% (Varies by Product)

Recommended credit

No Credit History

The Self — Credit Builder Account is an excellent tool for building up your savings and improving your credit. Self deposits a small loan into a locked savings account, and you make payments for 12 or 24 months. When the 12 to 24 month period ends, you have full access to your savings and an improved credit score.

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Pros

  • Self reports to all three credit bureaus.
  • No hard credit inquiry is required for application.

Cons

  • If you're looking for a card to transact with, this isn’t a fit as it’s a credit-builder loan
  • You’ll pay a one-time account fee of $9 to $15.
  • Savings plans start at $25/month and includes credit monitoring
  • Reports to all 3 credit bureaus. No hard credit pull and no credit history required
  • Self helps you get a small loan that you save in a CD for 12 or 24 months (FDIC- insured certificate of deposit bank account)
  • At the end of account term you've built credit history and your CD savings unlocks
additional features

Purchase intro APR

N/A

Balance transfer intro APR

N/A

BEST FOR EARNING REWARDS

Brink's Money Prepaid Mastercard®

Apply now

On Netspend's secure site

Rewards rate

N/A

Intro offer

N/A

Annual fee

Variable Monthly Fees

Regular APR

N/A

Recommended credit

See Terms

Choose from a monthly or pay-as-you-go plan based on your needs and get your payroll checks or government benefits up to 2 days faster when you set up a direct deposit to your Brink's card. Plus, you can earn rewards.

Read our full Brink's Prepaid Mastercard review.

Pros

  • There's an optional savings account associated with the card; get a 5 percent APY on up to a $1,000 balance.
  • Earns rewards: Get 1X points on signature purchase transactions, and additional points on select limited-time merchant offers.

Cons

  • The card carries a cash reload fee of up to $3.95.
  • The card has an ATM withdrawal fee of $2.50 per transaction and charges $0.50 for checking your balance at an ATM.
  • Brink's gives you the peace of mind you deserve. Securing cash and valuables since 1859.
  • With Brink's 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 Brink's Money Prepaid Mobile App to manage your account on the go and get text message or email alerts (Message & data rates may apply.)
  • Get your tax refund direct deposited to your Card Account and no more waiting in line to cash your check!
  • 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 Brink's Prepaid Mastercard® Details.
additional features

Purchase intro APR

N/A

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Balance transfer intro APR

N/A

Compare Bankrate’s top prepaid cards

Visa Prepaid CardBudgeting onlineVariable monthly fee
Netspend Visa Prepaid CardNo activation feeUp to $9.95 monthly fee
Pink Netspend Visa Prepaid CardNo credit checkVariable monthly fee
Self — Credit Builder AccountBuilding creditOne-time $9 to $15 account fee (varies by product)
Brink’s Money Prepaid MastercardRewardsVariable monthly fee

A closer look at our top prepaid cards

Blue Netspend Visa Prepaid Card: Best for budgeting online

  • What we love about the Blue Netspend Visa Prepaid Card: Through Netspend Payback Rewards, you can earn cash back on select qualifying purchases, something rarely seen with easy-to-attain cards. The rewards program also gives cardholders personalized offers as an extra incentive.
  • Who this card is good for: Someone with a less-than-stellar credit score who wants less room for doubt when applying for a new tool to spend conveniently.
  • Alternatives: If your sole focus is building your credit, the unconventional Self — Credit Builder Account’s accessibility and opportunity to graduate to a valuable card make it a worthwhile choice for individuals just starting out.

Netspend Visa Prepaid Card: Best for no activation fee

  • What we love about the Netspend Visa Prepaid Card: When you start your card account, you’ll get access to a high-yield savings account that offers 5 percent APY on the first $1,000 you save. Also, if you refer a friend and they load at least $40 onto the card, you’ll each receive a $20 bonus.
  • Who this card is good for: Those looking for a guaranteed easy way to spend or someone who wants access to banking services without an activation fee to get started.
  • Alternatives: If you’re a fan of this card’s savings account option, Brink’s Money Prepaid Mastercard offers a similar benefit along with the ability to earn some ongoing cash back rewards.

Read our Netspend Visa Prepaid Card review.

Pink Netspend Visa Prepaid Card: Best for no credit check

  • What we love about the Pink Netspend Visa Prepaid Card: Although it’s a no-credit-check card, you can still take advantage of select cash back and personalized offers once you’ve opened your account.
  • Who this card is good for: Someone who wants a convenient way to spend and save while avoiding a credit check.
  • Alternatives: If earning cash back is one of your goals, consider checking out the Brink’s Money Prepaid Mastercard, which offers 1X points on signature purchase transactions, and additional points on select limited-time merchant offers.

Self — Credit Builder Account: Best for building credit

  • What we love about the Self — Credit Builder Account: Separating itself from the other options here, this account will report your payment habits to the three major credit bureaus—a surefire way to boost your credit score if you practice good habits. Making on-time, sufficient payments with this option can do wonders for your future financial health.
  • Who this card is good for: A beginner credit-user who wants to establish their credit through a unique, user-friendly account.
  • Alternatives: If you’re seeking access to a physical card right away, the Blue Netspend Visa Prepaid Card is a solid choice that offers potential rewards, albeit one that carries a series of fees.

Read our Self — Credit Builder Account review.

Brink’s Money Prepaid Mastercard: Best for earning rewards

  • What we love about the Brink’s Money Prepaid Mastercard: Thanks to Mastercard, you’ll get benefits to protect against fraud, including $0 liability for unauthorized purchases and a few others. Also this card is a cousin of the Netspend options, allowing you to utilize its reload network of 130,000+ locations.
  • Who this card is good for: Someone who wants a prepaid option that brings points and discounts. With this card, you’ll get 1X points on select purchases and limited-time offers, as well as the opportunity to receive up to 50 percent discounts on prescriptions with participating major pharmacies.
  • Alternatives: If earning rewards are not a main focus of yours, the Self — Credit Builder Account offers users strong credit-building features and a unique opportunity to graduate to a secured credit card after demonstrating good financial habits.

Read our Brink’s Money Prepaid Mastercard review.

What are prepaid cards?

Prepaid debit cards are similar to debit cards except prepaid cards are not connected to banking or checking accounts. Instead, funds are loaded onto the card, then reloaded when those funds run out. Think of them as a cross between gift cards and debit cards—they have a card number, CVV code and expiration date like debit and credit cards but no bank account associated with them.

How do prepaid cards work?

Similar to debit or checking accounts, prepaid cards allow users to spend up to the amount of money associated with the card. Prepaid card users load funds onto the cards—either online, in person at specific locations, by depositing checks or reloading with cash. Once the money is loaded onto the card, you can spend up to that amount at e-tailers, physical stores and to pay bills online before you have to deposit more money onto the card again.

Keep in mind that most prepaid cards have fees associated with them, such as:

  • Reload fees
  • Monthly fees
  • ATM withdrawal fees
  • Inactivity fees
  • Transaction fees

Prepaid cards vs. debit cards

What are the differences between prepaid cards and debit cards? Well, prepaid cards and debit cards function similarly—you can only spend the amount of money associated with the card. Prepaid cards and debit cards look similar, and both have card numbers, CVV codes, expiration dates and are often made of plastic with a magnetic stripe on the back.

Where prepaid and debit cards differ is where those funds are stored. Debit cards are linked to a checking account with a bank and are often accompanied by routing and account numbers. Checking account customers add more money to their checking accounts via mobile deposit, direct deposit, ATM cash deposit or bank-to-bank transfers and then use that money with their debit cards. On the other hand, prepaid cards aren’t linked to a checking account and customers load and reload money on the card, much like they would with a gift card.

Pros and cons of prepaid cards

Make sure to read the fine print before you apply for a prepaid debit card. Some of these cards have activation fees and monthly maintenance charges, which can eat into your spending cash. Compare cards thoroughly and shop for the best prepaid card for you that has as little fees as possible.

Pros

  • No credit check needed—People with low or no credit can establish responsible credit habits without taking a hit to their credit scores.
  • Budgeting tool—Because you’re limited to spending your deposit amount, prepaid cards make it easier to stay with your budget and cut back on monthly spending.

Cons

  • More fees than debit cards—Debit cards typically charge overdraft, monthly fees and sometimes ATM fees. On the other hand, prepaid cards can charge those fees on top of transaction fees, reload fees, inactivity fees and more.
  • Can’t build credit—Prepaid card issuers don’t report to credit bureaus, so users won’t improve their credit scores over time with this type of card. Secured credit cards are a better option for people with no credit or low credit to increase their scores.

See related: Pros and cons of prepaid credit cards.

Who should get a prepaid card

Prepaid cards provide several benefits to people who, for whatever reason, don’t have access to traditional bank accounts (unbanked people) or whose banking institutions don’t meet all of their banking needs (underbanked people). They’re safer to carry than cash and pose less of a risk for overspending than credit cards.

  • Unbanked people do not have access to traditional banking services — like checking accounts, savings accounts, debit cards or credit cards — of any kind. If you’re a person who has struggled to gain access to traditional banking services because of upfront costs (such as deposit minimums or initiation fees), or have had issues with your bank accounts in the past (such as involuntary bank account closures), a prepaid card might be the answer. Often prepaid card issuers don’t check your credit when you apply for one (though this isn’t always the case), and they won’t check your banking history.

  • There are many reasons someone may be underbanked. If access to your banking services is inconvenient or too expensive, you may find yourself underbanked. If you have a bank account but routinely rely on alternative financial services — like money orders, check cashing services and payday loans — to pay your bills and complete other financial transactions, you may benefit from a prepaid card.

Bankrate insight

Although prepaid debit cards are often associated with younger shoppers, recent Bankrate data shows that the trend might be slowing. In January 2021, we found that 43 percent of 18- to 31-year-olds have at least one rewards credit card, a figure that was just 33 percent in 2016.

How to choose a prepaid card

Prepaid cards are an excellent option for anyone struggling to access traditional banking services, but not all prepaid cards are created equal. Here are some things you should keep in mind while shopping for a prepaid card.

What are the fees?

One of the reasons many people have a difficult time accessing traditional banking services is because of the fees and other costs associated with opening one. If your prepaid card charges a litany of fees, such as ATM fees, monthly service fees or reload fees you should seriously consider if the card will be worth it to you.

What are your loading options?

How difficult or easy will it be to reload your prepaid card? Some prepaid cards will allow you to reload your card with ACH transfers (though there are typically fees associated with that option). Oftentimes, you’ll reload your prepaid card manually at an ATM, so it’s important that your card provides access to several ATMs in your area.

Does the card offer mobile access?

Mobile banking is becoming increasingly popular, and for good reason. It’s convenient, safe and can give you peace of mind. The best prepaid cards will offer you the option to use the cards online and on a mobile app.

When to use a prepaid card

Prepaid debit cards let you use plastic when online shopping or at stores, without the need for a traditional checking account. It’s ideal to use a prepaid debit card in the following scenarios:

  • You’re a parent who wants to give your teenager a card that isn’t linked to your personal checking or credit card account to make purchases online or in-person. With a monthly spending limit, prepaid cards can teach teenagers budgeting and responsible card use early in life before they open their own account.
  • You’re cutting back on spending and need hard limits, which prepaid cards provide. You can reign in your spending every month by only using a prepaid card—once the money is spent, you can force yourself to wait until the new month to reload the card before swiping again.

Have more questions for our credit cards editors? Feel free to send us an email, find us on Facebook, or Tweet us @Bankrate.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Prepaid cards are similar to debit cards in that you can only spend the amount of money associated with the card—so there are no credit limits or revolving credit lines involved. Furthermore, prepaid cards and debit cards look and function similarly when checking out either at stores or online shopping portals.

  • Debit cards are linked to a checking account with a bank or credit union, while prepaid cards are not linked to an account. Instead, customers load and reload money onto prepaid cards, bypassing the need for banking accounts altogether.

  • While they are not technically banks, PayPal, Visa, Mastercard and Netspend have prepaid debit cards available to sign up for.

    Regions Bank, Fifth Third Bank, U.S. Bank and others have prepaid debit cards as well.

  • You can reload a prepaid card much like you would receive money in a checking account linked to a debit card. Here are some ways you could reload a prepaid debit card, depending on the issuer:

    • In person at the financial institution that issued the card
    • In person at participating retail locations
    • Online transfer from a checking or savings account
    • Mobile deposit, if available
    • Direct deposit, if available

about the author

Barry Bridges

Former Senior Editor Barry Bridges has been writing about credit cards, personal loans, mortgages and other personal finance products since 2017. Before joining Bankrate, he was an award-winning newspaper journalist in his native North Carolina.

about the editor

Mariah Ackary

Mariah Ackary is a personal finance editor who joined the Bankrate team in 2019, excited by the opportunity to help people make good financial decisions. Send your questions to mackary@bankrate.com

* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.

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