If you're reading this because you're searching for the best prepaid debit card, you're in plenty of good company. The popularity of prepaid debit cards has grown in the past several years according to a study from the Federal Reserve. In fact, they say that prepaid cards are "the fastest-growing non-cash payment type."
Perhaps consumers are moving to an option that is as quick as other cards without high-interest rates, penalty fees or risks of debt. A large population who cannot qualify for traditional bank accounts also uses this card as a bank account alternative.
Whatever your reason for seeking out this financial instrument, my review of the top rated prepaid debit cards should give you a good jumping off point.
There is a common misperception that the top prepaid debit cards can help you rebuild a positive credit rating, or initiate your credit history.
In This Guide
The Best Prepaid Debit Cards: Our Top Picks
American Express Serve Review
- Free card if you sign up online
- Three different versions
- Early Direct Deposit
- $1 monthly fee waived with $500 monthly Direct Deposit
- Free withdrawal with MoneyPass ATMs
- $3.95 fee to reload
- $2.50 withdrawal fee at non-MoneyPass ATMs
- Foreign transaction fee
The American Express Serve card stacks up nicely in my prepaid debit cards comparison. Many of its already small fees are avoidable. The $1.00 monthly fee can be waived if you set up a Direct Deposit of at least $500 per month. There is a $2.50 ATM withdrawal fee which can be avoided by using a MoneyPass ATM.
The regular Serve card requires a fee of up $3.95 to reload it with cash. The unique thing about this offering, however, is that AMEX offers three versions of the Serve. There is the standard, Serve Free Reloads, and Serve Cash Back. There are a few differences among the three tiers. The standard Serve is available with a $1 or zero monthly fee, while Serve Free Reloads allows free reloading but costs $4.95/month. Serve Cash Back gives you unlimited 1% cash back on your purchases, and has a $5.95 monthly fee.
One more interesting feature of Serve is that you can move money from your card into a Reserve account, a free tool for saving money for a special occasion or purchase. Serve by American Express is a versatile card with options to fit anyone's needs, which earns it the top spot in my prepaid debit cards comparison.
- Sign-up bonus: None.
- Key fees: The monthly fee is $1 unless you set up Direct Deposit for $500 or more per month. Cash reloads cost up to $3.95 except on Serve Free Reloads. The Free Reloads card is $4.95/month, and Serve Cash Back $5.95/month. There is a 2.7% foreign transaction fee on all three versions. Mobile check capture costs 1% or 5% for instant access to your money, with a $5 minimum fee.
- Other perks: All three Serve incarnations get free early Direct Deposit (access funds up to two days sooner), free online bill pay, free deposit from a bank account, free subaccounts, free card replacement, and use of a Reserve account to save for something specific.
- Free Allpoint ATM withdrawals
- Monthly fee waived if you Direct Deposit $750/month
- Spending tracker app
- Mobile check capture
- Free unlimited transactions
- Fee for cash loading
KAIKU is an innovative entry in the top prepaid debit cards segment.This card is an excellent choice for those who tend to make a lot of small purchases because it gives you unlimited free transactions. You will pay a $3 monthly maintenance fee, but not if you Direct Deposit at least $750 each month. You get free withdrawals at over 55,000 Allpoint ATM locations. Out-of-network ATMs will cost you $3.00 plus the ATM's usage fee.
KAIKU gives you something different in its Funds-Ometer app. This mobile tracker lets you see what your last 60 days look like in terms of unessential spending categories like dining and entertainment. You can also load checks on the go, although you'll have to wait 10 days for the money to become available unless you want to pay a fee.
With all of these benefits on top of free card-to-card transfers and fee billpay, plus six cool card designs from which to choose, KAIKU has made a name for itself. It also made its way onto my list of the best prepaid debit cards of 2016.
- Sign-up bonus: None.
- Key fees: There is a $3 maintenance fee if you don't Direct Deposit at least $750 per month. Non-Allpoint ATMs cost you $3 per transaction, and cash loading costs $2.95 - $4.95. Instant access to your mobile deposits costs 1% or 4% with a $5 minimum.
- Other perks: You can pay friends or family with free card-to-card transfer, get free card replacement, and free bill payment. You also get free unlimited transactions, and your choice of six different card colors.
- Very few fees
- Free withdrawals at MoneyPass ATMs
- Expandable to four family accounts
- Five loading options
- Pre-authorized check writing
- Funding family account cards only via transfer from master card
Bluebird is a joint offering from Walmart and American Express. The companies market the card with the slogan "Benefits of banking without all the fees." This prepaid debit does seem to make good on that promise. There are almost no fees, and Bluebird is accepted anywhere you can use American Express.
Bluebird comes with a couple of benefits unique to the industry. Firstly, you can get paper checks which you can then pre-authorize as you need to use them. Secondly, you can link four family accounts to the master account, and these can be used by anyone 13 or older. This feature makes Bluebird one of the best prepaid debit cards fo