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10 Best Prepaid Cards of 2018

The use of prepaid cards is on the rise in the United States, whose wide-ranging uses include general purposes, payroll, employee incentives, health care spending, government benefits, rebates and gifts. Find out which card is the best for your needs.

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A prepaid card might look like any other credit or debit card, but it is in a class by itself. Not to be confused with reloadable retailer cards or gift cards, prepaid cards are general-purpose cards that consumers recharge or "load up" and use to make purchases, withdraw cash, and receive direct deposits. Essentially, prepaid cards combine the convenience of a credit or debit card with the ability to allow the customer to set their spending limit according to their budget. Most prepaid cards are affiliated with popular card networks, so they look like any other card in that they have a magnetic strip, chip, and a familiar logo such as American Express, Visa or MasterCard. Concerning federal consumer protections, certain cards come with regulations that limit consumers losses when funds are stolen or cards are lost.  

Prepaid cards are gaining the most traction among consumers who do not have access to other forms of electronic payments, such as debit or credit cards, or prefer not to use them for certain transactions. A convenient way to store money, prepaid cards are largely used to limit spending, avoid bank and check cashing fees, and make electronic payments. Many prepaid cards also include features like text alerts, rewards and discount programs, and international money transfers. They are available to anyone, regardless of their credit rating, income, or whether they have a bank account. Therefore, they serve as a great tool for helping teenagers and students keep track of their finances and learn to manage their budget without the risk of getting into debt.  

Because they are not linked to a bank account, customers who own prepaid cards don’t have to worry about interests, finance charges, or late payments. On the downside, the big catch with prepaid cards are the fees, which can include monthly fees, ATM withdrawal fees, transaction fees, balance inquiry fees, and the list goes on. Nevertheless, there are several good options for low-fee, high-feature prepaid cards. Another drawback is the lack of a common language for the wide variety of terms that describe basic fees and features, which could make it difficult for customers to compare prices and brands. For this reason, all features and fees should be taken into account and the customer should be sure to read the small print carefully before committing to a specific prepaid card.  

Top 7 Companies

  • Free ATM withdrawals at over 24,000 locations
  • No minimum balance
  • Free online bill payments 
  • Deposit checks with the Serve app
  • Fraud and purchase protection
  • American Express member benefits
  • 24/7 customer service from American Express
  • Zero liability protection
  • Easy to use Load Money system
  • Mobile app and online banking
  • No overdraft fees
  • Co-account holder
  • No activation or reload fee
  • Roadside-assistance and 1% cash back on gas purchases
  • Deposits are FDIC-insured
  • Mobile banking services
  • Linked savings account
  • Secondary cardholder allowed
  • Direct deposit is free
  • No activation fee
  • FDIC insured 6.00% APY savings account
  • Add money for free using your PayPal or bank account
  • Manage your account with the user-friendly app
  • Welcomed wherever Visa debit cards are accepted 
  • 2 days faster with direct deposit 
  • Anytime alerts and mobile app
  • No-fee cash withdrawals at ACE banks
  • 5.00% Annual percentage yield savings account
  • Payback rewards and money management tools
  • Visa's  zero liability protection
  • No overdraft fees
  • No purchase transaction fees
  • Deposit checks right from your smartphone with Photo Check
  • Cash checks with the Walmart check cashing service for an additional fee
  • Get Federal Benefits up to 2 days earlier with direct deposit
  • Use your card wherever Visa cards are accepted
  • Free direct deposit
  • Set up automatic bill payment
  • Get free mobile account alerts for transactions and balances
  • Enjoy the Visa Zero Liability policy

How We Compare Prepaid Cards

Card Characteristics


Although issued in many cases by the same companies that issue credit cards, prepaid cards have some limitations that credit card users won’t have, particularly regarding fees and cash transactions limits imposed by issuers. Limits such as maximum account balance, cash reloading, transfer and withdrawal limits should be taken into account when choosing a prepaid card. Fees are undeniably the weakest aspect of prepaid cards, so researching the type of fees charged is fundamental when making your choice. Fees charged include but are not limited to a card purchase and activation fee, out of network ATM use fee, account balance inquiry fee, and cash reload fee. Remember to read the Cardholder Agreement or any other document that details the fees the consumer is responsible for before selecting a card.

Fees & Penalties

Fees and penalties vary by card issuer and should be considered before choosing a card. Carefully read the Cardholder Agreement or similar documentation.

Maximum Balance

The Maximum Balance allowed depends on the card's limit, but it's based on the card's value. Generally, cards are valued between $1,000 to $15,000.

Daily Direct Deposit Limit

The Direct Deposit Limit is also based on the card value and varies by prepaid card.

Smart Chip

The Smart Chip is an added safety feature to minimize the possibility of fraud. It's a new global standard for cards, called EMV, developed by American Express, Discover, and other multinational financial institutions.

Additional Services


With the recent boost in prepaid card popularity, issuers are adding services in order to make these cards more attractive to customers. One such service offered by several prepaid cards is complimentary access to a savings account. By signing up for automatic transfers to a savings account, users can take advantage of the service, which makes saving easy and convenient. On some of these accounts, consumers can earn up to 6.00% APY on their savings, based on the account balance. Other cards have Rewards programs that offer cash back on purchases or let customers earn points to use at a partner retailer. Other accounts offer additional cards or subaccounts that will help keep customers keep track of family spending.


From text alerts for transactions to savings accounts and the ability to pay bills using your account, issuers are making prepaid cards more attractive for customers.


A few prepaid cards offer cash back on purchases or exclusive rewards with participating retailers.

Customer Experience


With all the prepaid cards currently available in the market, looking into the rewards and features of each card before choosing one should be right on top of the list. The prepaid card industry has made many changes regarding customer experience, from reducing excessive fees to offering basic protection for accounts. Many issuers now offer FDIC insurance, limit customer liability for unauthorized transactions, and can replace stolen funds if the card is registered. Moreover, customer service representatives can help customers by phone, chat or email, and a considerable number of these companies offer 24/7 customer support. The use of website tools to manage accounts as well as having an application provides customers with the added mobility needed today, letting users manage their accounts on the go.

Help & Support

From FAQs to 24/7 customer representative availability, many prepaid card issuers offer ways in which to help their customers manage their money and resolve issues that arise.

CFPB Total Complaints

The CFPB establishes and enforces rules that protect consumers against predatory practices.

BBB Rating

The Better Business Bureau helps customers by proving information about companies and organizations to help consumers make educated choices about the products or services they need.

Trust Pilot Rating

Trustpilot is an online platform that helps consumers make educated decisions using the thousands of reviews published monthly.

Customer Questions & Answers

What is a prepaid card?

A prepaid card is essentially a debit card issued by a company and branded by a major credit card company (such as American Express, Visa, or MasterCard). Money is deposited into the card account, much in the same way as a gift card. The card can then be used just like a credit card, anywhere the specific credit card company (Amex, Visa, etc), is accepted.

What is the difference between a prepaid card and a gift card?

Prepaid cards and gift cards work in much the same way, by allowing people to deposit cash and then access it through the card. However, there are some key differences. Prepaid cards function more like debit cards, which can be reloaded with cash as the user sees fit, whereas gift cards are generally for more limited, one-time use. There is also a difference in the amount of fees, as prepaid cards generally have a considerable amount, whereas gift cards don't.

Do I need to have good credit for a prepaid card?

Prepaid cards usually don't require a credit check, and are available even if the user has had a bad banking history and can't get a banking account.

Where can I use my prepaid card?

Prepaid cards can be used for purchases and transactions in exactly the same way as a credit card. They can be used anywhere that accepts the credit card network associated with the card (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, etc).

Can a prepaid card help me build my credit history?

Prepaid cards will not help users build their credit history, since they are not tracked by any of the credit bureaus.

Are prepaid cards good for traveling?

Prepaid cards can be an excellent alternative to traveler's checks, and much more convenient. Instead of carrying around a bulky checkbook, prepaid cards allow users to simply load money onto the card, and use as necessary, in any location around the world which accepts the associated credit card company. In other words, any store or restaurant that takes Visa cards will accept payment with a prepaid card with the Visa logo on it.

Are there any federal protections for prepaid card users?

Users of prepaid cards have a number of federal consumer protections available to them, most notably to limit consumer's losses when funds are stolen or cards are lost. The regulations also require that prepaid card issuers provide clear, upfront information regarding fees and other details, as well as free and easy access to account information. Finally, the issuers must also offer protection similar to those for credit cards, if consumers are allowed to use credit from their accounts to pay for transactions they may lack the funds to cover.

Best Overall
  • Free ATM withdrawals at over 24,000 locations
  • No minimum balance
  • Free online bill payments 
  • Deposit checks with the Serve app
  • Fraud and purchase protection
  • American Express member benefits
  • 24/7 customer service from American Express