Top Picks: Best Prepaid Cards
By Beverly Harzog
Credit Card Expert
It's almost impossible these days to get by without a credit card, especially if you ever need to make hotel or airline reservations. Prepaid cards are one way for people with poor credit-or even no credit-to make these purchases without having an actual credit card.
These cards are also a good solution for someone who doesn't have a bank account or for a parent who wants to limit their child's spending - and their own credit liability. There are no credit checks, so almost anyone can get a prepaid card.
Prepaid cards are not credit cards. They're kind of like gift cards in that purchases are deducted from the money loaded onto the cards. Many cards limit what you spend to the amount you've loaded or "prepaid" on the cards, which helps you avoid debt and finance charges. If you use a card that doesn't limit you to the prepaid amount, be aware that you might be charged overdraft fees.
In fact, when you're choosing a prepaid card, look closely at the fee structure. Fees on prepaid cards can be extensive and costly, which is why you absolutely must read the fine print when applying for a prepaid card-or for any card, really.
The UPSide Visa lets you load money on the card via direct deposit or at more than 50,000 retail locations. The card charges a $0.99 monthly service fee if you load $500 or more. For deposits under $500, you'll pay $2.99 each month. In addition, the card charges $1.70 to use ATMs and $0.99 for ATM balance inquiries.The good news: The card has no sign-up fees.
The bad news: Though lower than most, the fees are still high.
This is a solid prepaid card because the fees are relatively low. There is no activation fee, and no fee for direct deposits from your employer. And unlike other prepaid cards, there is no charge for customer service calls. The Mango card allows you to send money to your card through a text message from your cell phone using its YAP system for $0.50. In addition, you can load cash onto the card at retailers using the GreenDot MoneyPak service for $4.95 fee.The good news: The card offers a $20 signup bonus, and you can load money from your bank account onto the card for free.
The bad news: You will be charged $2 for ATM withdrawals, however this is standard with most prepaid cards.
This card has a $3 monthly maintenance fee, which is lower than most prepaid cards. There are six ways to reload your card, including free direct deposit and bank transfers. You can avoid issuance fees if you apply for this card online. There are no credit checks and you don't need a bank account to use this card.The good news: When you enroll in the program, this card offers 1 percent cash back on gas purchases nationwide. For a limited time, you get a $10 bonus when you enroll in recurring direct deposit (the deposit has to be more than $250.)
The bad news: Like all prepaid cards, there are fees. These range from ATM balance inquiries to fees for teller cash transactions.
Card Comparison Chart