The year 2017 is well underway, and for many people that means tackling every resolution from saving money to shedding unwanted pounds. While we’re not really equipped to help anyone with the latter, we can definitely point you in the right direction if you’re looking for a prepaid debit card to use as a financial tool.
We’ve carefully examined dozens of different cards, taking into account factors like fees, features, and benefits to determine which will give you the best bang for your buck. Whether you’re looking to replace your checking account with a prepaid card, save money for a special purchase, or use a prepaid debit card as a budgeting tool, we’ve nailed down some of the absolute best cards to help you get it done.
- Kaiku Visa Prepaid
This is one of the rare prepaid cards that’s both funky and light on fees. You’re able to choose from a variety of eye-catching card designs while saving money and taking advantages of the Kaiku’s wide range of features. Kaiku allows for online bill pay, PayPal and bank account transfers, and much more – all with no purchase, activation, or inactivity fees. Best of all, if you load $750 a month or more, you will avoid the already small $3 monthly fee.
2. Bluebird by AmEx
Pound for pound, Bluebird is one of the best prepaid cards on the market and has been for some time. Along with low fees, this card gives users access to several features that are perfect for managing money. If you’re looking for a card to use as a budgeting tool, then look no further. The Bluebird lets you see your spending habits in full detail using colored pie charts, and you can set up alerts to notify you when the balance has dropped below a set threshold. If you’re looking to save for a rainy day, the Bluebird offers a SetAside Account that lets you divert funds to a place where it’s more difficult to access for purchases.
3. Mango Prepaid
The Mango Prepaid Visa stands apart for one big reason: savings. This card allows users to open a savings account in conjunction with the debit card. That’s a savings account that bears interest – up to a whopping 6% annually – without a traditional bank account. It’s a pretty unique proposition, and that’s why this card makes our list. A noteworthy downside is that Mango doesn’t belong to an ATM network, so there’s no avoiding the $2 ATM withdrawal fee.
4. American Express Serve
This card is among the best of the best thanks to the extraordinarily low cost of ownership. How does $1 a month sound for a maintenance fee? Pretty low, and if you use direct deposit or load $500 in cash onto the card each month, the fee is waived entirely. Cash loading is free at CVS and 7-Eleven locations, and users are able to setup sub-accounts with spending limits (a great option for families.)
5. Chase Liquid
This prepaid card is only available at Chase branch locations, making it harder to get for people who aren’t located in Chase’s retail operating area. If you can get one, the Liquid gives access to an ATM network that’s over 16,000 strong – and many of those ATMs provide for free and easy check or cash depositing. This makes the Liquid one of the easiest cards to reload…and one of the cheapest. The $4.95 monthly fee is already fairly low, but it can be waived entirely if you have a Chase checking account.
Top Prepaid Debit Cards with Rewards
As time rolls on, more and more prepaid cards are starting to look like traditional bank cards. Prepaid debit card issuers have begun offering online dashboards, automatic bill payment, and even interest-bearing savings accounts. Naturally, they’ve also embraced the idea of rewards – perks like cash back on purchases — that were once the exclusive domain of high-end credit cards.
Let’s take a look at some of the top rewards prepaid cards available in 2017:
1. American Express Serve
The Amex Serve prepaid card is one of our top picks in general, but the ability to earn 1% cash back on all purchases makes it even better. Whether shopping online or in store, the cash back accrues in real time as you make your purchases, and you can redeem at any time through the online dashboard. It’s simple, quick, and effective…which is what we like. The only downside is the reload fee, which ranges Up to $3.95 depending on which retailer you use.
2. Kroger Visa Prepaid Card
The Kroger prepaid card is geared towards folks who shop at their grocery stores, as the rewards earning potential centers around the ability to rack up free groceries. The 1-2-3 Rewards program allows consumers to quickly accumulate points, so it’s pretty useful for those who frequent Kroger. Points can be earned through all purchases (including outside of the store), with bonus points awarded for Kroger purchases and Kroger in-house branded items. As an added perk, customers who pay for gas with the Kroger prepaid Visa save an extra 5 cents per gallon at Kroger Fuel Centers.
3. Walmart MoneyCard
The Walmart MoneyCard won’t have you rolling in cash back earnings – the cap is $75 per year – but it’s still worth looking at for its other good qualities. Walmart prepaid cards are provided by GreenDot, an issuer that consistently earns top rankings among prepaid cards. While it might not be dropping jaws purely on its rewards potential, the GreenDot Walmart cards are easy to get, easy to refill, and rich with features.
4. NetSpend Prepaid Visa
NetSpend has an optional rewards program that’s a bit hit-or-miss. Because the program only allows users to earn cash back on select offers, the limitations can be fairly restrictive. What makes things more complicated is that the offers that users are sent are determined based on their shopping habits. We’ve seen cases where offers had absolutely no relevance to the user, and some where the offers were spot-on and quite useful. That being said, we don’t rank this program as high simply because it’s too much of a gamble.
5. Chime Card
While this isn’t marketed as a proper prepaid debit card, it is issued by Bancorp Bank, the same entity that issues NetSpend and several other prepaid cards. The Chime card is meant to be a simple banking solution, and their “deposit account” includes access to a savings account, checking, and bill payment solutions akin to a traditional bank account. There are ways to earn cash back rewards on some payments, but one of the more unique perks comes with using their savings account. When using the optional Automated Savings system, purchases on the debit card are rounded up and the difference is transferred to savings.
Every week, Chime pays a 10% bonus on those round-ups, making it even easier and faster to save up. For people who are looking to save money, this is superior to cash back bonuses because it’s less likely to be spent.