The best prepaid debit cards 2021 | ZDNet

Managing money is not easy when you share access with your children. A prepaid debit card can be a great way to allow your children access to a limited amount of funds while also tracking spending. There are other benefits, too. A prepaid debit card can also be a fantastic way to keep an emergency stash of cash or help out family members with expenses.   

However, expensive fees and card limitations can quickly make your prepaid debit card an expensive venture. Our team analyzes the industry’s leading options to find the best prepaid debit cards considering things like coverage options, fees, and availability. Based on these factors and more, these are the best prepaid debit cards in 2021.


Best for cash rewards

Serve

At a glance

The American Express Serve Cash Back Card is an FDIC-backed card with amounts up to $100,000 for your use. It also collaborates with over 30,000 MoneyPass® ATM locations nationwide, offering easy access to your money.

The reward structure is the card’s best feature, offering unlimited 1% Cash Back on in-store and online purchases. However, it is important to note that ATM transactions do not earn cashback rewards. After your purchases, you do not have to wait for your rewards, with rewards available immediately after the transaction settles. Your rewards will never expire, so you can take your time using them. With the Spend Prepaid Debit Card, you also receive emergency assistance and roadside support if you encounter trouble on your travels. While you are still responsible for the costs of any services, American Express will offer coordination and assistance to get you back on the road that much faster.

The American Express Serve Cash Back card offers similar protections to a traditional debit card, with the ability to freeze your card and no financial responsibility for fraudulent charges. Purchase protection protects eligible purchases from accidental damage and theft up to 120 days from the date of purchase. You can also receive your money up to two days faster when you use direct deposit for your paychecks, giving you even greater freedom with your spending.


Pros:

  • Unlimited 1% Cash Back rewards

  • No monthly fees with $500+ in direct deposits

  • No card fee with online applications

Cons:


Fee schedule

For the American Express Serve Cash Back, there is a $7.95 monthly fee, although cardholders in Texas, New York, and Vermont are exempt.

These are some of the other highlights from the Serve Cash Back fee schedule

Important fees:

Type of fee

Cost to cardholder

Card price

Up to $3.95

$0 with online sign-up

Monthly fee

$7.95

Cash reload

$3.95

ATM Withdrawal

$0 in-network

$2.50 out-of-network

Direct deposit fee

$0

Foreign transaction fee

2.7%


Best for cash users

american-express-serve-free-reloads.png
Serve

At a glance

The American Express Serve Free Reloads Card is similar to its sister card, the Serve Cash Back. Instead of cash rewards, the Serve allows for free reloads when you prefer cash to reload your prepaid card. The Serve Free Reloads is FDIC-protected and comes with a maximum balance of up to $10,000. There is no credit check to apply, making the process even easier.

There are no fees when you need to reload. You have the option to load money onto your card using 45,000 retail locations with an easy barcode reload, or you can simply transfer money from your bank account using the Serve Mobile App. You can add anywhere from $20 to $500 at a time. No minimum balance is required.

Similar to the American Express Serve Cash Back Card, the Serve Free Reloads Card carries Fraud Protection with Purchase Protection lasting up to 120 days. There is also emergency and roadside assistance for travel support.


Pros:

Cons:

  • No rewards

  • Monthly card fee

  • Limited AMEX retailers


Fee schedule

The fees for the American Express Serve Free Reloads are similar to the American Express Serve Cash Back.

These are some of the fees available from the Serve Free Reloads fee schedule

Important fees:

Type of fee

Cost to cardholder

Card price

Up to $3.95

$0 with online sign-up

Monthly fee

$6.95

Cash reload

$0 in-network

$3.95 out-of-network

ATM Withdrawal

$0 in-network

$2.50 out-of-network

Direct deposit fee

$0

Foreign transaction fee

2.7%


Best overall

bluebird-by-american-express.png
Bluebird

At a glance

Bluebird by American Express is a prepaid debit card that bypasses the monthly fees and offers free cards when you sign up online. 

Adding or accessing cash is easy with up to 30,000 MoneyPass ATMs. You can load up to $500 with your initial purchase, and then there is a maximum of $100,000 per Bluebird card. Plus, you also have the convenience of adding money at Walmart, when you are checking out your regular groceries, or at the Money Center. 

When you cash your check at Walmart, you can enjoy instant access to your cash when you deposit funds to your Bluebird account. You can even get paid up to two days faster when you use direct deposit, and there are no foreign transaction fees if you frequently travel.


Pros:

  • No monthly fees

  • Free withdrawals at 30,000+ ATMs

  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons:


Fee schedule

Bluebird is competitive when it comes to fees, offering an impressive fee schedule that is devoid of the usual fees. There is no monthly fee, no direct deposit fee, and no foreign transaction fee. 

Important Fees

Type of fee

Cost to cardholder

Card price

$5

$0 online

Monthly fee

$0

Cash reload

$0 at Walmart

$3.95 other retailers

ATM Withdrawal

$0 in-network

$2.50 out-of-network

Direct deposit fee

$0

Foreign transaction fee

$0


Best alternative prepaid debit card

chime.png
Chime

At a glance

Chime is a bit different from the others on our list because it is a free-spending account instead of a prepaid debit card. When you use your card, purchases are rounded up, and the round-up is deposited into your savings account. It helps you build a nest egg over time, just from your everyday spending. If you need to access your cash, over 60,000 fee-free ATMs are found at popular stores like Target, CVS, 7-11, and Walgreens.

There are no monthly or account maintenance fees, with free card replacement if yours is lost or stolen. For those who qualify, there is also a fee-free overdraft with Chime’s SpotMe program. Plus, debit cards come with industry-standard EMV chip technology that adds an extra layer of security to your debit card. With early direct deposit, you can access funds up to two days earlier than usual, plus there are added integrations for Apple Pay and Google Pay. No credit check is needed to apply, and the process takes under two minutes for easy sign-up.


Pros:

  • No monthly fees

  • Savings bonuses

  • Mobile pay-compatible

Cons:

  • Fees for some cash deposits

  • $200 online transfer limit

  • Mobile deposit restricted to direct deposit only


Fee schedule

When it comes to fees, Chime offers savings in several key areas, offering free cards to account holders and skipping the typical monthly account fee. You can easily reload cash at participating retailers for free, and there is also no charge for direct deposits. If you are a world traveler, there are no foreign transaction fees, either.

Important fees:

Type of fee

Cost to cardholder

Card price

$0

Monthly fee

$0

Cash reload

$0 with participating retailers

Up to $5 otherwise

ATM Withdrawal

$0 in-network

$2.50 out-of-network

Direct deposit fee

$0

Foreign transaction fee

$0


Best for families

famzoo-prepaid-card.png
FamZoo

At a glance

FamZoo takes a different approach to the traditional debit card instead of using its accounts as an opportunity for family-friendly spending. More specifically, the FamZoo Prepaid Card is designed to teach kids responsible spending by providing a well-rounded financial education. Built-in parental controls like the Virtual Family Bank still benefit parents and allow the sharing of funds while offering growing children the opportunity to learn financial freedom. 

Parents hold the primary funding card while allowing children to benefit from an automated funding source. There is also the option to allow for incentives based on financial milestones that parents can customize to their children. 

Recommended for preschool through college, FamZoo is an approachable and education-first solution to family spending. It is a largely affordable option, too, with a free trial and no credit check required. You can add cash for free and send free transfers. 


Pros: 

Cons:

  • Monthly cost

  • Low maximum balance

  • $2,500 daily limit


Fee schedule

FamZoo offers two membership options with the FamZoo card. Account holders can choose from either monthly or subscription-based plans for extra savings.

FamZoo subscription plans:

Length

Cost

Monthly

$5.99

6 months

$25.99

1 year

$39.99

2 years

$59.99

Some additional fees may apply, based on FamZoo’s fee schedule

Important fees:

Type of fee

Cost to cardholder

Card price

$0

Monthly fee

Starting at $5.99 per family

Cash reload

$4.95

ATM Withdrawal

$0

Direct deposit fee

$0

Foreign transaction fee

$0


Best for no limits

movor-digital-prepaid-visar-card.png
Movo

At a glance

Movo is the solution to today’s digital world, offering a way to spend without ever needing human interaction. It combines on-demand mobile banking with contactless payments. It bypasses the need for a physical debit card. Regardless, your account carries a digital debit Mastercard that you can use anywhere to make secure payments. You can also use your Movo CASH card for end-to-end contactless payments.  

Movo depends on modern technology to offer a digital alternative to the traditional debit card. The entire service is automated from sign-up to depositing, so there is no need for human interference. Instead, efficiency is the priority while also enforcing additional safety protocols to prevent fraud and keep your finances safe. Movo is also compatible with Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash transfers with free individual transfers.


Pros:

  • No physical card needed

  • No monthly fee

  • Transfer Bitcoin

Cons:


Fee schedule

Movo does charge an upfront cost of about $3 for your new card, but there are no monthly fees, and it is free to reload your card as needed. There also is not a direct deposit fee, although ATM withdrawal and foreign transaction fees apply.

Important fees:

Type of fee

Cost to cardholder

Card price

$2.95

Monthly fee

$0

Cash reload

$0

ATM Withdrawal

$2

Direct deposit fee

$0

Foreign transaction fee

3%


Best for limited fees

starbucks-rewards-prepaid-v3.jpg
Chase

At a glance

The Starbucks Rewards Visa Prepaid Card is a Chase product that allows flexible spending power. You can use it anywhere Visa is accepted, with the exception of rentals like cars, furniture, and equipment. As you make purchases, you receive rewards that can be redeemed at Starbucks for food and beverage purchases. With every purchase, you receive one star for every $10 spent on eligible items. Stars never expire, either, so you can take your time redeeming them. Stars are in addition to the standard two stars per $1 purchase bonus that you get when you use your Starbucks Card.

There are no monthly or annual account fees, and it is free to reload cash onto your card. Rewards are transferred to your account within 14 days after the end of each billing cycle, so there is a bit of a wait to receive and use your rewards. You then can redeem your rewards at any participating Starbucks store in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Canada. When you redeem your stars, Starbucks offers the following rewards schedule. Certain item restrictions reply.

Starbucks Rewards redemption:

Number of stars

Available rewards

25 Stars 

One beverage modifier (an added espresso shot, added syrup, sauce, or dairy alternative), up to $1

50 Stars

One hot brewed coffee, hot steeped tea, or bakery item

150 Stars

One handcrafted beverage, hot breakfast item, or packaged snack item 

200 Stars

One packaged salad, lunch sandwich, or packaged protein box

400 Stars

Packaged coffee item or select merchandise item, up to $20 pre-tax

You can sign up for free text notifications when your balance gets low, and all you have to do is text back to use Easy Reload. There is also Zero Liability Protection, so you are not responsible for fraudulent charges, and your card comes with chip-card technology for extra security and peace of mind. The card is also FDIC-insured.


Pros:

Cons:


Fee schedule

The fee schedule for the Starbucks Rewards Visa Prepaid Card is missing many of the typical fees seen with other providers. There is no cost for a card, nor any monthly or reload fees. However, a 3% foreign transaction fee will apply when you use your card abroad.

Important fees:

Type of fee

Cost to cardholder

Card price

$0

Monthly fee

$0

Cash reload

N/A

ATM Withdrawal

N/A

Direct deposit fee

N/A

Foreign transaction fee

3%


Best for Walmart shoppers

walmart-moneycard-visa-with-cashback-rewards.png
Walmart

At a glance

If you regularly shop at Walmart, the Walmart MoneyCard Visa With Cashback Rewards can be an easy way to earn rewards on your regular everyday purchases. 

Rewards vary based on where you make your purchases.

Walmart MoneyCard Visa With Cashback Rewards:

Purchase

Cashback Rewards

Walmart.com

3%

Walmart gas stations

2%

Walmart stores

1%

For all other purchases, there is up to $200 overdraft protection when you opt-in. There is the added option of direct deposit, which can be available in your account up to two days earlier.

There is a monthly fee for the Walmart MoneyCard Visa With Cashback Rewards, but it is waived when you use direct deposit for $500 or more. Each account comes with up to five cards total, with cards available for eligible family members ages 13 and up. Similar to FamZoo, it is an opportunity to teach the younger members of the family responsible financial habits.  Parents can add money as needed and view their children’s spending. Plus, if you use your savings account, you are eligible for a 2% APY up to $1,000 on your balance. 


Pros: 

  • Available in Visa or Mastercard

  • Free cards for family members

  • Free reloads and withdrawals at Walmart

Cons:

  • Rewards capped at $75 per year

  • Fee for ATM and teller withdrawals

  • Minimum required to waive the monthly fee


Fee schedule

There are no monthly fees for the Walmart MoneyCard Visa With Cashback Rewards when you use direct deposit for $500 or more each month. If not, the fee is $5.94.

Other fees also apply. 

Important fees:

Type of fee

Cost to cardholder

Card price

$1

Monthly fee

$5.94 or $0 with $500+ monthly direct deposits 

Cash reload

$0 online

 $3 at Walmart register

$5.95 other locations

ATM Withdrawal

$2.50

Direct deposit fee

$0

Foreign transaction fee

3%

How did we choose these products?

Many options are available today for a prepaid debit card, but not all may offer the best bang for your buck. 

To find the best prepaid debit cards for 2021, we consider several different factors.

  • Maximum balance: This is the first step in making sure a card is right for you. Prepaid debit cards can come in various amounts, ranging from $300 to over $100,000.

  • Reload options: When you need to add cash to your card, accessibility is important. Some cards allow online transfers, while others partner with popular retailers like CVS and Walmart to offer extra convenience.  

  • Fees: Prepaid debit card issuers typically charge fees for a variety of purposes, including monthly, foreign transaction, and cash reload fees.

  • Rewards: Some cards offer additional rewards, such as cash back or specialty items, while others do not have a rewards program at all.

  • Peace of mind features: Other critical points of consideration include account security features and purchase protections, such as fraud protection.

Before you choose the best prepaid debit card, consider which features are most important to you.  

Which is the right one for you?

The best prepaid debit cards FAQ

What is a prepaid debit card?

A prepaid debit card is similar to a traditional debit card, except that it is preloaded with a specific amount of money. When the balance is low or runs out, you simply reload your card.

What is the difference between prepaid debit cards vs. regular debit cards?

A prepaid debit card is different from a regular debit card because it is much easier to obtain — even if you have bad credit or poor banking history. There is no credit check required, although there are additional fees that you may incur for different reasons.

Is a prepaid debit card right for me?

A prepaid debit card could be a great fit for you if you do not have a bank account. Three are fantastic tools available for parents who want a family-friendly way to manage household finances, and it can also be a great choice when you simply want to keep emergency cash-on-hand. 

Are there alternatives worth considering?

Several other prepaid debit cards are available on the market today. These are some of the other options that we considered that nearly made our 2021 best prepaid debit card list.

If you think a different type of card may be a better fit for you, consider one of our top picks for the best secured credit cards or the best cashback credit cards in 2021. 



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