2016's Best Prepaid & Debit Cards

Below are our staff picks for the year's best prepaid and debit cards. Unlike traditional credit cards, these cards require that cardholders load funds onto the card before using:

Average APR
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Average Annual Fee
$73.60
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since last month

Review Summary

Prepaid debit credit cards, especially those with no monthly fees and direct deposit, represent a popular way for consumers to enjoy the convenience of a credit card without the debt and interest payments. Below is a summary of the best reloadable debit cards on the market. Simply click the card name to visit its official application.

Here are the best prepaid cards of 2016:

Best Prepaid Debit Cards
Rank Card Name Feature Credit Needed Expert Rating
1 AccountNow® Prepaid Visa® Card $0 Monthly Fee No Credit Check ★★★★★ 4.8
2 Pink NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card Earn cash back No Credit Check ★★★★★ 4.6
3 READYdebit® Visa Prepaid Card Prepaid No Credit Check ★★★★ 4.3
4 READYdebit® Visa Latte Control Prepaid Card $0 Monthly Fee See site for details ★★★★ 4.2
5 READYdebit® Visa Mint Control Prepaid Card $0 Monthly Fee See site for details ★★★★ 4.1
6 AccountNow® Prepaid MasterCard® Instant account number No Credit Check ★★★★ 4.0
7 NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card Earn cash back No Credit Check ★★★★ 3.8
8 AccountNow® Gold Visa® Prepaid Card Prepaid No Credit Check ★★★★ 3.6

More About: Prepaid Credit Cards

How a Prepaid Credit Card Works

Mike Randall
Finance Expert
How a Prepaid Credit Card Works
CardRates.com Guide: Prepaid Cards

If you’re one of the millions of Americans unable to qualify for a conventional credit card, a prepaid credit card may make sense for you. Prepaid credit cards are also called reloadable credit cards because you can add money to the account the card draws from any time you’d like. In that regard, they are somewhat like a debit card.

From the perspective of using the card, a prepaid credit card does work almost the same as a traditional credit card. Any merchant or service provider that accepts a credit card will likely accept this form of payment also. But the fact is these cards actually have more in common with debit cards than with credit cards.

1.
Make a deposit account

A prepaid credit card requires a deposit account from which the card will draw money. In this way, they are similar to a secured credit card. A big difference, however, is the usage activity does not get reported to credit rating agencies, and therefore will not help build your credit score.

Payments aren’t required for these prepaid cards — rather, you replenish funds through voluntarily “funding” the account. You can do this via a bank account transfer, PayPal account, direct deposit or even cash at many retail stores.

2.
Helps keep finances in order

For people without a checking account, prepaid credit cards can work as a way to manage their finances. It’s simply not practical and not very safe to deal exclusively in cash transactions. By keeping their cash in a prepaid credit card account, they have access to it any time they want via ATM machines. They can also pay bills and engage in other activities that require a credit card.

3.
Keep an eye on fees

One of the big deterrents to using prepaid credit cards is the number of fees associated with some of them. Watch out for cards that charge excessive fees, such as ATM transaction fees, bill payment fees, reloading fees, inactivity fees, statement fees and more. Depending on the card you choose, this can turn into a very expensive alternative to banking.

On the other hand, there are prepaid credit cards that don’t charge as many fees and have a large network of free ATMs. Do your research and select a card that will fit your usage habits without charging you too much.


Pick the right card and you’ll have a great way to build good spending habits and decide whether you want to try a more traditional form of credit.

Photo source: frankdeardurff.com

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Mike Randall

* Advertiser Disclosure: The credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which CardRates.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. See the credit card issuer's website for specific terms and conditions of each card.