17 Best Prepaid Debit Cards with No Fees for 2018

17 Best Prepaid Debit Cards with No Fees for 2018

credit card advice

Brittney Mayer
By: Brittney Mayer
Updated: November 13, 2018
Opinions expressed here are ours alone, and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by any issuer. Site may be compensated through the issuer affiliate programs.

Paying fees stinks. Like, dirty gym socks wrapped around an old egg salad sandwich stinks.

Unfortunately, fees are also a fact of life — especially when you’re dealing with money. Yes, these days it can seem like you pay fees on your money no matter whether you’re trying to earn it (taxes), store it (bank accounts), or spend it (credit and debit cards).

For some folks, prepaid debit cards can be a no-fuss way to cash paychecks and make a few purchases without needing to deal with bank accounts or credit cards. But even prepaid cards can come with an abundance of stinky fees. So, we’ve narrowed down some of the most fee-free of the bunch to help you find the right prepaid card.

Don’t let the short list fool you, though. These aren’t the only prepaid debit cards on the market that can help you avoid the stink of fees. With the right pick, you can find ways to skip everything from monthly fees to foreign transaction fees.

No Monthly Fees | No PIN Fees
No Signature Fees | No Reload Fees
No ATM Fees | No Foreign Transaction Fees

Best Prepaid Debit Cards with No Monthly Fees

While plenty of consumers are shopaholics, swiping their cards left and right all the live-long day, not everyone needs their debit cards to offer unlimited purchasing power. No, some folks just want a simple, convenient way to enjoy direct deposit and pay their bills.

That’s where these cards can be worthwhile. Instead of charging a monthly fee — whether you use your card that month or not — these card options offer pay-as-you-go functionality that means you pay only for the transactions you make.

Pink Netspend® Visa® Prepaid Card Review

at Netspend'ssecure website

  • With Netspend Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster than a paper check
  • No late fees or interest charges because this is not a credit card.
  • Use the Netspend Mobile App to manage your account on the go and get text message or email alerts (Message & data rates may apply).
  • Get your tax refund direct deposited to your account and no more waiting in line to cash your check!
  • Card issued by MetaBank®, Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Visa Debit cards are accepted. "Apply Now" for full details.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
Variable Monthly Fee
No Credit Check

This card offers two plan types: monthly and pay-as-you-go. Under the pay-as-you-go plan, you’ll pay just $1.00 for each signature transaction and $2.00 for each PIN transaction. The card charges no fees for direct deposits.

Brink

at Netspend'ssecure website

PREPAID RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

3.7/5.0
  • Brink's gives you the peace of mind you deserve. Securing cash and valuables since 1859.
  • With Brink's Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster* than a paper check.
  • No late fees or interest charges because this is not a credit card.
  • Use the Brink's Money Prepaid Mobile App to manage your account on the go and get text message or email alerts (Message & data rates may apply.)
  • Get your tax refund direct deposited to your Card Account and no more waiting in line to cash your check!
  • *Card issued by BofI Federal Bank, Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Mastercard Debit cards are accepted. "Apply Now" for full details.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
Variable Monthly Fees
No Credit Check

Unless you let your account go inactive, you won’t see a monthly fee with this card when you choose the pay-as-you-go-plan. A flat $1.00 fee is charged for each signature transaction, though you’ll pay $2.00 per PIN transaction.

3. Bluebird® by American Express

The Bluebird® by American Express is about as low-fee as you get, charging no monthly fee, no transaction fees, and no direct deposit fees.

Bluebird® by American Express

  • Add funds for free through direct deposit, mobile check capture, debit card transfer, or at Walmart
  • Pay $0 activation fee & $0 card fee when you buy online
  • Pay $0 Monthly Fee

Reloading is also free through direct deposit, mobile check capture, or by using cash or a debit card at Walmart. Plus, cardholders enjoy fee-free ATM access at thousands of MoneyPass® ATMs around the country.

Best Prepaid Debit Cards with No PIN Transaction Fees

In most of the world, signature-based payment verification has fallen by the wayside, replaced almost entirely by PIN-based verification. While the US has yet to adopt PIN-based verification for credit card transactions, debit card purchases have long required the more secure authentication method.

Many prepaid cards distinguish between PIN and signature transactions, and they will often charge more for PIN-based transactions in per-transaction payment plans. Choose a prepaid card with a monthly plan to avoid paying fees for each PIN transaction.

Brink

at Netspend'ssecure website

PREPAID RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

3.7/5.0
  • Brink's gives you the peace of mind you deserve. Securing cash and valuables since 1859.
  • With Brink's Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster* than a paper check.
  • No late fees or interest charges because this is not a credit card.
  • Use the Brink's Money Prepaid Mobile App to manage your account on the go and get text message or email alerts (Message & data rates may apply.)
  • Get your tax refund direct deposited to your Card Account and no more waiting in line to cash your check!
  • *Card issued by BofI Federal Bank, Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Mastercard Debit cards are accepted. "Apply Now" for full details.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
Variable Monthly Fees
No Credit Check

Depending on how many transactions you make each month, this card’s monthly plan may be valuable, as it has no fees for PIN or signature transactions. If you choose the pay-per-transaction plan, you’ll be charged $2.00 per PIN transaction.

Netspend® Visa® Prepaid Card Review

at Netspend'ssecure website

PREPAID RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

3.6/5.0
  • With Netspend Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster than a paper check
  • No late fees or interest charges because this is not a credit card.
  • Use the Netspend Mobile App to manage your account on the go and get text message or email alerts (Message & data rates may apply).
  • Get your tax refund direct deposited to your account and no more waiting in line to cash your check!
  • Card issued by MetaBank®, Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Visa Debit cards are accepted. "Apply Now" for full details.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
Up-to $9.95 monthly
No Credit Check

Another card with multiple payments options, this card offers two types of monthly plan, both of which include fee-free PIN transactions, as well as fee-free signature transaction. PIN transactions have a $2.00 per-transaction fee under the pay-as-you-go plan.

6. Chase Liquid® Prepaid Card

The Chase Liquid® Prepaid Card allows users to make fee-free transactions by PIN or by signature, as well as online, though it does charge a small $4.95 monthly fee.

Chase Liquid® Prepaid Card

  • Add funds through direct deposit, cash loads at Chase branch, bank transfer, or check deposits
  • Pay $0 for PIN or signature transactions
  • Pay $4.95 monthly fee

In addition to paying $0 for transactions, cardholders can use Chase ATMs to make fee-free withdrawals, plus enjoy multiple free ways to add funds to their card.

Best Prepaid Debit Cards with No Signature Transaction Fees

In general, in-person digital payment transactions (e.g., credit and debit cards) are verified in one of two ways: with a PIN number, or with a signature. Although the majority of retailers and merchants will happily accept a PIN-authorized transaction, some only allow signature-based authentication.

While this can mean trouble for some prepaid cardholders, the cards below won’t charge you an extra fee for signature-verified transactions, giving you the option to use your card with more merchants.

Pink Netspend® Visa® Prepaid Card Review

at Netspend'ssecure website

PREPAID RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

3.5/5.0
  • With Netspend Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster than a paper check
  • No late fees or interest charges because this is not a credit card.
  • Use the Netspend Mobile App to manage your account on the go and get text message or email alerts (Message & data rates may apply).
  • Get your tax refund direct deposited to your account and no more waiting in line to cash your check!
  • Card issued by MetaBank®, Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Visa Debit cards are accepted. "Apply Now" for full details.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
Variable Monthly Fee
No Credit Check

If you have either of the monthly Netspend plans, you can enjoy fee-free PIN and signature transactions. If you are on the pay-as-you-go plan, signature transactions will carry a lower fee than PIN transactions, charging $1.00 per purchase.

Brink

at Netspend'ssecure website

PREPAID RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

3.7/5.0
  • Brink's gives you the peace of mind you deserve. Securing cash and valuables since 1859.
  • With Brink's Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster* than a paper check.
  • No late fees or interest charges because this is not a credit card.
  • Use the Brink's Money Prepaid Mobile App to manage your account on the go and get text message or email alerts (Message & data rates may apply.)
  • Get your tax refund direct deposited to your Card Account and no more waiting in line to cash your check!
  • *Card issued by BofI Federal Bank, Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Mastercard Debit cards are accepted. "Apply Now" for full details.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
Variable Monthly Fees
No Credit Check

Similar to the Netspend® card, this card has both pay-per-transaction and monthly plans. All PIN and signature transactions are free under the monthly plans, while the pay-per-transaction plan charges $1.00 per signature transaction.

PayPal Prepaid MasterCard® Review

at Netspend'ssecure website

PREPAID RATING

★★★★
4.3

OVERALL RATING

2.5/5.0
  • Move money from your PayPal account in realtime
  • Take advantage of PayPal cash back rewards and earn on qualifying purchases from select merchants. With Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster than a paper check.
  • No Late fees because this is not a credit card.
  • Card issued by The Bancorp Bank, Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Click ‘Apply Now’ for additional features & program details, and to request a card.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
Variable Monthly Fee
No credit check

Although this card has a $4.95 monthly fee, PIN and signature transactions alike are free. Keep in mind that you’ll need to use your PIN (by choosing the “debit” option) if you wish to get cash back with your purchase to avoid ATM fees.

Best Prepaid Debit Cards with No Reload Fees

While prepaid debit cards can be convenient, the fees that many charge can cut into that convenience factor quite a bit. Especially when they charge counterintuitive fees — like reload fees. Really, who charges you money to give them money?

These cards all have multiple options for reloading your prepaid card, sans fees, making it much more affordable to actually use your prepaid debit card.

Netspend® Visa® Prepaid Card Review

at Netspend'ssecure website

PREPAID RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

3.6/5.0
  • With Netspend Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster than a paper check
  • No late fees or interest charges because this is not a credit card.
  • Use the Netspend Mobile App to manage your account on the go and get text message or email alerts (Message & data rates may apply).
  • Get your tax refund direct deposited to your account and no more waiting in line to cash your check!
  • Card issued by MetaBank®, Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Visa Debit cards are accepted. "Apply Now" for full details.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
Up-to $9.95 monthly
No Credit Check

This card offers a couple of options for reloading your card without a fee, including direct deposit and online account-to-account transfers. Additionally, Netspend® charges no cash value load fees at Netspend Reload locations, though some locations may charge third-party fees.

11. Chase Liquid® Prepaid Card

The Chase Liquid® Prepaid Card offers four fee-free ways to reload, including visiting a Chase branch ATM or teller window to deposit cash or a check, as well as through automatic direct deposit or transfer from an eligible checking or savings account.

Chase Liquid® Prepaid Card

  • Add funds through direct deposit, cash loads at Chase branch, bank transfer, or check deposits
  • Pay $0 for PIN or signature transactions
  • Pay $4.95 monthly fee

In addition to free ways to reload your card, the Chase Liquid® offers free transactions, both in-store and online, and free ATM withdrawals at qualifying Chase ATMs. Users do pay a small monthly fee, however.

12. Bluebird® by American Express

The Bluebird® by American Express has multiple ways to reload your card without paying fees, including with cash or a debit card at Walmart stores. You can also add funds for free through direct deposit, online with a debit card, and through mobile check capture.

Bluebird® by American Express

  • Add funds for free through direct deposit, mobile check capture, debit card transfer, or at Walmart
  • Pay $0 activation fee & $0 card fee when you buy online
  • Pay $0 Monthly Fee

Besides having a few ways to reload your card for free, you can also make free transactions, pay bills for free, and enjoy fee-free withdrawals at thousands of MoneyPass® ATMs.

Best Prepaid Debit Cards with No ATM Fees

No matter what other features your prepaid debit card offers, fee-free ATM withdrawals can be the most valuable; after all, what use is direct deposit if you can’t get to your money without paying big fees?

But it’s not enough to simply offer $0 ATM withdrawals if there are no conveniently located ATMs. These cards have extensive ATM networks that allow you to take out funds, for free, at thousands of locations across the country.

13. American Express Serve®

The American Express Serve® makes it easy to withdraw money, offering $0-fee withdrawals at tens of thousands of MoneyPass® ATMs around the country. Non-MoneyPass® withdrawals come with a $2.50 fee, plus any ATM-operator fees.

American Express Serve®

  • Reload for free at over 45,000 locations including CVS/pharmacy®, Dollar General®, Walmart® and more
  • Pay $0 activation fee & $0 card fee when you buy online
  • Pay $4.95 monthly fee

In addition to free withdrawals, the card also offers free transactions, as well as free reloads at over 45,000 retailer locations, including CVS/pharmacy, Walmart, and participating 7-Eleven locations.

14. Chase Liquid® Prepaid Card

The Chase Liquid® Prepaid Card offers free withdrawals at thousands of Chase bank branches and bank-owned ATMs around the country. Non-Chase ATM withdrawals will charge a $2.50 fee, plus any applicable ATM-owner fees.

Chase Liquid® Prepaid Card

  • Add funds through direct deposit, cash loads at Chase branch, bank transfer, or check deposits
  • Pay $0 for PIN or signature transactions
  • Pay $4.95 monthly fee

Other fee-free ways to use your money is through in-store or online purchases, taking advantage of online bill pay, and using Chase QuickPay® with Zelle®. Balance inquiries at Chase ATMs are also free.

15. Bluebird® by American Express

The Bluebird® by American Express offers free ATM withdrawals at more than 30,000 MoneyPass® ATMs across the country. Withdrawals from non-MoneyPass® ATMs will result in a $2.50 fee for each transaction, plus any ATM operator fees.

Bluebird® by American Express

  • Add funds for free through direct deposit, mobile check capture, debit card transfer, or at Walmart
  • Pay $0 activation fee & $0 card fee when you buy online
  • Pay $0 Monthly Fee

In addition to fee-free ATM usage, cardholders pay no monthly card fee or reloading fees when funds are added through direct deposit, mobile check capture, or by using cash or a debit card at Walmart.

Best Prepaid Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fees

While you can use your regular checking account debit card at many foreign ATMs, especially in the UK — provided it has an embedded chip — you may not want to be running all over a foreign country with the key to your bank accounts. That’s where a prepaid debit card can come in remarkably handy.

Using one of these cards, you can make purchases abroad without worrying about your card falling into the wrong hands — or being charged outrageous currency conversion or foreign transaction fees.

16. Bluebird® by American Express

The Bluebird® by American Express is one of the only prepaid cards available that doesn’t charge a foreign exchange fee, making it as handy abroad as it is at home.

Bluebird® by American Express

  • Add funds for free through direct deposit, mobile check capture, debit card transfer, or at Walmart
  • Pay $0 activation fee & $0 card fee when you buy online
  • Pay $0 Monthly Fee

Cardholders can also enjoy fee-free ATM access in the US at thousands of MoneyPass® ATMs, as well as reload for free via direct deposit, mobile check capture, or at a local Walmart store.

17. WeSwap Mastercard®

The WeSwap Mastercard® is specifically designed to give cardholders convenient, affordable access to foreign currencies. You can load funds onto your card (for free), then “swap” your local currency with other travelers for any of WeSwap’s 18 wallet currencies for as little as 1% of the transaction amount.

WeSwap Mastercard®

  • Free loading through bank account and as low as 1% fee currency swaps in 18 eligible wallet currencies
  • Pay $0 ATM withdrawals over $200
  • Pay $0 monthly fee

Swap fees vary based on how quickly you need your funds, with the 1% rate applicable to swaps with seven-day turnarounds. Instant swaps have a 2% fee. Cardholders can manage their cards, funds, and swaps through the WeSwap mobile app.

How Do Prepaid Cards Work?

Although prepaid debit cards have a lot in common with bank debit cards, prepaid cards vary in a few key ways that are important to understand before you start using them.

The most important difference between prepaid cards and bank cards is that prepaid cards aren’t typically associated with a specific bank account. Prepaid cards are freestanding accounts that can have money added to them through a variety of methods.

Bank debit cards, on the other hand, are typically tied to a single bank account or user, and can only draw on the funds associated with that account. When you open a checking or savings account with a bank, that bank may give you a debit card that can be used to make purchases from that account and withdraw money from the account at an ATM.

While you can often connect your checking or savings account to your prepaid card account as a reloading method, it doesn’t have to be the bank that issues the prepaid card, and some prepaid cards won’t require a bank account at all.

Once you sign up for a prepaid debit card, you’ll need to add funds. While this can be done through a bank transfer as stated above, some prepaid cards also allow you to add funds through direct deposit, check deposits, or by using a debit card or cash at a retail location.

Graphic of How Prepaid Debit Cards Work

You can generally start making purchases with your prepaid card as soon as the funds clear your account. Once you use up the preloaded funds (i.e., once you reach a $0 balance), you’ll need to add more funds to the card to continue making purchases.

When it comes to actually using a prepaid card, it operates the same way as any other debit card. You can use your prepaid card to make purchases anywhere the card’s network is accepted (check for the Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or Discover logo to see the network on which your card operates).

If your prepaid card has the newer chip technology, you simply insert it into the chip reader; for magnetic stripe cards, swipe the card through the reader with the stripe down.

Depending on the terminal, you may be asked to choose a debit or credit transaction. Choosing a debit transaction will usually prompt a PIN verification while selecting a credit transaction will likely result in a signature verification.

Can Prepaid Cards Build or Establish Credit?

People use prepaid debit cards for various reasons, often as a simple way to get their paychecks when direct deposit is required by their employer. But prepaid cards are also a tool used as an alternative to credit cards by consumers who struggle with bad credit.

That being the case, perhaps the most important thing to realize about prepaid debit cards before you start using them is that they can’t be used to establish or build your credit history.

Graphic of Accounts Not Likely to Build Credit

In fact, a prepaid debit card account will generally have nothing to do with your credit reports at all. While this is handy for some folks — it means you don’t need to submit to a credit check to open a prepaid card — it can be a double-edged sword if you’re trying to boost your score.

Basically, your credit history is used by lenders and other creditors to determine your credit risk, or how likely you are to repay any money you borrow. As such, credit reports typically only include accounts based on lines of credit — i.e., agreements that involve borrowing funds.

While there’s a push toward including so-called alternative data sources (rental history, checking accounts, etc.) in consumer credit reports, currently only accounts associated with credit lines are reported. This includes installment accounts, such as personal loans and home mortgages, as well as revolving credit accounts like credit cards.

Manage Your Money with a Prepaid Card

Sometimes, things stink.

In some cases, that’s a literal smell — like when a mouse meets an unfortunate end in your basement. But, sometimes, it’s a metaphorical stink — like when your prepaid card charges you an arm and a leg simply to add money to your account.

While it’s often hard to avoid the stink (both literal and figuratively), other times a little research is all it takes. With a broad selection of prepaid cards at your fingertips, for example, it’s possible to find low- and no-fee options for nearly any financial need.

But remember that, although prepaid cards can be a useful way to manage your money, they’re not a perfect solution; in most cases, you’ll wind up paying some sort of fee, be it a monthly fee or a per-transaction fee.

You also need to keep in mind that you’re not building credit while using a prepaid debit card, so if improving your credit score is your goal, you’ll likely want a credit card instead. There are a number of good credit-building card options, even for those with bad credit, so long as you manage your card responsibly.