The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Monday, June 17, 2024

7 Virtual Prepaid Card Options (April 2024)

Virtual Prepaid Cards
Eric Bank

Written by: Eric Bank

Eric Bank
Eric Bank

Eric Bank is an M.B.A. who has covered financial and business topics since 1985, appearing regularly on Credible, eHow, WiseBread, The Nest, Zacks, Chron, BadCredit.org and dozens of other outlets. Eric specializes in taking complex subject matters and explaining them in simple terms for consumer audiences, particularly in the world of personal finance. Eric holds a Master's in Business Administration from New York University and a Master's in Finance from DePaul University.

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Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro
Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience to the CardRates team. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Florida. Today, Lillian edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

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Reviewed by: Ashley Fricker

Ashley Fricker
Ashley Fricker

Ashley Fricker has more than a decade of experience as a finance contributor and editor, and has specialized in the credit card industry since 2015. Her credit card commentary is featured on national media outlets that include CNBC, MarketWatch, Investopedia, and Reader's Digest, among many others. She has worked closely with the world’s largest banks and financial institutions, up-and-coming fintech companies, and press and news outlets to curate comprehensive content and media. Ashley holds a bachelor's degree in multimedia journalism from Florida Atlantic University.

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Advertiser Disclosure

Reality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, at least regarding debit and credit card security. The Federal Trade Commission received 2.8 million reports of fraud in 2021, many stemming from stolen cards and hacked financial accounts. 

Fortunately, the virtual world offers significant protection from the harsh reality of card fraud. Virtual accounts for credit and debit cards limit your exposure to card-related theft and help protect your identity. 

This article reviews the best prepaid debit cards that offer virtual accounts. These cards give you an extra measure of protection that will help keep your money more secure.

Best Virtual Prepaid Debit Cards

In addition to offering virtual accounts, these cards also provide all of the advantages of prepaid cards, including freedom from bank accounts and credit checks. Several belong to the Netspend group of prepaid cards and share the same virtual account features. 

Brink’s Armored™ Account Review

at Netspend’ssecure website

  • Brink’s knows Security! 24/7 access to a suite of security benefits to help keep your account armored.
  • Get access to over 100,000 Brink’s Money ATMs.
  • Get paid faster than a paper check with direct deposit.
  • Add funds to your Brink’s Armored Account and use Brinks Armored debit card anywhere Debit Mastercard is accepted.
  • Account opening is subject to registration and ID verification. Terms & fees Apply. Deposit Account is established by Pathward®, N.A., Member FDIC.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
Variable Monthly Fees
Not applicable

As a Netspend partner, the Brink’s Armored™ Account allows cardmembers to request up to six active virtual accounts with a one-year expiration date. You must register the card before requesting a virtual account number. You can choose between the regular monthly program fee or pay-as-you-go, which is a small fee per transaction. You also get Payback Points rewards, a small purchase cushion to protect from overdrafts, and access to a high-yield savings account.

PayPal Prepaid Mastercard® Review

at The Bancorp Bank’ssecure website

EXPERT’S RATING

★★★★★

4.6

OVERALL RATING

  • Move money from your PayPal account to fund your prepaid card account.
  • Earn cash back and personalized offers, just for using your card.
  • With Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster than a paper check.
  • Card issued by The Bancorp Bank, Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Debit Mastercard is accepted.
  • Click PayPal Prepaid Mastercard® 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
Not applicable

The PayPal Prepaid Mastercard® is another Netspend partner offering virtual card accounts. The card is an obvious choice if you have a PayPal account, as you can transfer funds back and forth between the two. The card speeds up access to direct deposits by up to two days, and the optional Payback Rewards program provides cash back via statement credits for purchases at select merchants. 

NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card Review

at NetSpend’ssecure website

EXPERT’S RATING

★★★★★

4.7

OVERALL RATING

  • With 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 Card Account on the go and enroll to get text messages or email alerts (Message & data rates may apply).
  • Card use is subject to activation and ID verification. Terms and Costs apply.
  • Card issued by Pathward N.A., Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Visa debit card is accepted.
  • See additional NetSpend® Prepaid Visa® details.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
Up-to $9.95 monthly
Not applicable

This NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card also offers virtual account numbers for online and phone transactions. You can add cash to this Visa debit card at Netspend Reload centers nationwide or fund your account through mobile check load, among other options. You will receive Netspend Payback Rewards and the ability to add authorized users.

Bluebird® American Express® Prepaid Debit Account Review

at the issuer’ssecure website

EXPERT’S RATING

★★★★★

4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • A reloadable prepaid debit account that can be used anywhere American Express® cards are accepted
  • Get your paycheck up to 2 days faster with free direct deposit
  • Shop with added confidence and Purchase Protection, which can help protect eligible purchases made with the card against accidental damage and theft for up to 120 days from the date of purchase
  • Get free ATM access at over 38,000 MoneyPass® ATM locations. It’s free to add cash to your account at Family Dollar locations and free to transfer money to other Bluebird Accountholders.
  • With Roadside Assistance, you can call us in case of emergency for coordination and assistance services to help you get on your way
  • Pay no monthly fees or foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Not applicable

The Bluebird® American Express® Prepaid Debit Account offers a temporary virtual card account that you can access upon successful registration and email verification. This feature allows you to use your Bluebird card account immediately to make online purchases while you wait for your personalized Bluebird debit card to arrive in the mail. This card emphasizes low costs by charging no monthly or ATM fees.

Serve® American Express® Prepaid Debit Account Review

at the issuer’ssecure website

EXPERT’S RATING

★★★★★

4.6

OVERALL RATING

3.8/5.0
  • Get rewarded with unlimited 1% Cash Back when you spend money in stores or online. The funds are available to add to your account as soon as the transaction settles with us, so you don’t have to wait to enjoy the rewards.
  • Get your tax refund and direct deposits up to 2 days faster than standard electronic deposits.
  • You can withdraw your money without a fee at over 37,000 MoneyPass® ATM locations nationwide.
  • Can’t find your Serve card? No need to worry – you can quickly freeze it while you look for it and unfreeze it when you find it. And for extra reassurance, know you won’t be held responsible for fraudulent charges.
  • With Emergency Assistance, you can get select access to select emergency coordination and assistance services when you’re traveling more than 100 miles from home.
  • Amex Offers provides a range of offers – shopping, dining, and more – from places you love. It’s easy and free.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Not applicable

It’s no surprise that the virtual debit card policy of the Serve® American Express® Prepaid Debit Account is identical to that for the Amex Bluebird card. This card waives monthly fees for cardholders who meet direct deposit requirements. You can pay US individuals and merchants after you activate the card and verify your email address. American Express Serve cardholders can authorize recurring payments and schedule bill reminders.

Serve® American Express® Prepaid Debit Account Review

at the issuer’ssecure website

EXPERT’S RATING

★★★★★

4.6

OVERALL RATING

3.8/5.0
  • Enjoy FREE withdrawals at over 37,000 MoneyPass® ATM locations nationwide.
  • Get access to your money up to 2 days faster with early Direct Deposit
  • No monthly fee when you direct deposit $500 or more within a statement period
  • Use Online Bill Pay to help you save time and help you avoid late fees. Terms apply.
  • Check your balance and recent transactions, pay bills on the go, get SMS text alerts, and send money to family or friends who have a Serve Account
  • No credit check, no hidden fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Not applicable

If you prefer a cash back reward to $0 monthly fees, check out this version of the Serve® American Express® Prepaid Debit Account. You can spend your rewards as soon as the merchant settles the purchase transaction with Amex. Your virtual debit card will provide the same fraud protection, purchase protection, and emergency assistance. American Express Serve card offers FDIC insurance to registered accounts.

Greenlight – Debit Card For Kids Review

at the issuer’ssecure website

EXPERT’S RATING

★★★★★

4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • Greenlight is a debit card for kids, managed by parents
  • Parents set flexible controls and receive real-time alerts while kids monitor their balances, set goals, and learn how to manage money
  • Feel secure knowing Greenlight blocks unsafe spending categories
  • Receive Mastercard’s Zero Liability Protection
  • Upload a photo of your choice to create a unique custom card
  • Debit cards are FDIC-insured up to $250,000
  • Easily turn your Greenlight card on or off and receive real-time spending notifications
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
See Pricing
Not applicable

If the card issuer approves it, you can get a virtual Greenlight – Debit Card For Kids instead of or in addition to the plastic prepaid card. You can access the virtual Mastercard in the Greenlight app after you verify your identity, activate the card, and fund your account. You can only use the virtual card for card-not-present transactions, such as online or phone purchases. You will not receive a PIN for your virtual card, and you can’t use it for ATM transactions. 

What Is a Virtual Prepaid Card?

A virtual prepaid card does not have a physical form. It consists of a 16-digit account number, a three-digit security code, and an expiration date. The virtual account number substitutes for the real card number when you use a virtual card. 

Unlike Mastercard and Visa debit cards, virtual Amex debit cards are temporary and expire when you receive the permanent version. Other virtual prepaid cards remain active for a set period or until you cancel them.

You must first activate and register your virtual account before using it. Some issuers provide just one, while others offer multiple virtual accounts. 

How Do I Use a Virtual Prepaid Card?

You can use a virtual card to purchase or lease goods or services or make payments by telephone, in-app, or online without needing to provide a physical card. When you use a virtual account to make an online payment, the legal effect is the same as using a physical debit card. You can also load a virtual card onto a mobile wallet for purchases wherever merchants accept this form of payment.

A virtual prepaid card provides a few unique functions:

  • It allows you to make a phone or online purchase before your physical card arrives
  • You can assign different account numbers to various merchants to help you track and control your spending
  • A virtual card number limits the damage from theft and fraud, as you can cancel it anytime without changing your account number. 
  • Some issuers may let you create one-use virtual prepaid cards that are good for a single transaction, making them worthless to thieves and scammers. 

Prepaid debit cards are inherently less dangerous than credit and bank debit cards (for both branch and internet banking) because only the loaded cash balance is at risk. Most online payment card issuers offer complimentary fraud protection that limits your exposure to account theft.

Can I Buy a Virtual Prepaid Card Online?

Yes, all the reviewed prepaid cards welcome online applications and most waive the initial fee when you apply online. Issuers may let you choose a physical card, a virtual one, or both. 

The trio of Amex cards provide a temporary virtual card number you can use immediately until the physical card arrives.

Bluebird® American Express® Prepaid Debit Account Review Serve® American Express® Prepaid Debit Account Review Serve® American Express® Prepaid Debit Account Review

Netspend cards offer up to six virtual accounts at any one time after you’ve registered the account. You can cancel an account whenever you want, but all Netspend virtual cards expire after one year. 

Are Virtual Prepaid Cards Widely Accepted?

You can use a virtual prepaid card number on most websites and over the phone – anywhere card-not-present transactions occur. You can use your virtual prepaid card in person by adding your card account to your digital wallet and using it where digital payments are available. 

Digital wallets turn your real account numbers into virtual card numbers for maximum security – there’s no need to request a separate virtual card number for your phone’s digital wallet.

What Are the Typical Fees for Virtual Prepaid Cards?

Virtual account numbers are free. But you’ll have to pay for the card account itself in the form of various fees. These fees may include:

  • An initial purchase charge (waived if you obtain the card online)
  • A monthly or pay-as-you-go program fee
  • A fee for loading cash onto the card
  • ATM withdrawal charges
  • A new or replacement card fee (not applicable to virtual cards)
  • Transfer fees
  • Inactive account fees

Some cards have additional fees, and others waive several of the usual fees. American Express prepaid cards are popular due to their restrained fee structure.

Choose a Virtual Prepaid Card For Additional Security

Folks often turn to prepaid debit cards out of a dislike for banks and credit cards. If you are going to stick one in your wallet, you can save space and use a virtual one instead. They provide extra security that’s welcome in our uncertain times. 

Always check the cardmember agreement for the issuer’s virtual card policies. Remember, the issuer can change the cardmember agreement without notice, so it’s best to look at the most current information before getting a virtual debit card.

Advertiser Disclosure

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