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Review Breakdown: Prepaid & Debit Cards
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.
If you’re unable to qualify for a conventional credit card, a prepaid card may make sense for you. Prepaid cards don’t require a credit check for approval.
Although sometimes called prepaid credit cards, prepaid cards are more like debit cards, and are often called reloadable cards because you can add money to the account the card draws from any time you’d like.
From the perspective of using the card, a prepaid card does work almost the same as a traditional credit card. Any merchant or service provider that accepts credit or debit cards will likely accept this form of payment. The difference is that you’re spending your own money, not borrowing from a line of credit issued by a bank.
Here’s what you need to know about prepaid cards.
You Need to Make a Deposit to Open the Account
A reloadable prepaid card requires a deposit account from which the card will draw money. In this way, they are similar to a debit card.
However, unlike a debit card that draws funds for each individual transaction, most prepaid cards require you to move over funds in set amounts, somewhat similar to a gift card.
In other words, 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 locations.
They Can Help Keep Your Finances In Order
For people without a checking account, prepaid 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 online and engage in other activities that require a digital form of payment.
Prepaid cards can be a useful way to make online purchases or pay bills, but if your goal is to build credit, you'll need another way. Prepaid cards don't require a credit check, but they also don't report to the credit bureaus, so they won't help build credit.
Watch for Fees
One of the big deterrents to using prepaid credit cards is the number of fees associated with them. While most prepaid cards charge some sort of fees (the prepaid card issuer has to make money somehow), it’s possible to find prepaid credit cards that don’t charge as many fees and have a large network of free ATMs, such as the Bluebird card from American Express.
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.
Do your research and select a card that will fit your usage habits without charging you too much. The right card can provide a great way to build good spending habits and decide whether you want to try a more traditional form of credit in the future.
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.
The information on this page was reviewed for accuracy on .
About the Author
As Managing Editor for CardRates, Adam oversees content and regularly interviews some of the payments industry's biggest influencers and decision-makers so our site can bring high-quality and engaging stories to our audience and keep readers informed on the latest trends and technology in the space.
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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.