All prepaid cards charge fees. There are a select few, however, that you can use completely free. You just need to know which cards and how to use them. Here’s our list of free prepaid debit cards.
5 Free Prepaid Debit Cards
Let’s first start with our list of no fee prepaid cards. Then we’ll look at what you need to know to avoid potential fees.
|Prepaid Card||Regular Monthly Fee||Monthly Fee Waived If…||Activation Fee|
|Walmart MoneyCard||$5.00||$1,000 load amount||$1|
|Green Dot Prepaid Visa||$7.95||$1,000 load amount||$0|
|CARD.com Visa® Prepaid Card||$9.95||$1,000 direct deposit||$0|
|American Express Serve||$1.00||Direct Deposit of $500 or more||$0|
|Chase Liquid||$4.95||Chase checking account||$0|
The majority of cards charge either a monthly fee or transaction fees (as you’ll see below). The cards above fall into the former category, charging a monthly fee. But you can qualify to waive it and pay no monthly fee at all.
Here’s what each card has to offer.
Walmart MoneyCard® Visa®Walmart MoneyCard is ideal for those that frequently shop at Walmart. But it’s also a great card for those who never shop at Walmart. It can be used anywhere debit Visa or Mastercard is accepted.
If you do shop at Walmart, however, you get an added bonus. The Walmart MoneyCard offers up to 3% cash back, good for up to $75 in cash back a year.
Green Dot Prepaid Visa®Green Dot is one of the most popular prepaid cards available today. This card can easily be used as an alternative to a checking account. Get paid up to 2 days earlier with Green Dot’s direct deposit. There are no overdraft fees, no credit check to get a card, and no transaction fees.
Green Dot also offers a cash back version of its prepaid card.
CARD.com Visa® Prepaid CardCard.com prepaid cards come with dozens of brand names, not just the Garfield card. From athletes to movie stars, you can get a prepaid card to fit any personality or interest.
The card also offers free ATM withdrawals at all MoneyPass ATMs. You can get cashback for free at many retailers. And the card can be used anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.
Finally, the card comes with a free smartphone app (iPhone and Android), and free text alerts to keep you informed about your account balance and transactions.
American Express Serve®Amex Serve card. Like Green Dot, it too comes in a cash back version.
While American Express credit cards can be hard to get, that’s not the case with their prepaid card. Like all prepaid cards, the Serve card doesn’t require a credit check or a minimum income level. And the card comes with the same Amex services offered by its credit cards, such as roadside assistance, purchase protection, and fraud protection.
The card also offers features like free companion cards, online bill pay, and free ATM withdrawals.
Chase LiquidChase Liquid card has a reasonable monthly fee that drops to 0 if you have a qualifying Chase checking account.
That limits the “free” aspect to existing Chase customers, but the reach of this national bank and the Liquid card’s access to its extensive free ATM network gets it on our list.
How to Pay No Fees with These Prepaid Cards
With prepaid cards, the fees that you’re most likely to pay are:
- Purchase or activation fees,
- Monthly or transaction fees,
- Fees to add money to the card, and
- Fees to get cash from the card
You can avoid all of these fees with the prepaid cards on our list. Here’s how.
How to Avoid Purchase Fees
This one’s easy. If you buy any prepaid card in a retail location, you’ll pay a purchase fee. The store sets the price, not the prepaid card. But you can get every card listed above (except the Walmart MoneyCard) online for free. Even with the Walmart MoneyCard, the $1 purchase fee is a one-time fee and might be the last fee you’ll need to pay.
In fact, even if you buy a prepaid card in a store, you’ll still have to “activate” it online. That process is the same as if you bought it online to begin with. So, just buy it online to start. That way, for most cards, you’ll be able to skip the purchase or activation fee.
How to Pay No Monthly Fees
Nearly all prepaid cards either charge a monthly fee or transaction fees. The monthly fee is a fee just for having the account. Transaction (or purchase) fees are fees charged everytime you use the card to buy something. For prepaid cards that charge purchase fees, the only way to avoid those fees is not to use them for purchases. For most of us, that’s not realistic.
But among those that charge a monthly fee, several cards offer the (very realistic) opportunity to avoid the monthly fee. That’s the case with all of the cards on our list.
For three of the cards–Walmart MoneyCard, Green Dot Visa, and CARD.com–you’ll pay no monthly fee if you load $1,000 or more per month to the card. With the Serve card, you avoid the monthly fee with $500 or more in direct deposits. If you’re using your prepaid card with direct deposit or as your primary spending card, getting the monthly fee waived is probably pretty easy.
The Chase Liquid card falls into a different category. It waives the regular monthly fee for existing customers that have checking accounts. So, if you want to use a prepaid card as a companion to a checking account, the Chase Liquid card is among the better options.
Loading Money to Your Card for Free
All of the cards on our list have at least two ways to add money to the card for free. All of the cards offer free direct deposit. You can use direct deposit to add a paycheck and most government benefit checks to the card without charge. Plus, using direct deposit is faster than getting a paper check and then depositing it.
The prepaid cards on our list also offer free transfers from a bank account. Most cards do. So, if you keep a bank account along with your prepaid card, you can set up your prepaid card as an authorized account to receive transfers on your bank’s online portal. (Here’s a short guide on setting it up).
Our list of cards you can use for free also offer free check deposits. They all come equipped with a mobile app that you can use to deposit checks without charge. Free check deposits generally take up to 10 days to process, but it’s a great way to avoid fees if you can wait for access to the money.
Adding cash directly to a prepaid card is usually going to come with a fee, however. The cards on our list don’t charge a fee to load cash, but the cash load services–like Western Union or MoneyGram–typically do. The one exception is the Liquid card, which allows free cash deposits at Chase branches.
Getting Cash from Your Card for Free
All of the cards on our list have at least one way to get cash with no fee. With all of the cards, you can get cash back at the register when making a purchase. You just need to select the debit option when using your card at most grocery stores, convenience stores, big box home improvement stores, even the post office.
While not all prepaid cards offer free ATM withdrawals, consider this. Going to ATMs is not part of your routine. They’re a special trip just to get cash. Then, to avoid an ATM fee, you need to find one that is in-network for your debit card to avoid a fee.
But we all find ourselves at a grocery store or convenience store once a week. Use that opportunity to get cash from your prepaid card. With most prepaid cards, it’s free. That’s the case with all of the cards we’ve listed.
However, if you want to stick to ATMs, three of the cards offer those for free as well. Chase Liquid offers free ATM transactions at Chase ATMs. CARD.com and Serve offer free ATM transactions at MoneyPass ATMs.
Other Prepaid Debit Cards with Free Features
Sometimes, the lowest-cost prepaid card may not be the one with the lowest monthly fee. It depends on how you’ll use the card. So, apart from our list of free cards, there are some other low-cost options you might want to consider that offer some of these free features.
Free ATM Withdrawals
Just about all cards let you get cash-back at the register free. But prepaid cards that offer free ATM withdrawals have nearly gone extinct. A couple of exceptions include the MileagePlus® GO Visa® Prepaid Card and Kroger REWARDS Prepaid Visa® Card. The MileagePlus GO card offers free withdrawals at MoneyPass ATMs, and the Kroger card, while less generous, still offers one free ATM withdrawal per month. Kroger also uses the MoneyPass network and offers surcharge free withdrawals through MoneyPass ATMs even after the first. The surcharge fee is the fee typically charged by ATM owners, which can be $3 or more. But, apart from that one free withdrawal, even the Kroger REWARDS card charges its own fee–$2.50 per transaction.
Free Bill Pay
You can pay your bills online at a vendor’s site using any prepaid card. But if you want to manage your bills in one place and pay vendors that only take checks, you might consider a prepaid card with a free bill pay service. A bill pay service can save the cost of money orders to pay bills like rent. And setting up recurring bills can make sure you don’t lose money on late fees.
Benefits to Offset Fees
Some cards that charge fees offer benefits that can offset or even exceed monthly fees offered by the cards. For instance, some cards offer high-interest savings accounts with up to a 5% APY. Setting up and transferring funds to the savings account is free.
The following prepaid cards have free ATM, bill pay, or savings features.
|Prepaid Card||Free Features|
|Kroger REWARDS Prepaid Visa® Card|
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|MileagePlus® GO Visa® Prepaid Card|
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|Netspend® Visa® Prepaid Card|
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The Final Word
If you’re like most people, you’ll use your prepaid card to make purchases, add money to the card, and get cash from the card. With the cards we’ve listed, you can handle all of it for free. You just need to know how to sidestep a few potential fees.