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 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/|
Green Dot Prepaid MasterCard
|$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 as you can see, this fee can be waived under certain conditions.
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. You can also load cash onto the card for free at Walmart stores.
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 debt Visa is 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. We like the Serve card because of its all-around low fees and excellent American Express services.
First, don’t be intimidated because the card is offered by American Express. Just like all prepaid cards, there is no credit check or income requirements. 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 a wealth of features, including subaccounts great for families and teens, online bill pay, free ATM withdrawals and a mobile app.
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.
Understanding Prepaid Card Fees
In terms of fees, prepaid cards basically break down into two categories–those that charge monthly fees and those that charge purchase fees. 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 just not realistic.
But among those that charge a monthly fee, there are several cards that offer the (very realistic) opportunity to avoid the monthly fee. Typically, prepaid cards that will waive the monthly fee require that you meet one of the following criteria:
- load a minimum amount to the card during the prior month,
- maintain direct deposit to the card, or
- make a minimum number of transactions
Meeting one of these criteria isn’t very difficult for most people using their prepaid card for everyday purchases or as an alternative to a checking account. For those prepaid cards that waive the monthly fee for using direct deposit with your prepaid card account, the direct deposit itself is free. For prepaid cards that waive the monthly fee for a minimum total load amount, the amount typically ranges from $500 to $1,000 a month. The minimum number of transactions is usually 30 or less.
The Chase Liquid prepaid card falls into a different category–brick and mortar banks that offer prepaid cards as companions to checking accounts. The traditional banks that offer prepaid cards will sometimes waive the regular monthly fee for existing customers–those that have checking accounts. That’s the case with the Chase Liquid card.
As to other fees, even the prepaid cards that waive the monthly fee charge other fees, but those prepaid card fees are typically avoidable. We’ve limited our list above to those cards that waive the monthly fee, offer free purchase transactions, and provide one or more ways to load the card for free.
So, that means that you can put money on the card for free, use it for purchases for free, and even get cash from the card for free.