When you need to load cash on your prepaid card, you have choices. In this article, we cover how the cash reload networks work, how to use them, and the cost of each. We’ll also cover some alternatives to cash to add money to your card. Spoiler: there are cheaper than loading cash.
For 12 million Americans, reloadable prepaid cards act as a financial tool that serves as a checking account replacement, budgeting tool, or credit card substitute. No matter the reason for using a prepaid card, most use it for purchases. And, one of the benefits to a reloadable prepaid card is that you can, well, reload it. That means adding money. Money that can be used for further purchases.
With prepaid cards, there are a number of ways to load money on the card–direct deposit, checking account transfers, even PayPal.
But sometimes you need to load the card with cash. With most prepaid cards, loading cash involves a reload service that ultimately handles the transfer of cash to your card.
What are the services and how do they work?
Cash at the Register vs. Reload Packs
Although there are a number of reload services–sometimes called reload networks–the general mechanics of how they work fall into two categories.
Cash at the Register: This reload method means that you load the card directly, usually by taking your prepaid card and the cash to reload to the register at a participating retailer. Simple process. Typically, the cashier just swipes the prepaid card and takes the cash to load on the card.
Reload Pack: The second option is to buy a reload pack. It’s similar but it involves the interim step of loading money on the reload pack rather than directly on your prepaid card. The reload pack is purchased at a participating retailer and the cashier accepts the money you want to load on the pack. Each of these reload packs will have a unique identifying number. After buying a reload pack you will need to login to a secure website, enter your prepaid card account information, and enter the reload pack number to transfer the cash from the reload pack to your prepaid card.
With a few exceptions, cash reload services charge a fee for the service which is paid at the register. The fees and reload options will vary by prepaid card.
Ways to Load Cash to a Prepaid Card
1. Green Dot’s MoneyPak
The Green Dot MoneyPak is the most widely accepted method of loading cash on prepaid cards. According to Green Dot, over 300 prepaid cards accept the MoneyPak as a way to load cash on the card. That covers most of the prepaid cards available, including RushCard, Walmart’s MoneyCard, and, of course, Green Dot’s own prepaid card. To determine if your card can use the MoneyPak for cash loads, you can visit the MoneyPak site and enter the first 9 digits of your card account.
The Green Dot MoneyPak falls into the reload pack category of cash load methods. So, you’re purchasing and loading cash to the MoneyPak first, rather than loading the cash directly to your prepaid card.
You purchase and load cash on the MoneyPak by taking your cash and the purchase fee to the register at one of the MoneyPak purchase locations. Once you have the MoneyPak, you need to create a secure login at Green Dot’s MoneyPak website. Scratch off the MoneyPak identifying number on the back of the card and enter that number along with your prepaid card number once you’re signed in to transfer the MoneyPak balance to the card. Once completed, the cash is available on your prepaid card instantly. However, it takes 20 minutes from the purchase of the MoneyPak for the funds to be available for transfer.
The Green Dot MoneyPak can be purchased at thousands of retail locations and convenience stores, including Walgreens, CVS, Family Dollar, and Turkey Hill, to name a few. You can find nearby locations by entering your zip code here. The MoneyPak costs $5.95, and a single MoneyPak can be used to load $20 – $500 in cash.
2. Netspend Reload Network
Netspend is one of the largest prepaid brands, including among its managed cards–the Netspend prepaid card, the PayPal Prepaid Mastercard, and the Mileage Plus Go prepaid card. It’s not surprising that it has its own cash reload network.
The Netspend Reload Network can be used to load prepaid cards at over 130,000 grocery stores, gas stations, check cashers, and convenience stores. Fees are determined by the retailer but generally range from $2.00 – $3.95. You can find a nearby Netspend Reload location here, which conveniently lists the fee charged by each location.
One other note about Netspend’s reload service. Netspend once offered the Netspend Reload Pack. It was similar to Greendot’s MoneyPack. Netspend discontinued the Netspend Reload Pack in favor of the more secure Netspend Reload Service.
More than 100 prepaid cards can be loaded through MoneyGram, including prepaid cards like the AccountNow prepaid card, the Univision card, RushCard, and READYDebit. If you see a MoneyGram logo on the back of your prepaid card, then you can use MoneyGram to reload it.
MoneyGram is in the “cash at the register” category of reloads so the money is loaded directly on your card. However, it works a little differently than a swipe reload. To use MoneyGram reload services, you need to enter information in a kiosk or fill out a form at a MoneyGram agent location. It’s basic information–your full name, your prepaid card name and number, and the load amount. You’ll also need a valid ID. Accepted ID types can differ by agent location. Unlike swipe reload services, you don’t need to have your prepaid card with you.
There are thousands of MoneyGram agent locations, including Walmart, CVS, and many convenience stores and independent retailers, as well as MoneyGram financial service centers. You can find MoneyGram locations here.
MoneyGram is a reload at the register service, so the money is loaded directly to your prepaid card and available to spend almost immediately.
The fee associated with MoneyGram reloads starts at $3.95, but the price is determined by the agent location, so it can be higher.
4. Green Dot Reload @ the Register
In addition to the MoneyPak, Green Dot offers its Reload @ the Register service to add cash to prepaid cards. As the name suggests, it’s a reload at the register service with cash being loaded directly to the card. Reload @ the Register was originally intended to replace the MoneyPak altogether, due to bad actors using the MoneyPak for fraudulent purposes. While the MoneyPak returned by popular demand (with some added security measures), Reload @ the Register is still offered as Green Dot’s swipe reload alternative.
Like the MoneyPak, it can be used with hundreds of prepaid cards. Cards like Card.com prepaid cards, RushCard, and the 1-2-3 Rewards card, to name a few. You can ensure that your card is compatible with the service by checking out this list.
All you need to do is head over to a participating retailer like CVS, Dollar Tree, Walgreens, and thousands of others to reload your card with cash. It will cost up to $4.95 to reload your card ($3.74 at Walmart). It’s a swipe reload service, so you’ll need to have your card with you. The cash will be available to spend right away.
A single reload transaction can be up to $500, with a $20 minimum.
5. Vanilla Reload
Using swipe load with Vanilla ReLoad is simple. You just have to bring your prepaid card and cash to a participating retailer. There aren’t as many participating locations as, say, Green Dot’s reload service but Vanilla Reload is available through a number of the largest retail chains, including Rite Aid, Walmart, and Speedway. You can find a complete list of retailers here.
The number of prepaid cards that can be loaded with Vanilla Reload is far fewer than most others on the list, but does include some of the largest brands, like the American Express Serve card, PayPal Prepaid Mastercard, Netspend, and of course, its parent company’s own prepaid card, MyVanilla. You can see other participating prepaid cards here.
The fee can be up to $3.95 per transaction with a minimum load of $20 and a maximum of $500.
6. Visa ReadyLink
Visa ReadyLink is another easy way to add cash to your prepaid card. The service will work with most Visa prepaid cards, including the Ace Elite, RushCard, and Netspend prepaid cards. A fast way to check if your prepaid card can be reloaded with Visa ReadyLink is to check for the Visa ReadyLink logo on the back of your card.
It’s a reload at the register service. You just have to go to a merchant location with your cash and swipe your card. The money will be available for your use within 30 minutes.
The fee for Visa ReadyLink will vary by retailer, but it’s generally $4.95 or less.
In 2015, the Visa ReadyLink service was incorporated with Walmart’s Rapid Reload service, allowing ReadyLink logo prepaid cards to be loaded with Rapid Reload–a frequently cheaper alternative at $3.74.
Visa ReadyLink retail locations generally limit the maximum reload in a single transaction to $500 but it’s $1,000 using Walmart’s Rapid Reload. The minimum is $20.
7. WU® Reload+
WU Reload+ is offered by Western Union and is available for over 100 prepaid cards. The list includes Card.com prepaid cards, the Netspend Prepaid Visa, and of course, the Western Union prepaid card. You can check if your card can be loaded through Western Union by taking a quick look at this list.
Although once requiring a form like MoneyGram, WU Reload+ is now a simple swipe to reload at the register at any Western Union agent location. So, you’ll need your card and the cash to load on your prepaid card.
The fee is $2.95 – $4.95, depending on the Western Union agent. Agent locations can be found at major supermarkets, check cashing locations, and many independent convenience stores. You can find your location here.
Reloadit is in the reload pack category of reload services, so loading money on your prepaid card first requires you to buy the reload pack and then transfer the money from the REloadit pack to your card.
The Reloadit pack can generally be purchased at a number of major supermarket chains, like Kroger and Safeway. You can find purchase locations in your area here. Each Reloadit pack generally costs $3.95 to load cash from $20 – $500, but the fee can vary by location.
To transfer money from the Reloadit pack to your prepaid card, you need to create a “Reloadit Safe”–just an online account with your email address, a password, and a four digit “Safe Code” that you select. You enter your prepaid card account information in the vault. Then whenever you purchase a Reloadit pack, you just enter the unique Reloadit id number on the pack in your safe to transfer the funds to the card.
Reloadit covers only a few prepaid cards, but they include some of the more popular ones, like American Express Serve, the PayPal Prepaid Mastercard, and the Western Union prepaid card. You can find the Reloadit list of prepaid cards here.
9. Walmart Rapid Reload
The Walmart Rapid Reload service is in the reload at the register category. Just take your card and cash to the register at any Walmart location to load participating cards. You can reload most cards with Rapid Reload, including Netspend, PayPal, Account Now, American Express Serve prepaid debit cards, and of course, the Walmart MoneyCard. And because Walmart Rapid Reload now incorporates Visa ReadyLink, it can be used with any prepaid card bearing the ReadyLink logo.
You can load anywhere from $20 to $1,000 per Rapid Reload transaction. The fee is $3.74–less than most cash reload services. For the Walmart MoneyCard, it’s just $3.
10. Bank Issued Prepaid Cards
A number of credit unions and banks offer their own prepaid cards. For instance, Chase offers its Chase Liquid card, U.S. Bank offers the U.S. Bank Contour card, and TD Bank offers the TD Connect Card. These cards, and most bank-issued cards, will allow you to load cash for free at their branches.
The price is right, but the downside is convenience. The number bank locations will be far fewer than the retail locations available through the other cash reload services listed above.
Downsides of Loading Cash to a Prepaid Card
With all of these options to load cash on a prepaid card, it’s still important to remember the downside–the fees.
Prepaid cards can be used inexpensively, but it’s much harder to keep fees in line when paying to add money to the card. Most cards offer a number of free alternative load options. First, virtually every card has free direct deposit. If loading your paycheck or benefits check to your card consists of cashing the check then using one of the above services, you’re paying too much. Setting up direct deposit to get the funds on the prepaid card is easy and free.
Second, many prepaid cards have mobile applications where you can deposit checks with no fee. Although there’s a wait, the savings over check cashing and loading cash is worth it.
Third, with most prepaid cards, you can transfer money from your bank account to your prepaid card for free. While some prepaid card users don’t maintain a traditional bank account, it’s a good option if you have one.
Some cards, like the PayPal Prepaid Mastercard and the Walmart MoneyCard allow you to transfer money from a PayPal to a prepaid card. Another free alternative.
But, some can’t avoid loading with cash. Servers and drivers that receive cash tips, for example, have limited options. For those, consider a bank issued prepaid card with free cash load options or prepaid card that participates in one of the lower fee networks.
Ways to Load Cash on a Prepaid Card – Summed Up
You have a number of ways to add cash to a prepaid card. With the differences in fees and convenience, it’s an important factor in deciding which prepaid card to get or whether to switch. Virtually every way of adding cash involves fees. Consider the other free ways to add money to your card.
Here’s the list of all the ways to add cash to a prepaid card, along with their fees.
|Cash Reload Method||Fees|
|1.||Green Dot MoneyPak||$5.95|
|2.||Netspend Reload Network||$2.00 – 3.95|
|4.||Green Dot Reload @ the Register||$3.74 – 4.95|
|6.||Visa ReadyLink||$3.74 – 4.95|
|7.||WU Reload+||$2.95 – 4.95|
|9.||Walmart Rapid Reload||$3.00 – 3.74|