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The 3 best prepaid debit cards: Top preloaded cards

What's the best prepaid debit card? The American Express Cash Back Card is ZDNet's top choice for its cash rewards. Earn cash back while spending responsibly. We searched far and wide and compiled the top prepaid debit cards for you.
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Written by Lena Borrelli, Contributing Writer on

Teaching children to manage money is not easy, but a prepaid debit card can be a great way to give children access to a limited amount of funds -- while also tracking spending. There are other benefits, too. A prepaid debit card can also be a fantastic way to keep an emergency stash of cash or help out family members with expenses.   

However, fees and card limitations can add up quickly, making your prepaid debit card a pricey piece of plastic. So, we found the best prepaid cards that are both convenient and relatively low risk. We considered factors like coverage options, fees, and availability while choosing the top cards. Based on these elements and more, the cards below are the best options for you.

Card Highlights
Intro BonusN/A
APRN/A
Recommended CreditNo credit check
Reward Rates
  • Earn 1% Cash Back when you make in store or online purchases with your Serve® American Express® Prepaid Debit Account – Serve Cash Back. 1% Cash Back is added to your Account promptly after your purchase and is ready to spend when you choose on future purchases.
Annual Fee$5.95 Monthly Fee (No fee in TX, NY, VT)
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Rewards & Redemption Details

At a glance

The American Express Serve Cash Back Card is an FDIC-backed card with amounts up to $100,000 for your use. It also collaborates with over 30,000 MoneyPass® ATM locations nationwide, offering easy access to your money.

The reward structure is the card's best feature, offering unlimited 1% Cash Back on in-store and online purchases. However, it is important to note that ATM transactions do not earn cashback rewards. After your purchases, you do not have to wait for your rewards, with rewards available immediately after the transaction settles. Your rewards will never expire, so you can take your time using them. With the Spend Prepaid Debit Card, you also receive emergency assistance and roadside support if you encounter trouble on your travels. While you are still responsible for the costs of any services, American Express will offer coordination and assistance to get you back on the road that much faster.

The American Express Serve Cash Back card offers similar protections to a traditional debit card, with the ability to freeze your card and no financial responsibility for fraudulent charges. Purchase protection protects eligible purchases from accidental damage and theft up to 120 days from the date of purchase. You can also receive your money up to two days faster when you use direct deposit for your paychecks, giving you even greater freedom with your spending.

Pros

  • Unlimited 1% Cash Back rewards
  • No monthly fees with $500+ in direct deposits
  • No card fee with online applications

Cons

  • Monthly fee for most cardholders
  • Up to 10 days clearance for mobile deposits
  • Foreign transaction fees
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
Card Highlights
Intro BonusN/A
APRN/A
Recommended CreditNo credit check
Reward Rates N/A
Annual Fee$4.95 monthly (No fee in TX, NY, VT)
Intro Purchase APRN/A

At a glance

The American Express Serve Free Reloads Card is similar to its sister card, the Serve Cash Back. Instead of cash rewards, the Serve allows for free reloads when you prefer cash to reload your prepaid card. The Serve Free Reloads is FDIC-protected and comes with a maximum balance of up to $10,000. There is no credit check to apply, making the process even easier.

There are no fees when you need to reload. You have the option to load money onto your card using 45,000 retail locations with an easy barcode reload, or you can simply transfer money from your bank account using the Serve Mobile App. You can add anywhere from $20 to $500 at a time. No minimum balance is required.

Similar to the American Express Serve Cash Back Card, the Serve Free Reloads Card carries Fraud Protection with Purchase Protection lasting up to 120 days. There is also emergency and roadside assistance for travel support.

Pros

  • Free cash reloads
  • No card fee for accounts opened online 
  • No credit check required

Cons

  • No rewards
  • Monthly card fee
  • Limited AMEX retailers
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
Card Highlights
Intro BonusWith the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card, you’re earning Stars everywhere you go – including 4,500 Bonus Stars after you spend $500 in the first 3 months from account opening.
APR15.99% to 22.99% Variable
Recommended CreditExcellent
Reward Rates
  • Earn 1 Star per $2 you spend at grocery stores, on local transit and commuting, and on internet, cable, and phone services.
  • Earn up to 3 Stars per $1 spent at Starbucks stores: 1 Star per $1 when digitally loading your Starbucks Card® with your Starbucks Rewards Visa Card (excludes money added at the register), plus 2 Stars per $1 spent when that Starbucks Card is used to pay at Starbucks stores.
  • Earn 1 Star per $4 you spend outside of Starbucks stores.
Annual Fee$49
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details
Rewards & Redemption Details

At a glance

The Starbucks Rewards Visa Prepaid Card is a Chase product that allows flexible spending power. You can use it anywhere Visa is accepted, with the exception of rentals like cars, furniture, and equipment. As you make purchases, you receive rewards that can be redeemed at Starbucks for food and beverage purchases. With every purchase, you receive one star for every $10 spent on eligible items. Stars never expire, either, so you can take your time redeeming them. Stars are in addition to the standard two stars per $1 purchase bonus that you get when you use your Starbucks Card.

There are no monthly or annual account fees, and it is free to reload cash onto your card. Rewards are transferred to your account within 14 days after the end of each billing cycle, so there is a bit of a wait to receive and use your rewards. You then can redeem your rewards at any participating Starbucks store in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Canada. When you redeem your stars, Starbucks offers the following rewards schedule. Certain item restrictions reply.

You can sign up for free text notifications when your balance gets low, and all you have to do is text back to use Easy Reload. There is also Zero Liability Protection, so you are not responsible for fraudulent charges, and your card comes with chip-card technology for extra security and peace of mind. The card is also FDIC-insured.

Pros

  • Bonus Starbucks rewards
  • Rewards on every purchase
  • Added security features

Cons

  • Rewards redeemable at Starbucks only
  • Must be a Starbucks Rewards member
  • No cash reloads

What's the best prepaid debit card?

The American Express Cash back card earns ZDNet's top spot for its cash rewards. It's an excellent choice for being rewarded when you spend responsibly. You get unlimited 1% Cash Back from in-store and online purchases. And, as a bonus, it's FDIC-backed and offers accessibility to a large net of MoneyPass® ATM locations nationwide.

If you're looking to build credit, however, you're better off with a starter credit card. For that, check out our list of top picks of beginner credit cards.

How did we choose these cards?

To find the best prepaid debit cards, we considered several different factors.

  • Maximum balance: This is the first step in making sure a card is right for you. Prepaid debit cards can come in various amounts, ranging from $300 to over $100,000.
  • Reload options: When you need to add cash to your card, accessibility is important. Some cards allow online transfers, while others partner with popular retailers like CVS and Walmart to offer extra convenience.  
  • Fees: Prepaid debit card issuers typically charge fees for a variety of purposes, including monthly, foreign transaction, and cash reload fees.
  • Rewards: Some cards offer additional rewards, such as cash back or specialty items, while others do not have a rewards program at all.
  • Peace of mind features: Other critical points of consideration include account security features and purchase protections, such as fraud protection.

Which card is the right one for me?

Before you choose the best prepaid debit card for your needs, consider which features are most important to you. Look at the factors we listed above, and then pick a card that matches the ones you care about.  

What is a prepaid debit card?

A prepaid debit card is similar to a traditional debit card, except that it is preloaded with a specific amount of money. When the balance is low or runs out, you simply reload your card.

Where do I get a prepaid debit card

Grabbing a prepaid debit card is as easy as going to your local grocery store, pharmacy or department store. They're often prominently displayed along with gift cards, be it at a check-out line or at a gift card kiosk. But keep in mind that you may have to pay $5 to activate it.

Happier staying at home and shopping online? You should be, because you can receive a prepaid debit card online free of charge.

What is the difference between prepaid debit cards and regular debit cards?

A prepaid debit card is different from a regular debit card because it is much easier to obtain -- even if you have bad credit or poor banking history. There is no credit check required, although there are additional fees that you may incur for different reasons.

Is a prepaid debit card right for me?

A prepaid debit card could be a great fit for you if you do not have a bank account. They are fantastic tools for parents who want a family-friendly way to manage household finances, and it can also be a great choice when you simply want to keep emergency cash-on-hand. 

Are there alternative cards worth considering?

Several other prepaid debit cards are available on the market today. These are some of the other options that we considered that nearly made our 2022 best prepaid debit card list.

  • Akimbo Prepaid MasterCard
  • Bluebird by American Express
  • Chime Visa Debit Card
  • FamZoo Prepaid Card
  • Fifth Third Access 360° Reloadable Prepaid Card
  • Greenlight Prepaid Mastercard
  • MOVO Digital Prepaid Visa
  • MOVO Virtual Prepaid Visa
  • Netspend Prepaid Card
  • Walmart MoneyCard Visa with Cashback Rewards

If you think a different type of card may be a better fit for you, consider one of our top picks for the best secured credit cards or the best cashback credit cards in 2022. 





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