Prepaid cards are primarily a short-term financial solution for the un-banked. However, there are a few other reasons to take advantage of the many free prepaid debit cards available today. You may need a card for your child who is going off to college. By using these prepaid debit cards, you will be able to control the amount that they can spend.
Another reason is that you may not want a bank account and/or might not qualify for (or want) a regular credit card. With the economy like it is, a lot of people have turned the prepaid card to help them control spending. Having your employer or the government send your check by direct deposit to your prepaid card is the best solution for many. Plus, prepaid debit cards are safer and more convenient than carrying around cash. But watch out for the fees.
These free prepaid debit cards aren’t that complicated. You sign up, in most cases you are accepted immediately, without question. There is no credit check. Most cards do not have a sign up fee or an annual fee to use the service. Like any financial product, prepaid cards have their negatives. So make sure you read the terms and conditions and understand what you’re getting into. Here are the best free prepaid debit cards available today:
PT’s Pick for Best Free Prepaid Debit Card
Green Dot® Prepaid MasterCard® – This is probably my favorite card for the no-nonsense consumer. It’s very straight-forward. No extras. No fees if you use it right. Here’s how it works. You sign up online and pay no activation fee. There is no credit check. On your first MoneyPak cash load, you get a nice $4.95 bonus. Monthly fees can be avoided as long as you have at least 30 purchases or when you load at least $1,000 to your Card. Finally, the Green Dot Prepaid MasterCard has free online bill pay and ATM cash withdrawals at over 18,000 participating ATMs.
American Express® Prepaid Card – If you’re in the market for a prepaid card, the American Express Prepaid Card is one of those cards you want to have in your wallet. There is no purchase fee, no annual or monthly fee, no transaction fee, no credit checks or overdraft fees and no customer service fee. Basically the only fee associated with this card is a $2.00 ATM withdrawal fee, that is after your one free monthly ATM withdrawal. Not only is this card practically free to use, it also comes with World Class American Express Benefits such as 24 hour customer service, purchase protection, roadside assistance and many more.
Upside Visa® Prepaid Card – This is another one of the more solid prepaid credit cards with low fees, a cash back rewards point program, and a back end system that acts a lot like a regular online checking account. By that I mean you can check all your account info online and you can send online checks. With the Upside Visa Prepaid Card rewards program you can earn 1,500 points ($15 value) just for activating your card online and setting up direct deposit. You can also earn rewards by spending online. Has no credit check, no activation fee, free direct deposit, you earn 3 points per dollar spent on prepaid cell phone service purchases, and you can reduce the monthly fee to only $0.99 by loading $500 on the card each month. $4.95 otherwise.
From my research, those are the only three cards that will be free, or extremely close to free ($.99 a month). Here are some more prepaid credit cards. While not capable of fee-free use, their services may make up the difference:
READYdebit® Visa Prepaid Card – Just like with the other prepaid cards, you won’t experience a credit check upfront, 100% guaranteed approval. With this card you get online bill pay service and free direct deposit. No deposits or prepayments are required to get your card now. All signature-based transactions are free. To activate the READYdebit Visa Prepaid Card you’ll need to pay a small upfront fee, and you’ll pay a monthly fee of $9.95. The card is also FDIC Insured and you can choose your card color – blue or pink.
Pink ACE Elite™ Visa® Prepaid Card – There are couple of interesting points about this card from the folks at ACE Cash Express. First, when you purchase the card for up to $9.95, a portion of that goes to breast cancer research. Secondly, because it’s connected with ACE Cash Express, tax refunds get credited in as few as 8 days and you can get your paycheck or government check deposited onto the card 2 days early. The Pink ACE Elite Visa Prepaid Card Card is FDIC Insured, has no direct deposit fees. Direct Depositing $500 in one calendar month qualifies you for a $10 Purchase Cushion & their lowest fee plan*. You can go on a monthly maintenance fee plan, or you can do the pay-as-you-go route. The monthly fee is up to $9.95, depending on the plan you choose.
NetSpend® Prepaid MasterCard® – No credit check, overdraft fees or minimum balances. Access to online bill pay. A 5% APY savings account! Free direct deposit. Similar to the RushCard, you can do a pay-as-you-go option where you won’t pay a monthly fee, but you will face individual transaction fees. If you choose the monthly plan, you will pay up to $9.95 a month. Besides the savings account, the NetSpend Prepaid MasterCard also offers a new feature, you get prescription discounts up to 55% off, get rewarded with NetSpend Payback RewardTM options, just go to your Rewards page to see your offers, and real-time activity alerts are sent to your mobile phone.
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