Millions of Americans now use prepaid cards to manage their money. Unlike regular bank cards, you don’t need to link these to an account. And you don’t need to go through a credit check to get them. You simply load prepaid cards with cash and then pay bills or make purchases. Not everyone uses prepaid cards as a substitute for a bank account. Many use them as a tool to keep themselves on a budget, by loading a certain amount for say food or entertainment.
Consumer Reports analyzed 23 cards and found some are not as good deals as others. For example the netSpend Prepaid Visa Pay as You Go plan charges $1 to $2 every time you make a purchase. And there’s no cap on those fees. And the netSpend Prepaid Visa Fee Advantage plan charged $9.95 per month. So does the AccountNow Gold Visa Prepaid Card and its fees can be hard to figure out. Also a problem is the American Express for Target prepaid card, because it’s not insured by the FDIC.
Top ratings went to Bluebird, a prepaid card issued by American Express and Walmart. There’s no monthly fee, no activation fee, no fee for making purchases or paying bills and no charge to load money either by direct deposit or at Walmart. Bluebird also has a wide network of MoneyPass ATMs that are free to use.
Consumer Reports gave several other prepaid cards high ratings including: Chase Liquid Visa, H&R Block Emerald Prepaid MasterCard and Prepaid Visa Rush Card with the Rush unlimited plan. You can get more information on how to evaluate prepaid cards at http://defendyourdollars.org.