What are prepaid debit cards?

BUY PREPAID CARD ONLINE, A prepaid debit card can serve as a budgeting tool or an all-out replacement for a bank account — and the best prepaid cards offer convenience while charging few fees.

Prepaid cards are easy to get. Prepaid cards are sold at retail stores (usually for a fee) and some can be ordered online. There’s no credit check, and they’re often available even if you can’t get a bank account because of a bad banking history. Unlike with a credit card, you load funds onto prepaid cards before use.

Some companies also offer mobile-optimized banking accounts that don’t require a squeaky-clean banking or credit history — and they often cost less than prepaid cards. Skip ahead to read about these low-fee alternatives.

Prepaid debit cards vs. regular debit cards

You don’t need a bank account to get a prepaid debit card, but it’s a requirement for a regular debit card, which is linked to your checking account. For prepaid debit cards, you load the card with money when you get it, then use it to make purchases. For regular debit cards, the funds for your payments are taken directly from your checking account as you make payments.

» More from NerdWallet: What is a debit card?

Nerdy tip: If you need to build credit or have been denied a bank account, a prepaid debit card might not be the best option: Secured credit cards help build credit, and if you can’t get a regular checking account, try second chance checking. These accounts provide another shot at mainstream banking and its perks.

Why trust NerdWallet: Our writers and editors follow strict editorial guidelines to make sure our coverage is fair and accurate, so you can choose the financial accounts that work best for you. See our criteria for evaluating banks and credit unions.

Here are our top prepaid debit cards based on fees and features. Scroll down for more detail on each account.


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