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The Best Prepaid Debit Cards 2012

Updated on January 4, 2012

Why A Pre Paid Debit Card?

Contemporary prepaid credit cards offer users a great deal of financial freedom by appealing to the "top 3" factors in personal finance: Ease of use, safety and, of course, convenience.

This isn't to say prepaid debit cards are necessarily for everyone. In general, however, the ability to forgo credit checks and control your spending is a huge advantage (both for the individual and the bank!). The obvious downside to this however, is that you do not have bank funds to draw on, and occasionally your own financial self-censoring might make you squeal.

In this article I'm going to review the best cards I could find, based on must-have features and to a certain extent the additional "fluff" that might make or break a deal.

VISA vs Mastercard

As far as I'm concerned there is no real difference between the two. I know people who claim that there are differences in reach and rate of acceptance, but the facts do not support this claim.

Both competitors (with VISA leading in the U.S market) offer fantastic global coverage (tens of millions of outlets worldwide), a wealth of handy online tools and great, at least on paper, customer support.

Bear in mind neither VISA nor Mastercard offer the prepaid debit cards themselves, rather, private retailers are those that set prices, fees and other features that will impact your decision making process.

The Best Free Prepaid Debit Cards

In the first section we'll be covering free prepaid debit cards, which carry no monthly fees or other free features (although they usually have less features and support).

Mango MasterCard

The free Mango MasterCard may be perfect for mid to high range spenders. The most attractive feature of this card is that the monthly fee is waived if more than $500 are loaded onto the card per month. Other features include:

  • No hidden costs
  • No credit check
  • No bank account necessary
  • Your funds are insured (up to $250k)
  • Online tools and reloading


Signing up (free) with Accountnow will allow you to save hundreds of dollars a year in check cashing fees because there is no fee for direct deposits (if you already have a bank account). Additional benefits include:

  • No credit checks
  • No minimum deposit
  • No late fees
  • Average monthly fees $7.50

Signing up with Accountnow also allows you to access your banking tools from home, including deposits and paying your bills. FDIC insurance also protects you from fraud and identity theft.

Both of these cards are protected by MasterCard's zero liability policy (assuming you report loss or suspicious activity in a timely manner).

Premium Prepaid Cards

Trumpeting a BBB (better business bureau) rating of A+, the accredited Netspend prepaid card has become a popular solution for many people. Why? Well -- let's have a look:

  • 0 credit checks
  • No debt
  • No minimum balance
  • No late fees
  • No bounced checks
  • $5.00 monthly fee

Other great features include wide-ranging coverage (over 100,000 locations) and the ability to know at any given moment in time how much credit you have left via their SMS alerts system.

Capital One® Reloadable Prepaid MasterCard

Among premium cards I found this one to offer the cheapest monthly service rate, while upholding all the high quality support features and tools that one would expect from a high caliber service.

  • No costs for bills: phone, power, water ($1 for rent)
  • ATM access
  • Monthly maintenance fee $4.95)
  • No credit check
  • FDIC insurance
  • Free direct deposit
  • No overlimit fees
  • Online tools
  • Zero liability


I hoped you enjoyed the article! As time moves on I will make the necessary updates to ensure that this page continues to showcase the best products I could find. If you happen to know of better deals or wish to submit criticism please use the comments module below this text!

Thanks for stopping by!



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    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      I can only speak for the netSpend card my son had a year or so ago, but it was not totally "free". There was (and probably still is) a "loading fee" (usually under $5), which varies slightly on the place you go to to add funds to the card. I could also "load" my son's card from my checking account, but again, there was a fee ($4.95) to do so, so it's not something you use to add small amounts like $10 or $20. Most people use pre-paid debit cards to deposit an entire paycheck because they don't have or can't get a checking account. Some companies even offer direct deposit of paychecks to pre-paid cards, same as direct deposit to a checking account. The best thing about pre-paids that carry the VISA or MasterCard logo is once money is on the card, the card can be used exactly like a debit card.

    • thooghun profile imageAUTHOR

      James D. Preston 

      8 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Thank you for the feedback Kris!

    • profile image

      Kris Britton 

      8 years ago

      Great article! I was just googling this topic and this article came up. I love that there are no credit card fees with this, but you can still have the comfort of just carrying a card.

      Great Information!



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