3 Best Prepaid Debit Cards of 2018

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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

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prepaid debit cards

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For people who can’t qualify for a credit or debit card — or simply don’t want one — prepaid debit cards can be an effective alternative.

Prepaid debit cards make it easy to control your spending and avoid costly overdraft fees because you can spend only what you load onto the card. Some are even coupled with a high-yield savings account, making saving for the future more lucrative.

However, other prepaid debit cards come with a bunch of fees, so it’s important to compare the best ones to maximize your savings.

Why you should consider a prepaid debit card

Prepaid debit cards differ from credit and debit cards in that they’re reloadable — whatever money you add is the amount you’re able to spend. Also, they’re not tied to a credit line or checking account, so you don’t need to worry about paying interest or overdraft fees.

A prepaid debit card can be a great budgeting tool because once the balance is gone, it’s gone. You can add a certain amount of money to the card each week or month and easily hold yourself to spending only that amount.

Plus, since there’s no credit line, prepaid debit cards don’t require a credit check.

At a glance: The best prepaid debit cards

Here’s a quick summary of the best prepaid debit cards. Read on to learn more about each card and its features, benefits, and drawbacks.

Bluebird by American Express

If you’re fee-averse, the Bluebird by American Express is about as good as it gets.


Low fees

You won’t be charged a fee for any of the following:

  • Monthly maintenance
  • Activation
  • Online account opening (you might be charged up to $5 to open an account at a retail location)
  • Direct deposit
  • Cash reload at Walmart (other retail locations might charge up to $3.95 per reload)
  • Online reload with a debit card
  • Mobile check deposit (takes 10 days for the money to be available)
  • Withdrawal at MoneyPass ATMs (25,000-plus ATMs nationwide)
  • Bill pay
  • Stop payment
  • Sending money to other Bluebird accounts
  • Foreign exchange
  • Inactivity
  • Replacement card


If you share your finances with a significant other or have a family, the Bluebird’s family accounts make it easy to manage your money together:

  • You can have up to four cards total (including yours).
  • Cardholders can fund cards online or with the Bluebird mobile app.
  • You can set daily spending limits, create alerts, and turn ATM access on or off for each card.

Other perks

With the Bluebird, you’ll get several benefits that aren’t common among prepaid debit cards, including:

  • Purchase protection: in case an item you purchase is damaged or stolen
  • Fraud protection: in case your card is lost or stolen
  • Amex Offers: discounts and cash-back offers at restaurants and retailers
  • Roadside assistance hotline: a tow truck or locksmith in case of an emergency on the road
  • Access to advance ticket sales: tickets to concerts, sporting events, and other entertainment before the masses


Can’t reload via your checking account

The Bluebird offers a few free ways to add money to your account, but a checking account isn’t one of them.

If you have a checking account but no debit card, your only fee-free options to add money are direct deposit and cash reloads at Walmart.


American Express isn’t as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard in the U.S. or internationally. Be sure to keep cash on hand in case a small retailer won’t accept your card as a form of payment.

Mango Visa Prepaid Card

As of July 2017, the average annual percentage yield (APY) for savings accounts in the U.S. is a measly 0.06%. With the best online savings accounts, you can get up to 1.10% APY, but even that number pales in comparison to what the Mango Visa Prepaid Card offers.


High savings APY

With Mango, you can get up to 6.00% APY on balances up to $5,000. So you could earn $300 per year with a $5,000 balance, compared to $3 per year with the average savings account.

The only caveat is that you must have a net direct deposit of $800 or more each month and a minimum balance of $1 at the end of the month. Mango defines net direct deposits as direct deposit transfers into your account minus transfers out.

You’ll earn 2.00% APY on balances up to $5,000 if you don’t meet the requirements. If your balance is more than $5,000, you’ll earn 0.10% APY on the portion of the balance over $5,000.

Referral program

Although Mango doesn’t offer subaccounts, you can invite your significant other to join Mango and get a $10 referral bonus. They must enroll, activate the card, and receive a recurring direct deposit of at least $50 for you to get the bonus.

You also can refer family and friends; there’s no limit to how many referral bonuses you can receive.



You’ll pay a $3 monthly maintenance fee with the card. Other fees include:

  • $2 fee every time you withdraw money from an ATM
  • $1 fee for ATM balance inquiries
  • 2 percent currency conversion fee when you use your card abroad

For cash reloads, you’ll pay up to $4.95 per transaction, depending on which retailer you use. Participating retailers include Walmart, 7-Eleven, Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS, Kmart, and more.

If you plan to use the Mango savings account, the interest you earn could easily make up for the fees. You also won’t pay a fee for the following activities:

  • Signing up
  • Activation
  • Transferring money to another Mango card
  • Bank transfer load
  • Direct deposit
  • PayPal transfer load

Some key features are missing

The Mango card doesn’t offer bill pay or mobile check deposits. You also can’t add multiple cards per account to share with family.

The card’s savings component is unbeatable, but if you’re looking for a prepaid debit card that offers the whole kit and caboodle, this one isn’t it. 

No zero-liability fraud protection

Mango shares tips on its website to avoid fraud, but it won’t give you full protection from fraudulent purchases.

If fraud does occur, you can submit a dispute with Mango, which can take 45 to 90 days to resolve. But ultimately, there’s no guarantee you’ll get the money back.

American Express Serve Cash Back

The American Express Serve Cash Back is a rare prepaid debit card in that it offers rewards on purchases. Depending on how much you spend, you could easily make up for some, if not all, of the card’s fees.


Cash-back rewards

The Serve Cash Back card offers unlimited 1 percent cash back on all purchases. The amount you earn gets added to your prepaid debit card account, and you can use it for future purchases.

Let’s say you spend $1,500 per month with your prepaid debit card. You’ll earn $15 per month in rewards — or $180 per year. Even among debit cards that offer rewards, you won’t get that kind of return.

Note that ATM withdrawals, fees, and bill pay transactions aren’t considered purchases and don’t earn cash back.


If you want to add children or a significant other to your account, the Serve Cash Back allows you to do so. Keep in mind, though, that purchases on a subaccount don’t earn cash back.

Other perks

Like the Bluebird, the Serve Cash Back offers fraud protection if your card is lost or stolen. You’ll also get purchase protection in case an item you purchase is lost or damaged. For ATM withdrawals, you’ll get access to more than 24,000 ATMs fee-free through the MoneyPass network.



Although the card offers 1 percent cash back on every purchase, you’ll have to spend at least $595 per month to make up for the card’s monthly fee of $5.95. You’ll also pay up to $3.95 per cash reload, regardless of where you do it.

There are no fees for the following:

  • Signing up online (up to $3.95 through a retailer)
  • Direct deposit
  • Bank transfer reload
  • Bill pay
  • Sending and receiving money between Serve accounts
  • Adding a subaccount
  • Card replacement


Like the Bluebird, the Serve Cash Back is issued by American Express. Because some small businesses might not accept American Express, keep a bit of cash in your wallet.

Should you choose a prepaid debit card?

Prepaid debit cards are a perfect choice if you have trouble with overspending or want help sticking to your budget. They’re also a nice alternative to credit and debit cards if you can’t qualify for either.

But if you’re looking to build credit, a prepaid debit card isn’t for you. Since there’s no credit line involved, prepaid debit cards don’t help build credit. If that’s what you’re looking for, consider a secured credit card instead.

As you compare the best prepaid debit cards, focus on the features that matter most to you. For example, if you spend a lot, you’ll likely earn enough rewards with the Serve Cash Back to more than make up for its fees.

If you’re more interested in avoiding fees, though, the Bluebird might be a better choice. The good news is that applying for prepaid debit cards doesn’t affect your credit or ChexSystems record.

Banks report checking and savings account activity to ChexSystems, and having several bank accounts on your record can raise red flags. So if one prepaid debit card doesn’t work out for you, there’s no harm in switching to another.

To avoid the extra work, though, make an effort to get the right card the first time.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 8 lenders of 2020!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.20% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.99% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.89% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of December 13, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 12/13/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 3.46% APR (with AutoPay) to 7.61% APR (without AutoPay). Variable rates currently from 2.31% APR (with AutoPay) to 7.61% (without AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.31% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.31% plus 0.75% margin minus 0.25% for AutoPay. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your credit history and the term of the loan and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

3 Important Disclosures for Figure.

Figure Disclosures

Figure’s Student Refinance Loan is a private loan. If you refinance federal loans, you forfeit certain flexible repayment options associated with those loans. If you expect to incur financial hardship that would impact your ability to repay, you should consider federal consolidation alternatives.

4 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

College Ave Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

1College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine.

2All rates shown include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

3$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees.

4This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 1/1/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.

5 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Mortgage lending is not offered in Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.


There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties associated with the loan. Lender may assess a late fee if any part of a payment is not received within 15 days of the payment due date. Any late fee assessed shall not exceed 5% of the late payment or $28, whichever is less. A borrower may be charged $20 for any payment (including a check or an electronic payment) that is returned unpaid due to non-sufficient funds (NSF) or a closed account.


For bachelor’s degrees and higher, up to 100% of outstanding private and federal student loans (minimum $5,000) are eligible for refinancing. If you are refinancing greater than $300,000 in student loan debt, Lender may refinance the loans into 2 or more new loans.
For eligible Associates degrees in the healthcare field (see Eligibility & Eligible Loans section below), Lender will refinance up to $50,000 in loans for non-ParentPlus refinance loans. Note, parents who are refinancing loans taken out on behalf of a child who has obtained an associates degrees in an eligible healthcare field are not subject to the $50,000 loan maximum, refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for more information about refinancing ParentPlus loans.


Borrower, and Co-signer if applicable, must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident with a valid I-551 card (which must show a minimum of 10 years between “Resident Since” date and “Card Expires” date or has no expiration date); state that they are of at least borrowing age in the state of residence at the time of application; and meet Lender underwriting criteria (including, for example, employment, debt-to-income, disposable income, and credit history requirements).

Graduates may refinance any unsubsidized or subsidized Federal or private student loan that was used exclusively for qualified higher education expenses (as defined in 26 USC Section 221) at an accredited U.S. undergraduate or graduate school. Any federal loans refinanced with Lender are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment.

All loans must be in grace or repayment status and cannot be in default. Borrower must have graduated or be enrolled in good standing in the final term preceding graduation from an accredited Title IV U.S. school and must be employed, or have an eligible offer of employment. Parents looking to refinance loans taken out on behalf of a child should refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for applicable terms and conditions.

For Associates Degrees: Only associates degrees earned in one of the following are eligible for refinancing: Cardiovascular Technologist (CVT); Dental Hygiene; Diagnostic Medical Sonography; EMT/Paramedics; Nuclear Technician; Nursing; Occupational Therapy Assistant; Pharmacy Technician; Physical Therapy Assistant; Radiation Therapy; Radiologic/MRI Technologist; Respiratory Therapy; or Surgical Technologist. To refinance an Associates degree, a borrower must also either be currently enrolled and in the final term of an associate degree program at a Title IV eligible school with an offer of employment in the same field in which they will receive an eligible associate degree OR have graduated from a school that is Title IV eligible with an eligible associate and have been employed, for a minimum of 12 months, in the same field of study of the associate degree earned.


The interest rate you are offered will depend on your credit profile, income, and total debt payments as well as your choice of fixed or variable and choice of term. For applicants who are currently medical or dental residents, your rate offer may also vary depending on whether you have secured employment for after residency.


The repayment of any refinanced student loan will commence (1) immediately after disbursement by us, or (2) after any grace or in-school deferment period, existing prior to refinancing and/or consolidation with us, has expired.


After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship.

We may agree under certain circumstances to allow a borrower to make $100/month payments for a period of time immediately after loan disbursement if the borrower is employed full-time as an intern, resident, or similar postgraduate trainee at the time of loan disbursement. These payments may not be enough to cover all of the interest that accrues on the loan. Unpaid accrued interest will be added to your loan and monthly payments of principal and interest will begin when the post-graduate training program ends.

We may agree under certain circumstances to allow postponement (deferral) of monthly payments of principal and interest for a period of time immediately following loan disbursement (not to exceed 6 months after the borrower’s graduation with an eligible degree), if the borrower is an eligible student in the borrower’s final term at the time of loan disbursement or graduated less than 6 months before loan disbursement, and has accepted an offer of (or has already begun) full-time employment.

If Lender agrees (in its sole discretion) to postpone or reduce any monthly payment(s) for a period of time, interest on the loan will continue to accrue for each day principal is owed. Although the borrower might not be required to make payments during such a period, the borrower may continue to make payments during such a period. Making payments, or paying some of the interest, will reduce the total amount that will be required to be paid over the life of the loan. Interest not paid during any period when Lender has agreed to postpone or reduce any monthly payment will be added to the principal balance through capitalization (compounding) at the end of such a period, one month before the borrower is required to resume making regular monthly payments.


This information is current as of November 8, 2019 and is subject to change.

6 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers.

7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 1.76% effective November 10, 2019.

8 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it  endorse,  any educational institution.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 12/019/2019 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% to 8.59% Variable APR with AutoPay and 3.49% to 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.

1.99% – 6.89%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.31% – 7.36%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.06% – 6.81%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Figure

2.62% – 6.12%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit College Ave

2.29% – 6.65%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

1.99% – 7.06%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

1.81% – 6.29%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

1.90% – 8.59%8Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

Published in Big Money Decisions,