Your Guide to 25 Fees That Prepaid Debit Cards Charge

Updated on April 21, 2018
Gregory DeVictor profile image

Gregory DeVictor is a trivia enthusiast who loves to write articles on American nostalgia.

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Introduction to Prepaid Debit Cards

Prepaid debit cards have become increasingly popular in the marketplace over the past five years. They’re available online, at banks, and from retailers like Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Kroger, Safeway, and Giant Eagle. Nearly all prepaid cards will charge you fees whether or not you use the card. The fees and amounts will vary depending upon the card and how you choose to use it. For example, Bluebird by American Express and the Chase Liquid Card have relatively few fees while the NetSpend Card has approximately 25. As a result, some prepaid cards could cost you hundreds of dollars more annually than others.

What kinds of fees can you expect to pay with a prepaid debit card? Here are six common fees for prepaid cards: monthly maintenance charges, online bill payment fees, PIN and signature transaction charges, in-network and out-of-network ATM fees, balance inquiry charges, and card reload fees.

This article discusses 25 prepaid debit card fees and how much you can expect to pay with certain prepaid cards.

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Six Truths About Prepaid Debit Cards

1. What is the difference between a traditional bank account debit card and a prepaid one? A traditional debit card is directly linked to a checking account while a prepaid card is not. With a prepaid debit card, you load money in advance onto the card to shop, pay bills, or withdraw cash from an ATM. You can also use a prepaid debit card to receive direct deposits of payroll checks, government benefits, and tax refunds.

2. Prepaid debit cards are a viable alternative if you don’t qualify for a traditional checking account because of derogatory information on your ChexSystems report. For those who don’t already know, ChexSystems is a consumer credit reporting agency that tracks people who have mishandled any bank accounts over the past five years. ChexSystems reports include unpaid fees from overdrafts as well as checks bounced at retailers and other companies. About 80% of banks and credit unions use ChexSystems reports to assess the potential risks of having an account applicant as a customer.

3. A consumer with a MyVanilla Prepaid Visa Card who makes 20 purchases a month, five ATM withdrawals, four cash reloads, and five balance inquiries using an ATM could pay as much as $40.75 in fees. That adds up to $489.00 annually. Throw in two card replacements with expedited shipping during the year plus six requests for a paper statement and the annual expenses top out at $560.70.

4. Consumer Reports compiled a list of the best and worst prepaid debit cards. Based in their findings, here is the lowest-rated card:

  • NetSpend Prepaid Visa Pay-as-You-Go

The NetSpend Card has about 25 fees, many of which are relatively high. Here are some examples of their charges:

  • Balance inquiry fee (telephone automated service) - $0.50 each

  • Balance inquiry fee (customer service agent) - $0.50 each

  • Balance inquiry fee (ATM domestic) - $0.50 each, plus third party ATM operator fees, if applicable

  • Balance inquiry fee (ATM international) - $0.50 each, plus third party ATM operator fees, if applicable

  • Check request fee - $5.95

  • Additional statement mailing fee - $5.95

  • Replacement card fee - $9.95

  • Card delivery fee (7-10 business days) - No fee

  • Card delivery fee (3 business days) - $20.00

  • Card delivery fee (1-2 business days) - $25.00

  • Card inactivity fee - $5.95 per month

  • Overdraft protection service fee - $15.00 per transaction

  • ACH debit/pre-authorized payment transaction decline fee - $1.00 each

  • Stop payment fee for ACH debit/pre-authorized payment transactions - $10.00 each

  • Custom card fee - $4.95 each

  • Account-to-account transfer fee (customer service agent) - $4.95 per transfer

  • ATM transaction decline fee (domestic) - $1.00 each

  • ATM transaction decline fee (international) - $1.00 each

  • Foreign transaction surcharge - 3.5% of the U.S. dollar amount of the cash withdrawal

  • Signature purchase fee - $1.00 per transaction

Here are three of Consumer Reports' best prepaid debit cards:

  • Bluebird from American Express

  • Chase Liquid issued by Chase

  • Green Dot Prepaid Visa

All of these cards have low fees in comparison to other prepaid cards, including NetSpend.

5. Did you know that most prepaid debit cards fail to disclose their fees? CreditCards.com checked 10 cards' disclosures against a federal model and found that seven fell short. Here is what they found:

We looked at the fees printed on the packaging of 10 widely available prepaid debit cards sold at big retailers, drugstores, grocery stores and payday lenders. Just three met the disclosure standards recommended by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Seven fell short by not disclosing important comparison information on the exterior of packaging, or not revealing it at all.

6. Prepaid debit cards will not help you to build credit history because a credit check is not required in order to obtain a card.

50 Popular Prepaid Cards

Prepaid debit cards are issued by banks, credit unions, and American Express. Here are the names of 50 prepaid cards that are popular in the marketplace today:

  1. 24k Prepaid Visa® RushCard

  2. AccountNow Gold Visa® Prepaid Card

  3. AchieveCard Prepaid Visa Card

  4. Akimbo Prepaid Mastercard

  5. American Express Serve

  6. American Express Serve FREE Reloads

  7. American Express Serve Cash Back

  8. BB&T Reloadable Visa Prepaid Card

  9. BBVA Compass ClearSpend Prepaid Visa Card

  10. Bluebird from American Express

  11. Brink's Prepaid Mastercard®

  12. Carbon Prepaid Visa® RushCard

  13. Cashpass Visa Prepaid Card

  14. Chase Liquid Prepaid Visa

  15. CityScape ACE Elite Visa® Prepaid Debit Card

  16. Commerce Bank mySpending Reloadable Prepaid Visa Card

  17. Excella® Visa® Prepaid Debit Card

  18. FasterMoney® Visa® Prepaid Card

  19. Gloss Prepaid Visa® RushCard

  20. Green Dot® Reloadable Prepaid Visa® Card

  21. Mango Prepaid Mastercard

  22. MetaBank ETA Visa Prepaid Card

  23. Midnight Prepaid Visa® RushCard

  24. MileagePlus® GO Visa® Prepaid Card

  25. MOVO® Virtual Prepaid Visa® Card

  26. MyVanilla Prepaid MasterCard

  27. MyVanilla Prepaid Visa Card

  28. Netspend® Prepaid Mastercard®

  29. Netspend® Visa® Prepaid Card

  30. PayPal Prepaid Mastercard®

  31. Pink ACE Elite Visa® Prepaid Card

  32. PNC SmartAccess® Prepaid Visa® Card

  33. PrestigePay Prepaid Mastercard

  34. READYDebit Visa® Prepaid Card

  35. Regions Now Reloadable Visa Prepaid Card

  36. RushCard Prepaid Visa®

  37. Sequin KLS Prepaid Visa® RushCard

  38. SilverCard Prepaid MasterCard®

  39. South Carolina Federal Credit Union Prepaid Visa

  40. TD Connect Reloadable Prepaid Visa®Card

  41. The Betty Boop Custom Prepaid Visa Card

  42. The Care Bears Custom Prepaid Visa Card

  43. The Kiss Custom Prepaid Visa Card

  44. Unidos Visa® Prepaid Card

  45. Univision Mastercard® Prepaid Card

  46. Vision Preferred Prepaid Visa Debit Card

  47. Walmart MoneyCard® MasterCard® with Cash-Back Rewards

  48. Walmart MoneyCard® Visa® with Cash-Back Rewards

  49. Wells Fargo EasyPay Card

  50. Western Union® Prepaid Mastercard®

Table of Contents

  1. Activation fees
  2. Additional card fees
  3. ATM cash withdrawal fees
  4. Balance inquiry fees (ATM)
  5. Balance inquiry fees (telephone automated service)
  6. Balance inquiry fees (telephone customer service agent)
  7. Card cancellation fees
  8. Card purchase fees
  9. Card-to-card transfer fees
  10. Cash reload fees
  11. Customer service fees
  12. Custom fees
  13. Declined transaction fees
  14. Direct deposit fees
  15. Foreign transaction fees
  16. Inactivity fees
  17. International ATM cash withdrawal fee
  18. Monthly maintenance fees
  19. Online bill payment fees
  20. Over-the-counter cash withdrawal fees at a bank or credit union
  21. Overdraft protection fees
  22. Paper statement fees
  23. Point-of-sale fees
  24. Replacement card fees
  25. Stop payment fees

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Activation Fees, Balance Inquiry Fees, Cash Reload Fees, and More

When choosing a prepaid card, I recommend that you take these 25 card fees into account. In addition, prepaid debit card fees are subject to change at any time and without notice.

1. Activation fees

While most prepaid cards are free to activate, here are five prepaid cards that have activation fees:

  1. AccountNow Prepaid MasterCard (by MetaBank) - $4.95
  2. Carbon Prepaid Visa® RushCard - $3.95
  3. Sequin KLS Prepaid Visa® RushCard - $9.95
  4. SilverCard Prepaid MasterCard® - $9.95
  5. Vision Preferred Prepaid Visa Debit Card - $9.95

These 10 prepaid cards do not have any activation fees:

  1. AccountNow® Gold Visa® Prepaid Card
  2. Akimbo Prepaid Mastercard
  3. Bluebird by American Express
  4. Chase Liquid Card
  5. Fifth Third Access 360 Reloadable Prepaid Card
  6. Green Dot Prepaid Visa Card
  7. Mango Prepaid Card
  8. Movo Virtual Prepaid Visa Card
  9. Walmart MoneyCard Prepaid Card
  10. Western Union® Prepaid MasterCard® - Pay as You Go Plan

2. Additional card fees

  • Brink’s Prepaid MasterCard - $9.95 per secondary card
  • NetSpend Prepaid Card - $9.95 per additional card

3. ATM withdrawal fees

  1. AccountNow® Gold Visa® Prepaid Card - $2.50 per transaction
  2. AccountNow® Prepaid Visa® Card - $2.50 per transaction
  3. Akimbo Prepaid Mastercard - There is a $1.98 charge for all ATM withdrawals.
  4. Bluebird by American Express - Cash withdrawals are free at ATMs that are part of the MoneyPass network. There is a $2.50 fee for out-of-network ATMs.
  5. Carbon Prepaid Visa® RushCard - $2.50 per transaction
  6. Chase Liquid Card - Cash withdrawals are free at Chase ATMs and $2.50 for out-of-network ATMs.
  7. Fifth Third Access 360 Reloadable Prepaid Card - Cash withdrawals are free at Fifth Third ATMs and at nearly 40,000 AllPoint ATMs. There is a $2.75 fee for out-of-network machines.
  8. Green Dot Prepaid Visa® Card - $2.50 per transaction
  9. Mango Prepaid Card - $2.00 per transaction
  10. Movo Virtual Prepaid Visa Card - Cash withdrawals are free at 6,000 ATMs that are part of the Visa Plus Alliance network. There is a $2.50 fee for out-of-network machines.
  11. Sequin KLS Prepaid Visa® RushCard - $2.50 per transaction
  12. SilverCard Prepaid MasterCard® - $1.95 per transaction
  13. Walmart MoneyCard Prepaid Card - $2.50 per transaction
  14. Western Union® Prepaid MasterCard® Pay-as-You-Go - $1.95 per transaction

4. Balance inquiry fees (telephone automated service)

The Brink’s Prepaid MasterCard charges $0.50 per request.

5. Balance inquiry fees (telephone customer service agent)

The Brink’s Prepaid MasterCard charges $0.50 per inquiry.

6. Balance inquiry fees (ATM)

  • AccountNow Gold Visa Prepaid Card (by MetaBank) - $1.50 for each ATM balance request
  • AccountNow Prepaid MasterCard (by MetaBank) - $1.50 per ATM balance inquiry

7. Card cancellation fees

You may be charged a fee for closing a prepaid debit card account.

  • MyVanilla Prepaid Visa Card - $9.95 liquidation fee
  • My Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard - $9.95 liquidation fee

8. Card purchase fees

Most prepaid debit cards are free if you purchase them online. Here are some exceptions:

  • Lil Wayne’s Young Money Prepaid Card - $6.95
  • RushCard Prepaid Visa (custom design) - up to $14.95

Retailers like Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS charge a fee ranging from $2.95 to $4.95 if you any of these reloadable cards directly from them:

  • Green Dot Prepaid Debit Card
  • MyVanilla Prepaid Mastercard
  • MyVanilla Prepaid Visa Card
  • NetSpend Prepaid Card

9. Card-to-card transfer fees

You may be charged a fee for transferring money between two prepaid cards.

  • Brink’s Prepaid MasterCard - $4.95 per transfer if done through live customer support
  • MetaBank ETA Visa Prepaid Card - Free

10. Cash reload fees

  • American Express Serve Cash Back Cash - Up to $3.95 per cash reload
  • Green Dot Card - Up to $4.95 per cash reload
  • MyVanilla Prepaid Mastercard - Up to $3.95 per cash reload
  • MyVanilla Prepaid Visa Card - Up to $3.95 per cash reload

Source

Foreign Transaction Fees, Inactivity Fees, Monthly Maintenance Charges, and More

11. Customer service fees

  • MetaBank ETA Visa Prepaid Card - Receive four free customer service calls every month and pay $3.00 for each additional call.
  • NetSpend Pay-as-You-Go Plan - $0.50 for each live customer service call

12. Custom fees

  • NetSpend Card - $4.95 for a custom card
  • RushCard Prepaid Visa (custom design) - up to $14.95

13. Declined transaction fees

  • MyVanilla Prepaid Mastercard - $0.75 per transaction
  • MyVanilla Prepaid Visa Card - $0.75 per transaction
  • READYdebit Prepaid Visa Card - $1.00 per transaction

14. Direct deposit fees

Most prepaid debit cards do not charge for the direct deposit of payroll checks, government benefits, or tax refunds.

15. Foreign transaction fees

  • MetaBank ETA Visa Prepaid Card - 1.5% of the transaction amount
  • NetSpend Card - 3.5% of the transaction amount

16. Inactivity fees

You may be charged a fee if a prepaid debit card has not been used during a specified time period.

  • MyVanilla Prepaid Mastercard - $3.95 per month if the card has not had activity for 90 days
  • MyVanilla Prepaid Visa Card - $3.95 per month if the card has not been used for 90 days
  • NetSpend - $5.95 if the card has not had activity for 90 days

The following prepaid cards have no inactivity fees:

  1. Akimbo Prepaid Mastercard

  2. Bluebird by American Express

  3. Chase Liquid Card

  4. Fifth Third Access 360 Reloadable Prepaid Card

  5. Movo Virtual Prepaid Visa Card

17. International ATM cash withdrawal fees

  • MyVanilla Prepaid Visa Card - $4.95 per withdrawal
  • My Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard - $4.95 per transaction
  • NetSpend Card - $4.95 per withdrawal

18. Monthly maintenance fees

NerdWallet analyzed 44 prepaid debit cards and found that the average monthly maintenance fee was $4.67.

Here is a list of over 25 prepaid debit cards and their monthly service fees:

  1. AccountNow Prepaid Gold Visa Card - $9.95
  2. AccountNow Prepaid Mastercard - $9.95
  3. Akimbo Prepaid MasterCard - $0.00
  4. American Express Bluebird Prepaid Debit Card - $1.00
  5. American Express Serve Prepaid Credit Card - $1.00
  6. BB&T Prepaid MoneyAccount - $5.00
  7. BBVA Compass ClearSpend Visa Card - $4.00
  8. Brinks Money Prepaid Mastercard - $9.95
  9. Chase Liquid Card - $4.95
  10. Fifth Third Access 360 Reloadable Prepaid Card - $4.00
  11. Green Dot Prepaid Visa and Mastercard - $0.00
  12. H&R Block Emerald Prepaid MasterCard - $0.00
  13. Kaiku Visa Prepaid Credit Card - $3.00
  14. Mango Prepaid Mastercard - $3.00
  15. MOVO Virtual Prepaid Visa Card - $0.00
  16. NAVY Federal Credit Union GO Prepaid Card - $0.00
  17. NetSpend Fee Advantage Plan - $9.95
  18. PayPal Mastercard Prepaid Credit Card - $5.00
  19. PNC SmartAccess Prepaid Visa Card - $0.00
  20. READYDebit Platinum Visa Prepaid Debit Card - $14.95
  21. READYDebit Visa Prepaid Credit Card - $9.95
  22. SunTrust Prepaid MasterCard - $5.00
  23. U.S. Bank Contour Card - $4.00
  24. Vision Premier Visa Prepaid Credit Card - $0.00
  25. Wells Fargo EasyPay Card - $5.00
  26. Western Union NetSpend Prepaid Mastercard - $10.00

Source

Online Bill Payment Fees, Point-of-Sale Fees, Card Replacement Fees, and More

19. Online bill payment fees

Many prepaid debit cards allow you to pay everything from utility bills to insurance premiums by using their online bill payment feature. However, service charges generally apply. Here are several examples:

  • MetaBank ETA Visa Prepaid Card - $2.50 for each paper check
  • MetaBank ETA Visa Prepaid Card - $7.95 per check cancellation request
  • NetSpend - $5.95 per paper check request

20. Over-the-counter cash withdrawal fees at a bank or credit union

  • NetSpend - $2.50 per transaction
  • READYdebit card - 3% of the transaction amount

21. Overdraft protection fees

According to USA Today, a 2015 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts showed that 72 percent of prepaid debit card users listed the ability to "avoid overdraft fees" as a primary reason why they liked using the cards. Currently, overdraft protection is available on only a handful of prepaid cards including Brink’s and NetSpend.

  • Brink’s Prepaid MasterCard - $15.00 for each overdraft occurrence, up to three fees per month
  • NetSpend Card - Overdraft policy is the same as Brink's

22. Paper statement fees

  • MetaBank ETA Visa Prepaid Card - Free
  • My Vanilla Prepaid Mastercard - $4.95 to receive a paper statement
  • MyVanilla Prepaid Visa Card - $4.95 to receive a paper statement
  • NetSpend Card - $5.95 for each paper statement

23. Point-of-sale fees

Here is how much you can expect to pay in signature fees for 16 prepaid cards:

  1. AccountNow® Gold Visa® Prepaid Card - Free
  2. AccountNow® Prepaid Visa® Card - $1.00
  3. Akimbo Prepaid Mastercard - $0.99 for the first five purchases using a PIN, up to $4.95 each month. However, they do not charge a fee for signature-based purchases.
  4. Bluebird by American Express - Free
  5. Chase Liquid Card - Free
  6. Fifth Third Access 360 Reloadable Prepaid Card - Free
  7. Green Dot Prepaid Visa® Card - Free
  8. Mango Prepaid Card - Free
  9. Movo Virtual Prepaid Visa Card - Free
  10. NetSpend Pay-As-You-Go Card - $2.00 for PIN and $1.00 for signature purchases
  11. READYdebit Prepaid Visa Card - $1.00 for each pin or signature transaction
  12. RushCard - $1.00 for each pin or signature transaction
  13. Sequin KLS Prepaid Visa® RushCard - Free
  14. SilverCard Prepaid MasterCard® - Free
  15. Walmart MoneyCard Prepaid Card - Free
  16. Western Union® Prepaid MasterCard® - Pay as You Go - $1.00

24. Replacement card fees

  • MetaBank ETA Visa Prepaid Card - $2.95 per card
  • MyVanilla Prepaid MasterCard - $6.00 for each card
  • MyVanilla Prepaid MasterCard - $21.00 per card with expedited shipping
  • MyVanilla Prepaid Visa Card - $6.00 for each card
  • MyVanilla Prepaid Visa Card - $21.00 per card with expedited shipping
  • NetSpend Card - $9.95 for each card

25. Stop payment fees

NetSpend charges $10.00 for each stop payment request.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Gregory DeVictor

    Comments

    Submit a Comment

    • Gregory DeVictor profile imageAUTHOR

      Gregory DeVictor 

      4 months ago from Squirrel Hill, PA

      Linda, thank you for your comment and for stopping by. I agree that many banks are charging outrageous fees on these cards. I guess the banks know that many cardholders are in desperate situations because of previous banking behavior. Have a great week!

    • liesl5858 profile image

      Linda Bryen 

      4 months ago from United Kingdom

      It's awful how much the bank make money on these cards. I will never get one of them. Thank you for sharing the article about the charges on those prepaid cards.

    • Gregory DeVictor profile imageAUTHOR

      Gregory DeVictor 

      7 months ago from Squirrel Hill, PA

      Larry, perhaps you’ve seen the advert on television for the NetSpend Card. It is totally disgusting. Consumer Reports rates it as the worst prepaid debit card on the market. The next time I see that crazy ad I am going to grab the remote.

    • Gregory DeVictor profile imageAUTHOR

      Gregory DeVictor 

      7 months ago from Squirrel Hill, PA

      Larry, thanks for your comment and for reading my article. I agree with you 110% on this matter.

    • Larry Fish profile image

      Larry W Fish 

      7 months ago from Raleigh

      It is disgusting the way banks continue to milk the public dry with fee after fee after fee.

    • Gregory DeVictor profile imageAUTHOR

      Gregory DeVictor 

      7 months ago from Squirrel Hill, PA

      Liz, it’s much the same here in the US. People with delinquent credit history and/or bad banking behavior sometimes fall prey to payday loans. For two-week payday loans, APRs are between 400% 800%. To my knowledge, New York is one of the few states that has set limits on payday loan APRs.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      7 months ago from UK

      In the UK, those with the poorer credit histories can't get credit cards. These people fall prey to loan sharks, who charge extortionate rates of interest. They then get into a neverending spiral of debt.

    • Gregory DeVictor profile imageAUTHOR

      Gregory DeVictor 

      7 months ago from Squirrel Hill, PA

      The average APR on a credit card is currently around 16% and there are quite a few cards out there with APRs above 25%. Cards like Discover give you an APR based on how creditworthy their algorithm sees you.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      7 months ago from UK

      Fair point. I think society, in general, has a responsibility to help those who get into a cycle of debt, not helped at all by high fee-paying accounts. Too often the phrase "the rich get richer while the poor get poorer" is applicable.

    • Gregory DeVictor profile imageAUTHOR

      Gregory DeVictor 

      7 months ago from Squirrel Hill, PA

      Liz, a relatively high percentage of prepaid debit cardholders do not qualify for a traditional checking account because they have mismanaged bank accounts in the past. This information appears on their ChexSystems Report and is commonly used by banks to assess the risk a potential customer.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      7 months ago from UK

      Sadly I've noticed that it's the ones who can least afford it that get taken for a ride and charged extortionate fees. Those who have a little more tend to be savvier about where their money goes.

    • Gregory DeVictor profile imageAUTHOR

      Gregory DeVictor 

      7 months ago from Squirrel Hill, PA

      Liz, thanks for your comment and for reading my article. Yes, the fees are quite astounding. I use a debit card that is linked to my checking account and never get charged a $1.00 or $2,00 transaction fee every time I use it. I guess it’s true that a small leak can sink a great ship.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      7 months ago from UK

      I'm astounded at the fees payable with these cards. At one time prepaid cards were considered useful in the UK for loading up and withdrawing cash abroad.

    • Gregory DeVictor profile imageAUTHOR

      Gregory DeVictor 

      7 months ago from Squirrel Hill, PA

      Mary, thanks for your comment and for reading my article. Here is a paraphrase of what I just found online about prepaid cards that just might surprise you:

      According to CBSNews.com, a consumer with a Green Dot Visa Gold card who makes 20 purchases a month, four ATM withdrawals, and four cash reloads could spend as much as $35.75 in fees. People with the ACE Elite Card could shell out $45 a month on a similar basis.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      7 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      I never knew about these cards and how much fees they charge. I don't think I will ever touch these after reading your article.

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