Best Prepaid Debit Card Overall
Cash Advance APRn/a
- Rated #1 in 6 Best Prepaid Cards
- No monthly or hidden fees
- Free cash reloads at any Walmart location
- Get access to Amex Offers and other special perks
- Free ATM withdrawals at MoneyPass ATMs
Our Detailed Review
- You can only load $200 per day - up to $1,000 per month - with another debit card.
- The card offers no rewards.
- It won't help you build credit
How to get one: Shell out $5 at your local Walmart if you need a Bluebird card immediately. They’re usually sold in the Money Center, which is where you cash checks and buy money orders. Some stores have them at the service desk or near the cell phones.
If you can handle waiting approximately 10 business days for your card to arrive, you can request one online for free.
Who accepts it: You can use Bluebird pretty much anywhere that accepts American Express cards. A handful of cardholders say they’ve had issues paying their electric bill or making monthly payments to credit card companies with their debit cards, but we’ve discovered a workaround. You can have Bluebird mail the payee a check via online Bill Pay, or you can write a preauthorized check and give it to a company or individual yourself.
Features: When it comes to features, we feel like nothing compares to the Bluebird card. This is the only prepaid card we’ve found that lets you write checks, and we love that they send you several checkbooks for free.
Depositing checks is simple. Instead of limiting you to direct deposit or forcing you to mail in paper checks, Bluebird has a convenient mobile upload option. If you need funds ASAP, you can pay a small fee to access them. If not, you can wait 10 days for funds to clear - free of charge.
Fees: If you’re of the “if it’s free it’s for me” mentality, Bluebird is the card for you. There’s no activation fee, no monthly fee, and no annual fee. It’s free to upload money with a debit card, add cash, or deposit checks. There’s no charge to withdraw money from a MoneyPass ATM, pay bills online, or write paper checks. Cash Pickup Powered by Ria is the only feature we’ve found that isn’t free, and that costs between $3 and $9 per transaction.
If you don’t like the idea of using a credit card and either don’t want or can’t qualify for a checking account, a prepaid debit card can be a great alternative.
While prepaid debit cards don’t help you build credit, they can help you stay on budget without having to resort to carrying cash everywhere you go.
The problem is that a lot of prepaid cards charge a slew of fees that make them hard to recommend. The Bluebird from American Express, on the other hand, is largely fee free and chock full of features. Read on to learn whether it’s right for you.
Bluebird review - Bluebird highlights
The Bluebird offers several different tools and features that you and your family can use in your everyday life, and it doesn’t charge many fees to do so. In fact, most of your regular activities with the card won’t result in a fee.
To use it, you can load money onto the card through direct deposit, mobile check deposits, debit card transfers, or with cash at Walmart or other participating retailers.
Then you can use your card just like you would a credit or debit card. You can also withdraw cash from the card at an ATM. Once your funds run out, you’ll just need to load more onto the card.
You can also set up subaccounts for family members — say, a spouse or teenage children — that allow you to set spending limits, ATM access, and more. Finally, the Bluebird offers a SetAside account, which is essentially a savings account you can use to save for specific financial goals.
Bluebird perks and benefits
While the Bluebird doesn’t offer rewards of any kind, it does offer several features that make it worth having. Here’s are the highlights:
- Amex Offers: You’ll get several offers for discounts and savings on shopping, dining, and other retail purchases.
- Purchase protection: If an item you purchased with the card is damaged or stolen, you may be able to get reimbursed for the cost of replacing it.
- Roadside assistance: This is a hotline you can call if you’re stranded on the road; Amex will send a locksmith or tow truck to help you out.
- American Express experiences: You can get special access to sporting events, concerts, shows, and more.
- Fraud protection: Interestingly enough, fraud protection isn’t a strong suit with many prepaid cards. But with this one, you’ll be protected if your card is lost or stolen.
You can send money for free to other Bluebird accounts, making it easy to use if you have a card for each person in the family. You’ll also get free ATM access to more than 24,000 ATMs in the MoneyPass network.
Bluebird costs and fees
Among the top prepaid debit cards, the Bluebird may charge the least amount of fees. You won’t pay a monthly maintenance fee or a fee to add funds to your account. The only exception to that rule is if you load money via cash at a retail location other than Walmart.
Here are the only fees you might run into, depending on how you use the card:
- Card purchase fee: $0 online, up to $5 if you open an account at a retail location.
- Cash reloads: Up to $3.95 at non-Walmart retail locations.
- Mobile check deposit money in minutes: 1% on government and payroll checks, 5% on all other checks. You can skip the fee if you wait 10 days.
- Out-of-network ATM withdrawals: $2.50
As you can see, you can likely avoid most if not all of the card’s fees if you use it right.
Does the Bluebird make sense for me?
If you’re in the market for a prepaid debit card and you’re generally fee-averse, this card is hard to beat. But if you have other priorities, such as earning rewards on your purchases or having a high-yield savings account, you might want to compare the card with others.
For example, the American Express Serve Cash Back® offers 1% cash back on all of your purchases, although it does charge a monthly fee of $5.95 in every state except for New York, Texas, and Vermont.
This means you’d have to spend at least $595 every month to make up for the card’s fee.
Alternatively, the Mango Visa® Prepaid Card offers a savings account tied to your prepaid card, in which you can earn up to 6% APY on your deposits.
It does have some strict requirements you have to meet to get the maximum interest rate, but it can be a solid option if you plan to use your card every day.
As you compare these and other top prepaid debit cards, compare the fees and features of each. Know what your top priorities are and focus on the cards that work best for you based on those priorities.
As you do a little legwork, you’ll find it easier to get the best prepaid card for you and your needs.