According to our most recent number-crunching, American Express and Capital One offer the best deals on prepaid cards: low monthly fees, subsidized access to ATMs, etc. Since then, PNC and Chase have rolled out prepaid cards of their own that offer even greater access to ATMs for similarly low monthly fees. Still, for anyone with a regular paycheck who can get that paycheck via direct deposit, a checking account is likely a better option: they simply offer more services for less money.
But if that’s not you, we wholeheartedly recommend going with a major financial institution for your prepaid needs. Because they don’t traffic in convenience to get consumers in the “funnel” — i.e., there aren’t Chase Liquid cards dangling from a rack at your local liquor store — they need to offer better service where it counts: low fees, ATMs, direct deposit, etc. These can really approximate all the conveniences of a checking account — just without the checks. Here are a couple we recommend, below.
Chase Liquid: Chase Liquid is the first prepaid product of its kind. Not only is it offered by a nationwide bank, it also comes equipped with a the capabilities of a checking account, aside from the obvious (checks). Customers can use direct deposit, or they can deposit money using Chase’s nationwide ATM network, at no cost.
Other prepaid cards charge its users to add cash — or they are charged by a third party, by buying MoneyPaks — but the Chase Liquid card offers ways for consumers to load cash for free, and take cash out for free. Imagine that! It’s not revolutionary, but that’s surprisingly competitive for a class of financial product that typically gouges its users.
American Express Prepaid: American Express might be more associated with prime lending, but it has a prepaid card too. And it’s cheap! There are no startup costs and no monthly fee.
Even though American Express has no ATM network, it offers one free ATM withdrawal per month, which is generous. It also offer direct deposit, meaning that savvy users could use the thing for free — entirely.
Mango: If you’re not interested in dealing with the big banks or financial institutions, then Mango might be for you. You don’t even need to leave your house. You can apply online for the card, which only has a $5 monthly fee. That fee is waived for those who make at least $500 in direct deposits monthly.
And, the account has a savings account that pays 6% APY. Not bad. It does, however charge $2 for ATM withdrawals, which can add up. But for a non-bank prepaid card, it’s the fairest one out.