5 Best Prepaid Cards: Spring 2013

American Express Bluebird

american express bluebirdThe American Express Bluebird account is a reloadable account with an accompanying prepaid debit card. Launched in late 2012, Bluebird garnered plenty of buzz because of its great fee structure and features.

Bluebird doesn’t come with the pesky recurring fees that are found with a typical prepaid card. It has no activation fee, no monthly fee and no inactivity fee. Accountholders can add cash to their accounts for free through direct deposit, via a bank transfer or with cash at Walmart.

Unlike most prepaid accounts, Bluebird offers free mobile check deposit, online bill pay and check-writing capabilities.

Noteworthy card features

  • No activation, monthly maintenance or inactivity fees
  • Free ATM access at MoneyPass ATMs (with direct deposit)
  • Native mobile banking applications (iOS & Android)
  • Ability to write checks

American Express Prepaid Card

Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 3.08.34 PM(UPDATE: The American Express Prepaid Card is no longer available, instead you should check out American Express Serve Card.)

Before American Express introduced its Bluebird account, it offered the American Express Prepaid Card, which is a decent prepaid card in its own right.

The American Express Prepaid Card only has one fee: $2 per ATM withdrawal after the first ATM withdrawal per month (the ATM operator may impose a surcharge). Cardmembers will have to pay to purchase third-party reload services if they want to load cash into the prepaid card.

Noteworthy card features

  • No activation, monthly maintenance or inactivity fees
  • First ATM withdrawal per month is free
  • Additional benefits include purchase protection, roadside assistance and emergency assistance

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Chase Liquid

Chase LiquidChase Liquid shook up the prepaid card industry because it is such an attractive alternative to Chase’s checking accounts.

For a flat monthly fee of $4.95, Chase Liquid cardmembers can do most of what basic Chase checking customers can do. Cardmembers use Chase ATMs and branches to load cash and checks for free. There’s no cost to withdraw cash from a Chase ATM (19,000 ATMs nationwide). Chase Liquid accounts are also accessible through Chase’s mobile banking app, which lets customers deposit checks with a smartphone camera for free.

As a small perk, Chase Liquid offers a cash back program through Facebook. Qualifying purchases at participating online retailers can yield cash back, which is automatically credited to Chase Liquid accounts after 1-2 statement cycles.

Noteworthy card features

  • Flat $4.95 monthly fee
  • Free access to Chase ATMs and branches
  • Mobile banking apps (iOS & Android)

Green Dot Prepaid Card

3272718Green Dot, known for being a major provider of prepaid cards, offers a prepaid card with a relatively simple fee plan.

The Green Dot Prepaid Card has a monthly fee of $5.95 which can be avoided during months that you load at least $1,000 or have 30 qualifying purchases. If these fee waiver can be met on a regular basis, that’s nearly $6 reduced from the cost of owning the card.

It’s also nice that Green Dot has mobile apps to help you manage the card account.

Noteworthy card features

  • $5.95 monthly fee (waived when you load at least $1,000 or have at least 30 qualifying purchases posted during the billing cycle)
  • Free withdrawals and balance inquiries at MoneyPass ATMs
  • Mobile banking apps (iOS & Android)
  • Free online bill pay

Mango Prepaid MasterCard

mango cardThe Mango Prepaid MasterCard is not exactly the cheapest of all prepaid cards but it does offer the ability to earn extreme savings. The Mango Card has a $5 monthly fee, which is waived when you load at least $500 in the previous month. All ATM withdrawals cost $2 (don’t forget the surcharge imposed by ATM operators).

The highlight of the Mango Card is the companion savings account that offers a 6.00% APY when you have direct deposit. The savings rate applies to balances up to $5,000, which can yield up to $300 in interest earnings per year.

Noteworthy card features

  • $5 monthly fee (waived if you load at least $500 per month)
  • Mobile banking app (iOS)
  • Savings account with 6.00% APY (with direct deposit)