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If a 0 bill had a love child with a credit card, their progeny could very well be a prepaid card—a money tool that combines the ease and versatility of plastic with the freedom from fees of cash.
Not that long ago, prepaid cards were a fee-laden payment method of last resort for people without credit cards or bank accounts.
The Bluebird and American Express Serve cards allow the primary cardholder to create up to four subaccounts—each of which gets its own card and balance—at no extra cost. Fraudsters steal an estimated billion each year from unsuspecting consumers, including the elderly.
Seniors can guard against that by using a prepaid card.
But prepaid cards can be used anywhere that American Express, Master Card, or Visa is accepted—whether in a physical store or online—and they come with more protections than gift cards, in case they’re lost or stolen. Many prepaid cards give you access to a nationwide network of thousands of fee-free ATMs and the ability to monitor transactions online or by mobile app, to load more money free of charge via direct deposit, and to pay bills online. But for all of their advantages, prepaid cards are not without drawbacks.
You won’t earn interest on the money you keep on the card, and unlike a credit card, a prepaid card won’t help build your credit history.
Certain prepaid cards, including Rush Card and Walmart Money Card, have experienced short-term technical failures that prevented users from accessing their money or account info.
Certain hotels and other merchants also impose holds.We use 100% of these fees to fund our testing programs.For 80 years, Consumer Reports has been testing products and working to create a fairer, safer, and healthier marketplace.(None of our top-rated cards charge that penalty.) Prepaid cards will also help you to: Stick to a budget.To impose some fiscal discipline on yourself, open separate card accounts for various categories of expenses, such as groceries, clothing, and holiday gifts, each loaded with the amount you budget for that category.
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