Should I sign on my new debit card?

Final Verdict

The best prepaid debit cards that made our list have different things to offer. Some are designed specifically to encourage positive money management in children, and others offer cash back rewards and additional features such as direct deposit, online bill pay, and fraud protection. 

Overall, we recommend checking out American Express Serve Free Reloads. This prepaid debit card doesn’t charge reload fees and has a huge reload network with convenient locations. 

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For quick and secure payments, add your Monese card to your PayPal wallet instantly. Make Monese your primary card for even faster checkouts online.

International prepaid cards – a list

You’ll have a good range of options available if you’re thinking of getting a travel card for your next trip. Each comes with its own set of fees and features, so reading the small print is essential to make sure you get the best possible deal.

We’ll start with an overview of availability by destination country/currency. Some of these cards come with a linked account which lets you hold foreign currency balances, some are specifically prepaid travel cards which will automatically convert your US dollar balance to the currency you need when you need it, and some are more traditional accounts which come with favorable terms for overseas spending.

Read on for more details and a look at the pros and cons of each featured card. There’s also a handy table at the end showing which of the cards can be used to convert a balance and lock in the exchange rate before you travel to some of the most popular destinations from the US.

Wise multi-currency Mastercard

If you’re based in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, or in a broad range of countries in Europe and beyond, you can open a free Wise multi-currency account online, and get a linked Mastercard debit card.

Hold 50+ currencies in your account, and you’ll also get your own local bank details for major currencies like US, Australian and New Zealand dollars, British pounds and euros, so you can receive payments for free from these regions.

Open your free account

Convert currencies as needed, using the mid-market exchange rate and for just a low, transparent fee. Then you can spend any currency you hold for free, and withdraw up to the equivalent of $250 a month without charge. There’s a small fee for ATM withdrawals after that.

Revolut

Get a Revolut card and account if you’re a legal resident in the US, Australia, Canada, Singapore, Switzerland, UK, or the EEA (European Economic Area).¹ ² Hold and exchange 28 currencies, and spend in over 150 currencies using your linked card.

You’ll be able to exchange currencies using the mid-market rate in most cases. However, there is a currency markup for Thai baht and Ukrainian hryvnia, and you’ll pay a fee for exchanging large amounts over the course of a month, or at a weekend.

That means 0.5% extra if you exchange more than $6,500 a month on a rolling basis, and an additional 0.5%-1% for weekend transactions. You may also pay a fee for ATM withdrawals over $300 a month.³ ⁴

At the time of research, only the basic – free – Revolut account is available to US residents, but premium packages are available elsewhere, and due to arrive shortly here too.

Travelex Money Card

In the US, Travelex offers a prepaid currency card for local customers, which can be used with 6 foreign currencies. If you’re not based in the US, there are equivalent products offered by many regional Travelex brands, so check out the details for your region.

Travelex Money Cards can be used for spending in stores and restaurants and ATM withdrawals. The card has contactless technology so you can tap and go where contactless is available.

You may need to pay a fee to get the card, and there’s an exchange fee of 5.5% added to currency exchange. There are also other fees and limits you’ll want to know about, including an inactivity fee of $3 a month, and a $20 refund fee. Make sure you read all the small print before you apply.⁵

N26

If you live in Europe, the UK or US, you can open an account with N26, a German online bank which offers a smart card option for international spending.⁶

This is a little different to some of the other options above, in that you won’t necessarily be switching your money to hold a balance in a foreign currency. But instead, N26 allow spending which uses the Visa exchange rate with no markup or fee, making it good value for some travelers who don’t want to switch their dollars in advance.⁷

It’s worth knowing that there can be fees to pay, such as ATM charges, which are not levied by N26 but by other service providers.

Western Union Netspend

You can buy a Western Union Netspend card in the US, and in other eligible countries, and use it to spend where you see the Mastercard symbol.

You’ll be able to send or receive payments to the card using Western Union, although there are fees and an exchange rate markup you’ll want to know about. Log in to your account online to check the specific costs for your transaction.⁸

PayPal Prepaid

You’ll be able to get a prepaid card from PayPal, which can be used overseas as well as at home. You can fund the card with PayPal balance if you have it, or top up at a retail location, or online.⁹

It’s worth noting that this card is convenient but does come with fees. There’s a monthly charge of $4.95, and fees for using your card when you travel. You’ll pay a 2.5% foreign transaction fee, for example, and there are costs for using an ATM abroad, too.¹⁰ You may also find the exchange rates offered aren’t the best available.

Netspend

There are a few popular cards from Netspend which offer prepaid spending at home and abroad. You can either choose a card with a monthly fee, or a pay as you go option which doesn’t cost a fixed service charge but which does involve per transaction charges. This brings flexibility but fees for international spending are fairly high, so you will want to make sure you’re clear on the terms if you opt for this card type.

The foreign transaction surcharge is 4%, which is added to purchases and ATM withdrawals. However, there’s no specific extra international ATM fee to cover which is a bonus, although you’ll need to check for charges levied by the ATM operator.¹¹

Card Prepaid

Card offers MasterCard and Visa network prepaid cards to US customers. There are different fees and features, but being able to choose means you can get a card on a different network to your regular card, as a backup. If you ever find the card you normally use isn’t working, this one could be a good plan B.

There are fees which vary by card type, including costs for using your card overseas. For the prepaid MasterCard for example, there’s a 2.95% foreign transaction fee, and extra charges of $2.95 in addition to this when you are using an ATM or requesting an over-the-counter withdrawal in a foreign currency.¹²

Ally Bank

Ally is an online bank. While the cards and accounts offered from Ally are not strictly speaking the same as the prepaid travel cards featured elsewhere on this list, you could open and use an Ally account in a similar way. Accounts are opened online, so you could top up only what you intend to spend while you travel, and use your linked card for convenience. This gives the security of a prepaid card, as your Ally account won’t link to any of your regular bank accounts.

Ally charges a 1% fee for ATM use overseas, and there may be additional charges levied by the ATM operators. Check the full terms and conditions online. ¹³ ¹⁴

Prepaid travel card – availability by country

One handy feature of some prepaid travel cards is that you can convert your dollars to the currency you need before you go on a trip, locking in the exchange rate. You’re then sure what you have to spend, and should be able to avoid any surprise fees.

Here are the cards which give that option, by destination country.

Destination country Travel cards offering the local currency
Mexico Wise, Revolut, Travelex, Western Union Netspend
Canada Wise, Revolut, Travelex, Western Union Netspend
UK Wise, Revolut, Travelex, Western Union Netspend
Dominican Republic Revolut, Western Union Netspend
Europe ( Euro area countries such as France, Italy, Germany, Spain ) Wise, Revolut, Travelex, Western Union Netspend
Jamaica Revolut, Western Union Netspend
Japan Wise, Revolut, Travelex, Western Union Netspend
India Wise, Revolut, Western Union Netspend
Hong Kong Wise, Revolut, Western Union Netspend
People’s Republic of China Wise, Revolut, Western Union Netspend

Credit Cards

Choose from our Chase credit cards to help you buy what you need. Many offer rewards that can be redeemed for cash back, or for rewards at companies like Disney, Marriott, Hyatt, United or Southwest Airlines. We can help you find the credit card that matches your lifestyle. Plus, get your free credit score!

Access your money wherever you are

A Monese card is your passport to financial freedom. You can access the money in your Monese debit card account in-store, online or at ATMs worldwide, and you’ll get Mastercard’s great-value exchange rates when spending abroad.

Methodology

We looked at a dozen prepaid debit cards before selecting our favorites. We chose cards that were useful for a large number of people. (For example, we didn’t pick the Starbucks Rewards Prepaid Card because you have to frequently shop at Starbucks to get the most out of the card.)

We chose prepaid cards that are relatively easy to use. You should be able to use a card at ATMs and have several convenient options for reloading money onto the card. If a prepaid debit card had a special perk like cash back or a budgeting feature, we took that into consideration, too.

Finally, we picked cards that are relatively affordable. Almost every prepaid card comes with some fees, but we chose ones that are pretty manageable. We looked at monthly service fees and charges for signing up for a card, reloading money, and using an ATM.

Added Security

So, while chip and PIN have given your debit card use an additional level of security and contactless payments have sped up their use, a signature on the back your debit card is still vital. It can give you added peace of mind in terms of security and it can also protect the merchant from processing potentially fraudulent transactions. 

So, if you think a cashier is being overly fussy when wanting to see, remember they are looking out for you and your money.  

How Does a Prepaid Debit Card Work?

A prepaid debit card is a card that already has funds on it, so the credit limit is the amount of money left on the card. You don’t have to get approved for a certain limit like you would with a credit card. Instead, you load the amount that you want to be on the card, and that becomes your limit. You can use a prepaid debit card online and at most retailers that accept a regular debit card. However, you usually can’t rent a car with a prepaid debit card. When you use the card to purchase something, the purchase is immediately deducted from the balance.

Prepaid debit cards that didn’t make the cut and why

Here are some other prepaid debit cards we looked at and our reasoning for not choosing them as our favorites:

  • Walmart MoneyCard: This is a good option if you shop at Walmart frequently, because you’ll earn cash back — but cash back is limited to $75 per year.
  • Fifth Third Access 360 Reloadable Prepaid Card: You might like this card if you live near a Fifth Third branch, but branches only exist in 10 US states.
  • Greenlight: This is another worthwhile option for families, but there’s no way to deposit cash, and there isn’t a free ATM network.
  • Nestspend Prepaid: You can receive your paycheck early with Netspend, but its fees are higher than what you’ll pay with our top picks.

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