Prepaid debit cards provide consumers a convenient way to spend within a limited budget, without the credit history needed for credit cards. But the debit cards, often essential for low-income households who don't have bank accounts, can come with a price.
Personal finance website Bankrate.com studied 30 prepaid debit cards and found many of them laden with fees, everything from a $9.95 card activation fee to a $7 monthly maintenance fee.
There were just three cards (out of the 30 surveyed) with no monthly maintenance charge and no activation fee. But Bankrate cautions that these cards may have fees in other areas. The three are: the Bluebird by American Express and Walmart; H&R Block Emerald Prepaid MasterCard; and the NetSpend Visa Prepaid Debit Card, Pay-As-You-Go Plan by Metbank.
Bankrate opted not to name the "best" card, saying one card may have a lower monthly maintenance fee, but a higher activation fee. So its best to compare all the terms to find the one that has the lowest costs for the way you spend.
Of the 30 prepaid debit cards, 83 percent charge monthly fees while 33 percent will waive the monthly fee if a certain amount is loaded on the card. Altogether, half of the cards either have no monthly fee or will waive it.
For debit cards and their fees, take a look at Bankrate's list.