Best UK Prepaid Cards 2018 - Visa or Mastercard | moneyfacts.co.uk

Compare the best prepaid credit cards

  - Take control of your spending! Prepaid cards can't get you into debt, so they're great if you've had trouble getting a bank account or just want to budget better.

Compare the Best Prepaid Cards For Everyday Use

 Transaction FeesMonthly FeesIssue FeesATM ChargesCredit Builder OptionAdditional Information 
 
Nimbl
Nimbl
NilNilNil£0.49 (First withdrawal per month free)No
  • Debit Card
  • Credit Card
  • Bank Account
  • Standing Order
  • Internet
  • Wages/Benefits
 
Optimum Mastercard
Optimum Mastercard
NilNil£5.002.95%No
  • Debit Card
  • Credit Card
  • Bank Account
  • Paypoint
  • Post Office
 
Prepaid Financial Services
Prepaid Financial Services
Nil£1.00£8.951.50% (Min £1, Max £3.75)No
  • Debit Card
  • Credit Card
  • Payzone
  • Internet
  • Bank Account
  • SMS Text
  • Wages/Benefits
  • Standing Order
 
goHenry Prepaid Card
goHenry Prepaid Card
Nil£2.99 (per child)NilNilNo
  • Debit Card
  • Bank Account
  • Standing Order
Go to Site
Virgin Prepaid Pay Monthly
Virgin Prepaid Pay Monthly
Nil£4.75£9.95£1.50No
  • Debit Card
  • Credit Card
  • Paypoint
  • Post Office
  • Bank Account
  • Wages
  • Standing Order
 
Cashplus Gold - Activeplus
Cashplus Gold - Activeplus
Electronic payments / transfers & standing orders - 1st 9 payments = Nil £0.99 thereafter£5.95£5.95£2.00Yes
  • Post Office
  • Wages/Benefits
  • BACS
  • Standing Order
Go to Site
icount Pay Monthly
icount Pay Monthly
Nil£9.95£4.95£0.50Yes
  • Post Office
  • Cashplus Store
  • Bank Transfer
  • Standing Order
  • Wages/Benefits
Go to Site
Cashplus Gold - Deluxe
Cashplus Gold - Deluxe
Nil£9.95£5.95NilYes
  • Post Office
  • Wages/Benefits
  • BACS
  • Standing Order
Go to Site
Cashplus Gold - Flexiplus
Cashplus Gold - Flexiplus
£0.99Nil£5.95£2.00No
  • Post Office
  • Wages/Benefits
  • BACS
  • Standing Order
 
Bread
Bread
2.00%Nil£7.50 - £10 if paying by SMS£1.50No
  • Debit Card
  • Bank Account
  • Standing Order
  • Paypoint
  • Post Office
  • Wages
 
icount Pay As You Go
icount Pay As You Go
£2.50 (min £0.25)Nil£4.95£0.75Yes provided by APS
  • Bank Account
  • Standing Order
  • Post Office
  • Wages/Benefits
  • Cashplus Store
Go to Site
Splash Prepaid Card
Splash Prepaid Card
2.50%Nil£5.00£1.50No
  • Debit Card
  • Credit Card
  • Bank Account
  • Standing Order
  • Internet
  • Paypoint
  • Post Office
  • Wages/Benefits
 

Moneyfacts.co.uk Best Buys show the best products chosen by our independent experts. Where we have been able to we have also provided a link for you to apply online today. Products shown with a yellow background are sponsored products.

Disclaimer:

All information is subject to change without notice. Please check all terms before committing yourself.

 

Prepaid cards explained

Recent years have seen a quiet revolution in the way we choose to pay for things, as more and more transactions happen by card instead of cash.

Debit and credit cards have grown in popularity because they offer a quicker and easier, not to mention safer, alternative to carrying a wad of cash in your wallet.

The problem many people have, however, is that the convenience and speed of paying by card can often lead to them overspending or getting into a dangerous maelstrom of debt before they realise it.

How can you get the convenience of card spending without the worry of going over the top?

Convenient and controllable spending power

Prepaid cards combine the convenience of a credit or debit card with the ability to set your spending limit according to your budget.

They're available to everyone, regardless of credit rating, income, or whether or not you hold a UK bank account.

If you're not sure whether you need one or not, or how these handy cards even work, then read on as we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about prepaid cards.

On this page:

  1. What are prepaid cards?
  2. How do prepaid cards work?
  3. The advantages and disadvantages of prepaid cards
  4. Prepaid Cards FAQs
  5. How the Moneyfacts prepaid cards chart is ordered

What are prepaid cards?

You may see these cards referred to as prepaid credit cards, but these cards are not a form of credit, i.e. you are not borrowing any money with these cards. Instead, you 'prepay' your spending by putting money onto the card. You can't spend any more than what you put on it, so they act a bit like a gift card.

This can be a great advantage for those who can't afford to go into the red. Other advantages these cards offer is that they can be used by people with debt problems and those who are either unable or don't want to open a UK bank account.

Unfortunately, this also means you will have to be diligent about how much money you keep and spend on these cards, as you will have no buffer – if you try to pay your energy bill with your prepaid card and you don't have enough money on it, the payment will be rejected and you could risk a non-payment penalty.

How do prepaid cards work?

Essentially, prepaid cards look the same as any other card; they have a magnetic strip, chip, long number on the front and a familiar logo such as MasterCard or Visa.

Appearances can be deceiving though. Although looking the same as a credit or debit card (you even get your own PIN as you would for other cards), a prepaid card does not let you spend from your current account, nor does it let you pay for goods by using a pre-agreed credit facility.

Instead, you load money onto the card (how much is up to you, although there's usually a minimum and maximum amount you can pre-load), and then you use the card to spend money in the same way you'd spend using a credit or debit card.

Once the money on the card runs out, you can't spend any more until you have uploaded some more funds.

You can add money to a prepaid card from several different sources, and keep adding funds. Some cards even allow you to get your salary paid directly onto it. To get an idea of how you'll be able to add to the card, have a look at the 'Additional information' column in the Best Buys above. You'll see that some allow you to add funds at Post Office counters, while others offer additions through ATMs, and most will let you add funds online.

It is worth bearing in mind that you may have to pay a fee (or even several), but we'll talk more about these charges later. Once you have the card, and you've put some money on it, you can use it to shop online, pay in store or take cash from an ATM (though this may come with a fee). Keep a close eye on the balance as you're spending, though, as the card will never allow you to spend more than you have.

The advantages and disadvantages of prepaid cards

Prepaid cards, like any financial product, have their own unique advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages Disadvantages

No credit check
A prepaid card does not offer a credit facility – so they don't credit check you. However, you will still need to provide acceptable ID and be a UK resident.

You can't get into debt
As there's no credit facility you can't get into debt.

You're in control
You set your spending limit, not the card provider. All you need to do is top-up your card when you need to via text, phone, a Paypoint, the Post Office or by BACS transfer from your bank account.

Travel
Pre-paid cards work in the same way as credit and debit cards, so you can also use them abroad. Prepaid travel cards are specifically geared for use outside of the UK. Cards are issued in specific currencies, so check that the card you opt for covers the currency you need.

Pre-paid cards for teenagers and students
Some providers take applications from customers in their early teens (usually from the age of 13). This can give your child a great sense of independence while teaching them the rudiments of managing their finances without the risk of getting into debt. Alternatively, some allow you to add up to four additional cards for friends and family. This is perfect for loading cash onto as an alternative to vouchers for a Christmas present.

Act as a basic type of bank account
Prepaid accounts are an alternative to a traditional bank account and are a new way to manage your money. With certain prepaid account cards for everyday use, there is no need for a bank account as they enable your wages to be paid onto your card and allow you to top it up via BACS or with cash at a PayPoint or Post Office branch.

Improve your credit rating
Some prepaid cards allow you to improve your credit rating by charging a monthly fee, which is treated like a tiny loan. This is referred to as a Credit Booster. At the end of a nominated period (usually 12 months) this shows up as an honoured credit agreement on your credit file. Of course, you would have to pay the monthly fee (normally around £5 per month) for the privilege of using this service.

Cashback
A lot of prepaid cards offer cashback benefits for purchases you make on the card, particularly online.


Fees, fees and more fees
Always a catch, isn't there?

The big catch with prepaid cards, if you're not careful, is the fees.

There may be fees for:

  • Setting up a pre-paid card.
  • Loading money onto the card (try to only put money onto your card by bank transfer, as this method tends not to attract any fees).
  • Monthly administration (although some providers offer a pay-as-you-go option).
  • Making purchases on the card
  • Taking cash out at a cash point.
  • Inactivity. If you leave funds on your card, there is a possibility that they will be wiped off after a certain period of time. Some cards may also charge a fee if you don't use it regularly.
  • Redeeming funds. If you've got leftover cash on the card, and you want to extract it to avoid the inactivity fee, you may still get stung with a redemption fee.

If you are using your prepaid card abroad, these fees will probably increase. Be sure to compare prepaid cards that charge the fewest and lowest fees and read the small print before committing.

A prepaid card is not a credit card
Credit cards benefit from purchase protection by law under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, but prepaid cards don't have to offer this. That said, there are a few prepaid cards that offer free purchase protection, although this may be less than that offered by a credit card.

A pre-paid card is not a debit card
Because a prepaid card is not linked to a bank account, any money loaded onto it doesn't fall under the protection of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. And of course, once your money is loaded onto a prepaid card, it isn't earning you interest as it could do in a bank account.

Frustration
There are certain transactions you can't use your prepaid card for; mainly transactions where your card would normally need to be pre-authorised before the full cost of your purchase is known. An example of this is when a hotel asks you for your card number as security when you check in, so if you forget to pay your room bill at the end of your stay, they can charge your card.

Also, if you have £99 on the card and you want to buy an item worth £100, you would need to load more money onto the card before you can buy, which could be quite frustrating after waiting in a long queue!

Prepaid Cards FAQs

What can prepaid cards be used for?

They can be used for budgeting, as a means of avoiding debt, or even as a replacement bank account (though note that not all prepaid credit cards will allow standing orders, potentially limiting your ability to get mobile phone bills and such paid using them). To get the most out of your prepaid card, make sure it does all the things you need it to do before committing to it, and with the lowest possible fees.

Who are prepaid cards for?

Their nature makes prepaid cards ideal for people who are unable to open a bank account or have a bad credit score. They are also beneficial for those who have a perfectly good credit rating but would like some help budgeting, as it's impossible to overspend on these prepaid credit cards. This makes them suitable for parents looking to give their children some spending money as well.

Should I get a prepaid card?

If you have just moved (back) to the UK and can't open a bank account, or you are unable to get a current account or credit card due to bad credit, you may want to get a prepaid card. If your credit score is fine but you're feeling tempted to overspend on your debit or credit card, a prepaid card might also be for you.

Are prepaid cards good for building credit?

Because you are not borrowing any money, these cards don't tend to help improve your credit score. It's easy to see in the chart above which cards have a 'Credit Builder Option'. If you really want to improve your credit rating, you could also have a look at our guide on the subject.

Are prepaid cards good for international travel?

There are prepaid cards specifically for travelling available, with most UK-based prepaid cards charging substantial fees for use abroad. At the same time, prepaid travel cards also tend to charge high fees for use in the UK, so be careful with where and how you spend money on these cards.

What type of prepaid card should I get?

The type of card that works best for you may depend on how it allows access. This could be as important as the fees attached to it, since you'll want to be able to add money fast if you're going to depend on it as your main 'bank account'.

Most prepaid cards are issued by Visa or Mastercard, so that no matter which prepaid card provider you choose, you know you will be able to use the card in most places in the UK and abroad. After you've found the cards with the best features for your needs, it's a matter of picking the cheapest prepaid card deal.

Are prepaid cards free?

No. While there may be some free prepaid cards available, in general prepaid credit cards tend to charge fees for issuing the card, transactions and/or ATM use, and some may require monthly payments as well. When deciding on a card, it's therefore a good idea to think about what you would use it for most, and try to minimise the associated costs.

How much do prepaid cards cost?

If you don't manage to get a free prepaid card, you may have to pay £5 to £10 to get the card, a small percentage every time you take money out, as well as a monthly fee for having the card which can vary from £1 to £10 or more. It's always prudent to look at the terms and conditions of the card you are interested in very closely, to make sure you are aware of all costs involved.

Can I go overdrawn on a prepaid card?

No, they are specifically designed so that you can't go even one penny overdrawn, which is what makes them ideal for those with a bad credit rating or those who are too tempted by a current account overdraft.

Can I have more than one prepaid card?

Yes, since they do not affect your credit rating, there's no harm in having multiple prepaid cards. Given the charges that may be involved, however, it may be prudent to limit the number you have, or switch from one to another if you see a better deal.

How old do I have to be for a prepaid card?

Generally, you'll have to be 18 or over to open a prepaid card account. However, it is possible for parents to open a card in their child's name, for instance, so that children would be able to use such a card.

Do prepaid cards offer protection?

They can be considered slightly safer than bank accounts, since they are not linked to anything, but they don't tend to fall under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, which means that unlike credit cards, the provider is not liable for any purchases made using the card. That said, some cards do offer free purchase protection as an extra.

Card providers need to be either authorised or regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) under their Electronic Money Regulations. This means that your money will be safe on such cards. And unlike with cash, you'll likely be able to get your money back if your card gets stolen or lost.

Are prepaid cards reloadable?

Yes, you can add money to your prepaid card using a variety of methods – transfers, at a Post Office (check terms and conditions to be sure of this if it’s something you are interested in though), at an ATM (again, check T&Cs for this as it varies from card to card) and even have your wages paid onto one if you want to.

Can prepaid cards be used online?

Yes, as most prepaid cards are issued by Mastercard or Visa, which are both widely accepted online, it should be easy to use these cards online to make purchases.

Can prepaid cards get refunds?

As stated above, only certain cards offer free purchase protection. If you qualify for a refund through any other means, there's no reason this can't be paid back onto your card by the store.

Do prepaid cards expire?

Yes, as with most cards, prepaid cards come with an expiry date. Depending on the provider, you may get a new card automatically, or you may have to pay a small fee.

How the Moneyfacts prepaid cards chart is ordered

Our prepaid debit cards chart is ordered by the lowest UK transaction fee, lowest monthly fee, then lowest application fee.

Once you’re ready to apply, on some cards, you can click a green ‘Go to Site’ button to apply for your chosen prepaid card directly with the supplier. Moneyfacts gets paid by the supplier for your ‘click’, but it won’t cost you anything extra.

What next?

 

Prepaid Card Types

Prepaid Everyday CardsPrepaid Everyday Cards
Preload your card with money that you already have so you only spend what you have.

Prepaid Travel Money CardsPrepaid Travel Money Cards
Preload them with foreign currency before you travel so you know how much you have to spend abroad.

Business Prepaid CardsBusiness Prepaid Cards
Need a payment option for staff, but don’t want a credit card?

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