What's the difference between a credit card and a prepaid card? A credit card is a powerful financial tool which basically lets you get an instant loan and pay most of the loan off whenever you choose to. Using a credit card also helps you to build your credit history, and offers many other benefits. A prepaid card on the other hand does not let you spend money on credit, you have to add money into your card account and the money you add is what you use to make payments.

What is a prepaid card good for? If you prefer not to live on credit, then a prepaid card is the obvious choice. You get the benefits of a credit card like easy cashless payments, limited liability and often even rewards, but without spending someone else's money.

The prepaid card also wins if you don't want your spending behavior to affect your credit history. Since prepaid cards do not actually give you credit (you are using your own money) your spending and payments behavior is not normally reported to the credit bureaus. You also won't have to show proof of income or have a credit history in order to get one.

If you want to use a prepaid card to build your credit score, there are a few prepaid cards on the market that include credit reporting as an extra feature (some READYdebit prepaid cards include these features). However, if building credit is your goal, you will accomplish that a lot faster using a secured credit card. Like a prepaid card, you can get a secured card without any credit history just by putting down a deposit, but a secured card actually gives you credit, and reports your spending and repayment behavior to credit bureaus.

If you have bad credit but can't afford to put down a deposit for a secured credit card, then a prepaid card is your key to enjoying the perks of a credit card without tying up your cash in a deposit.

What's the difference between a prepaid card and a debit card? Because a debit card is linked to your bank account, if your card information is stolen then a criminal may be able to access your account. By using a debit card to make payments at retailers you may be putting your bank account at risk. A prepaid card provides a much safer alternative because it isn't linked to your checking or savings account, and nobody can steal more money than what you load onto your card.

On the other hand, if your credit card is stolen, the guilty party could spend your entire line of credit if you don't notify the bank quickly. You will have a maximum of $50 liability for fraudulent transactions when you report the credit card theft promptly (proving this can be difficult if the thief is a roommate or family member). Although many credit cards offer $0 liability. A prepaid card is also a safe option as far as cards go, as you get the same $50 liability for fraudulent transactions that you get with a normal credit card (many issuers offer $0 liability) and you get to choose how much money you keep on your card at any time.

Is a prepaid card a better option than a credit card? A prepaid card is a great stop-gap tool if you just need a card to make payments with. Many prepaid cards offer similar benefits to what you find on basic credit cards, while letting you make your payments up front and avoid debt. However, if you have good to excellent credit and are prepared to diligently pay your balance in full every month, you may find a credit card much more rewarding. Good credit cards offer much higher rewards or cash back than you will find on any prepaid card, and come with perks and benefits that can save you a lot of money.

Here are some of my favorite rewards credit cards:

Credit CardFeaturesIntro APRRegular APRAnnual FeeWhy we like itWe least likeCredit RequiredRelated links
Bank of America<sup>®</sup> Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer

APPLY NOWAt Bank of America's secure website
  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • No annual fee
  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 15.74% - 25.74% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers
  • No expiration on rewards
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more cash back on every purchase
APPLY NOWAt Bank of America's secure website

0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days

15.74% - 25.74% Variable APR

$0

Why we like it
  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
We least like
  • 3% foreign transaction fee.
Excellent/Good
Capital One<sup>®</sup> Savor<sup>®</sup> Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • Earn a one-time $300 cash bonus after you spend $3000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. Plus, earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through May 2020.
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Capital One cardholders get access to premium experiences in dining, entertainment and more
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, $95 after that

N/A

16.24% - 25.24% (Variable)

$0 intro for first year; $95 after that

Excellent, Good
Chase Freedom<sup>®</sup>

Chase Freedom®

APPLY NOWAt Chase's secure website
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
APPLY NOWAt Chase's secure website

0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers

16.74% - 25.49% Variable

$0

Why we like it
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic.
Excellent/Good
Bank of America<sup>®</sup> Premium Rewards<sup>®</sup> Visa<sup>®</sup> credit card

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card

APPLY NOWAt Bank of America's secure website
  • Receive 50,000 bonus points- a $500 value – after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Receive 50,000 bonus points - a $500 value - after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase
  • No limit to the points you can earn and your points don't expire
  • Redeem for cash back as a statement credit, deposit into eligible Bank of America® accounts, credit to eligible Merrill accounts, or gift cards or purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center
  • Get up to $200 in combined airline incidental and airport expedited screening statement credits + valuable travel insurance protections
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • Low $95 annual fee
APPLY NOWAt Bank of America's secure website

N/A

17.74% - 24.74% Variable APR

$95 annual fee

Excellent/Good
Capital One<sup>®</sup> Venture<sup>®</sup> Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that

N/A

17.49% - 24.74% (Variable)

$0 intro for first year; $95 after that

Why we like it
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture.
We least like
  • No low introductory APR period.
Excellent, Good
Chase Sapphire Preferred<sup>®</sup> Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

APPLY NOWAt Chase's secure website
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
APPLY NOWAt Chase's secure website

N/A

17.74% - 24.74% Variable

$95

Why we like it
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Excellent/Good
Blue Cash Preferred<sup>®</sup> Card from American Express

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

APPLY NOWAt American Express' secure website
  • Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • New 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
  • New 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more.
  • 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%). 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations. 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
  • Over 3 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017 and 2018.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.49% to 25.49%
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
APPLY NOWAt American Express' secure website

0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months

14.49%-25.49% Variable

$95

Excellent, Good
Chase Freedom Unlimited<sup>®</sup>

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

APPLY NOWAt Chase's secure website
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
APPLY NOWAt Chase's secure website

0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers

16.74% - 25.49% Variable

$0

Why we like it
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Excellent/Good
Bank of America<sup>®</sup> Travel Rewards Visa<sup>®</sup> credit card - 25,000 Bonus Points Offer

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card - 25,000 Bonus Points Offer

APPLY NOWAt Bank of America's secure website
  • 25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want – you’re not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
  • Comes with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases. After the intro APR ends, 16.74% - 24.74% Variable APR will apply
  • If you’re a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more points on every purchase
APPLY NOWAt Bank of America's secure website

0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases

16.74% - 24.74% Variable APR

$0

Why we like it
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire.
Excellent/Good
Capital One<sup>®</sup> SavorOne<sup>®</sup> Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.74% - 25.74% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 15.74% - 25.74% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee

0% intro on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months

15.74% - 25.74% (Variable)

$0

Excellent, Good