The sun may be setting on celebrity-endorsed plastic. From Justin Bieber to the Kardashian sisters, plenty of famous people have promoted prepaid debit cards. But over the summer, two highly publicized cards—the Approved Card From Suze Orman and Magic by Magic Johnson—announced plans to pull the plug. (The Kardashian card flamed out in 2010.)
Savvy consumers can pat themselves on the back for steering away from celebrity-branded cards. Users of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons’s RushCard Unlimited plan, for example, pay a stiff monthly fee of $7.95 ($5.95 with direct deposit).
Prepaid cards can be useful for reining in spending, as long as you stick with ones that limit fees. Two cards from Amex stand out from the pack. The American Express Serve card waives a $1 monthly fee if you sign up for direct deposit, add $500 to your account each month or include the card in an Isis mobile wallet, which allows you to pay at the register with your smartphone. Withdrawals from ATMs in the MoneyPass network are free (you’ll pay $2 at an out-of-network ATM, plus any charges from the ATM’s owner). The Bluebird From American Express and Wal-mart card has no monthly fee. Withdrawals from MoneyPass ATMs are free if you make a monthly direct deposit (out-of-network withdrawals cost $2). Plus, you can write checks from a Bluebird account. Mobile apps let cardholders pay bills, monitor balances and deposit checks.
For parents sending kids off to college, either card could come in handy. Both let you open a subaccount in your child’s name to which you can add money; you can also monitor spending and turn ATM access on and off.