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How to Transfer Money From a Bank Account to a Prepaid Card

How to Transfer Money From a Bank to Prepaid Card
Jason Steele
Jason SteeleUpdated March 6, 2023
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Prepaid cards are like debit and credit cards except they are preloaded with a set amount of money. You can use them for purchases just like you would a debit or credit card but only until the balance is used up. After that, you need to reload the card, which you can easily do online, at an ATM, or at a participating store. Here’s a closer look at prepaid cards, including how they work, their pros and cons, and how to quickly transfer money from a bank account to a prepaid card online.

What Are Prepaid Cards?

A prepaid card, also referred to as a prepaid debit card, is a type of payment card you can use to make purchases, pay bills, or get cash from an ATM. Unlike a traditional debit card, however, prepaid cards are not linked to a checking account. You need to load or “prepay” money onto the card. Once a card is loaded, you can only spend the amount on the card. You can’t run up debt or interest charges. However, prepaid cards often come with fees, such as activation fees, reload fees, ATM fees, and/or monthly maintenance fees. Prepaid debit cards are issued by banks and branded by the major credit card companies, including Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express.

How Do Prepaid Cards Work?

Prepaid cards function as an alternative to cash. You may be able to buy a prepaid credit card with money already loaded on the card, or you may need to put money onto the card before you can start using it. Once it’s loaded, you can use the card to pay for things like you would with a normal credit card or debit card, both in person and online. Any money you spend is deducted from your card balance, not your bank account.To reload your prepaid card, you can transfer money into the card’s account via an online bank transfer, at an ATM, or in person using cash or a check at a bank or participating store. Prepaid cards actually come with their own routing and account numbers, just like bank accounts.Because prepaid debit cards only allow you to spend within your means, people often use them when they want to keep within a budget or be accountable for what they’re spending. Another advantage of a prepaid card is that you don’t need to have a bank account to use one. This makes them helpful for people who don’t have access to traditional banking.

How to Transfer Money to a Prepaid Card: 4 Steps

Once you have a prepaid card, transferring money onto that card is typically a quick and easy process. Here’s a step-by-step guide.

Step 1. Get the Card’s Routing and Account Numbers

In order to transfer money onto a prepaid card, you will need the bank account number and routing number associated with the card. The account number is different from the number on the front of the prepaid card. To find your card’s information, you can log into your online prepaid card account or call the customer service number. 

Step 2. Add Your Prepaid Card to Your Bank Account

Any time you want to transfer money from your bank account to another account, you need to add it as an external account. You can typically do this by logging into your bank account online and clicking “transfer money.” This will bring you to a page where you can add an external account. This is where you input the routing and account numbers for your prepaid card.

Step 3. Look for Test Deposits

Typically, banks will perform an account verification process to make sure you provided the correct routing and account number for the added account. This involves sending a small amount of money (often less than a dollar) to an added account as a test to ensure the money ends up in the right place. You may be required to check your prepaid card account for these “test” deposits and verify that they arrived before you can make a transfer. 

Step 4. Transfer Money

Once your prepaid card is set up with your bank account, you can start transferring money to it. To do this, you simply go back to the transfer page on your account, select your prepaid card account, enter the amount you’d like to send, and request the money transfer. Transfers generally take at least one business day, so keep in mind that money will not be available on your prepaid card immediately.

Pros and Cons of Prepaid Cards

Prepaid cards come with numerous benefits, as well as a few drawbacks. Here’s a look at how they stack up.


  • Offers a safer alternative to carrying cash
  • Keeps you from running up debt 
  • Allows you to keep track of your spending
  • You don’t need to have a bank account to use a prepaid card
  • Less money may be at risk if the card is stolen, since the thief can’t access your bank account.


  • Can’t build your credit with responsible use of the card
  • Spending is limited to the amount loaded on the card
  • You can’t instantly transfer money from your bank account to the card 
  • Prepaid cards often charge fees for withdrawing cash, reloading your card, and other services.

Where Can You Get a Prepaid Card?

You can buy prepaid cards online, at certain banks and credit unions, and at retail locations like grocery stores, drug stores, and big-box retailers.

Transferring Money From Savings to a Prepaid Card

You can usually transfer money from a savings account to a prepaid card in the same way you transfer money from your checking account to a prepaid card. 

Transferring Money Online

To transfer money from your savings account to a prepaid card, you’ll need to first log into your account and add the prepared card as an external account. The bank may then do a verification process, in which they transfer a tiny test amount of money to the prepaid card. Once you verify that the transfer went through, you’ll be able to transfer funds from your savings account to the prepaid card whenever you need or want to. Recommended: Guide to Opening a Savings Account Online 

How Much Time Does It Take for the Money to Transfer?

Transfers from any type of bank account to a prepaid card typically take at least one business day. If you want to transfer money instantly, you generally need to reload the card at a retail location or bank using cash or purchase a reload pack, which allows you to add a predetermined amount of money to your card.

Other Ways to Transfer Money to a Prepaid Card

Transferring money from a bank account to a prepaid card is one way to load money onto a prepaid card. Here are some other options.
  • Direct deposit If your employer offers direct deposit, you may be able to arrange to have all, or part, of your paycheck, go directly to a prepaid card. To do this, you will need to provide your employer with the card’s routing and account numbers.
  • Wire transfer A wire transfer can be a fast way to transfer money to a prepaid card. There are typically daily cut-off times, but if you initiate the transfer in time, the money could be on your prepaid card in a few hours. However, your bank may charge a wire transfer fee.
  • Person-to-person (P2) payment app Some payment apps allow you to connect your prepaid debit card to the app so that when people send you money, you can transfer it to your debit card. The app may charge a small fee for the service.

The Takeaway

Prepaid cards can be useful if you’re unable to qualify for either a credit card or a traditional bank account. They can also be helpful to anyone who is looking to stick to a spending budget, since it is impossible to spend more than you have preloaded on the card. However, prepaid cards won't help you build your credit, and you should be aware of potential fees. Once you purchase a prepaid card, you can connect it to your checking account like any other external account and make online transfers whenever you need to reload the card. You can also typically connect a prepaid card to a savings account, whether it’s a traditional savings account or a high-yield savings account at an online bank.If you’re looking for a new savings account and not sure where to start your search, Lantern by SoFi can help. With our online banking marketplace, it’s easy to compare high-yield savings accounts based on annual percentage yield (APY), fees, and balance minimums.Lantern can help you compare online savings accounts and find today’s best rate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I transfer money from a bank account to a prepaid card?
How long does it take for money to transfer to a prepaid card?
Can you buy a prepaid card online and use it right away?
Photo credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio

About the Author

Jason Steele

Jason Steele

Jason Steele has been writing about credit cards and award travel since 2008. One of the nation's leading experts in this field, he has contributed to dozens of personal finance and travel outlets and has been widely quoted in the mainstream media.
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