At the current state of product maturity for general purpose reloadable (GPR) prepaid cards, it’s difficult to find a meaningful difference in convenience and functionality between GPR prepaid cards and traditional debit cards issued by financial institutions in connection with an individually assigned checking account. The two products, debit and GPR, even look the same since both are required by law to have the word “debit” printed on the card front. Some GPR cards are also being issued now with EMV chips, which makes the distinction even harder to detect. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), in its Frequently Asked Questions page, points only to the account structure as the defining difference between the two products:
What is the difference between a prepaid card, a credit card, and a debit card?
Answer: Unlike a debit card, a prepaid card is not linked to a bank account. Generally, when you use a prepaid card, you are spending money that you have already loaded onto the card.