The Blurred Lines Between Debit and Prepaid Cards


Debit and prepaid cards: are there any remaining differences?

Mercator Advisory Group releases new research comparing general purpose reloadable prepaid cards with debit cards and analyzing the subtle product differences.

Author: Sarah Grotta
Published on: December 17, 2018

General purpose reloadable (GPR) prepaid cards and entry-level checking accounts have both evolved to a point where product features and functionality of the two are nearly indistinguishable between the two. A new research report from Mercator Advisory Group titled, The Blurred Lines Between Debit and Prepaid Cards considers the differences between the two products and why providers and users might favor one over the other.

“At first glance, prepaid and debit appear so similar that one could conclude that the payments industry took two separate paths to end up with the same product. Initially prepaid product providers were developing solutions to offer users a bankcard-like product. Now financial institutions are seeing inspiration in GPR card attributes, comments Sarah Grotta, Director, Debit and Alternative Products Advisory Service at Mercator Advisory Group and co-author of the report.

This research report has 16 pages and 8 exhibits.

Companies mentioned in this report include: Ace Cash Express, American Express, Bancorp Bank, Bank of America, Chase Bank, Citi Bank, Green Dot, InComm, Mastercard, Meta Bank, Netspend, PayPal, Square, U.S. Bank, Visa, Walmart, and Wells Fargo.

Highlights of the research report include:

  • A comparison of some of the regulatory differences between debit and GPR cards.
  • Market sizing for prepaid and debit, including a look at the decline in the unbanked population in the U.S. 
  • Review of the features and functionality of leading GPR cards and entry level checking accounts from five U.S. banks. 
  • The role that GPR cards have and continue to play in banking and payments innovation. 


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