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5 Best Payroll Card Providers

Written by:

Edited by:

Reviewed by:
Daniel Eisner and Mark Stewart

Published on September 29, 2022

Updated on November 26, 2022

5 Best Payroll Card Providers

5 Best Payroll Card Providers

If you’re starting a small business and hiring employees, mastering payroll is likely to be one of your first major hurdles. Dealing with payroll is often quite complex and time-consuming, especially when there are different compensation methods employees can choose from. 

With some employees receiving paper paychecks and others choosing direct deposit, payroll can get confusing pretty quickly. As a result, many entrepreneurs turn to a professional payroll provider, which can handle the entire payroll process, making it nearly seamless and automated. 

Some payroll services enable their clients to pay employees via payroll cards. In addition, some non-payroll provider companies also provide payroll card services, without a payroll service bundle. 

Payroll cards function much like debit cards and offer a third payment method, besides direct deposit and paychecks. The way it works is simple: after every pay period, the employer deposits an employee’s wages onto a prepaid card. 

But with so many payroll card providers in the market, how do you know which is the best? Or which is the right choice for you? This review takes a closer look — putting ourselves in the shoes of an entrepreneur — to help you determine which option is right for your business. 

What to Look for When Choosing a Payroll Card Provider for Your Small Business?

serious businessman working in his table

With so many payroll card providers out there, it can be challenging to decide which is best for you. However, we’ve identified three essential elements that can help you make your decision.

Features

Each payroll card provider offers a variety of features, and their plans are all designed differently. You and your business may need some features but not others, so choosing the provider with everything you need to make running your business as easy as possible is important. 

Customer Service and Reviews

A good way to learn about the quality of anything you’re buying is to check out what users say about it. When we review payroll card providers, we look at Better Business Bureau** ratings and reviews, as well as TrustPilot reviews. It’s wise to look at both positive and negative reviews to find out what people love about the provider, as well as any issues that customers have encountered. 

Remember that fake reviews are common, so it’s wise to maintain a suspicious eye.

**The Better Business Bureau is a private nonprofit that uses an A+ to F grading system to rate BBB’s degree of confidence that the business operates in good faith and will work to resolve customer issues and complaints filed with the BBB. BBB accreditation means that the business has undergone vetting and been approved and now pays dues to ensure its good standing with the BBB and gain use of the BBB logo in marketing materials. Over the years, several businesses have complained that the BBB gave them a poor letter grade, such as a D or F, largely because they refused to pay the fee to become an accredited member. Thus, these ratings should probably be taken with a grain of salt. 

payroll in scrabbles

Pricing

You’ll want to get the best value, so it’s a good idea to compare the cost of each provider. Some providers charge for certain features while others do not. For example, some payroll card providers charge a fee when: 

  • HR places wages onto an employee’s pay card
  • Making an ATM withdrawal
  • Transferring funds
  • Paying bills
  • A pay card account is inactive for a certain timespan 

You’ll probably also want great customer service, so if you’re considering the cheapest pay card provider, be sure to first check out the reviews to see what its customers are saying about it. 

Payroll Card Providers Comparison

1. Intuit (QuickBooks) 

When most people think of QuickBooks, they probably think of accounting software and related applications, like Intuit QuickBooks and QuickBooks desktop. However, Intuit also offers businesses the ability to pay employees via a payroll card. 

In fact, Intuit offers its customers two payroll card options: Credit Karma and TurboTax. Inuit is the parent of TurboTax, and in 2020 Intuit acquired Credit Karma, integrating their payroll system with Credit Karma’s money experience, Credit Karma Money Spend, in 2021. 

Pricing and Features

Credit Karma 

Credit Karma Money is a money experience with two major services: 

  • Credit Karma Money Save: for opening a high-yield savings account
  • Credit Karma Money Spend: for opening a checking account

Businesses seeking payroll cards for employee compensation should focus on Credit Karma’s Money Spend accounts. Similar to the direct deposit of a paycheck into an employee’s bank account, employers can establish the direct deposit of wages directly into an employee’s Money Spend account.  

These accounts are free to open with no initial deposit or minimum balance requirements. A Credit Karma Money Spend account assures users of no overdraft fees, no hidden fees, and no penalties. Additionally, employees gain access to their paychecks up to two days before payday, available at more than 50,000 ATMs with no service charges. 

TurboTax

TurboTax offers businesses the Turbo Visa Debit Card, which allows employers to directly deposit employee wages. Unlike Credit Karma Money Spend, Turbo Visa Debit Card carries various fees.

  • Use fee: $4.95/month
    • Unless you deposited at least $1,000 during the previous month
  • ATM withdrawal outside of approved network: $2.50/transaction
  • ATM balance inquiry outside of approved network: $0.50/transaction
  • Cash withdrawal at a financial institution: $2.50/transaction
  • Replacement card: $5

QuickBooks Payroll Service Plans

QuickBooks offers three different payroll service packages, and each plan includes full-service payroll functionality and features. All you need to do is choose the plan that makes the most sense for your business needs. We’ve provided a rundown of each of the plans for you to review below.

The Core plan, at $45 per month plus $5 per employee per month, includes W-2s and 1099s, and tax filings. Payroll and tax filings are done automatically. The plan also administers 401K and health insurance plans. 

The Core plan provides a lot of bang for your buck, especially for small companies that just want payroll handled and to offer their employees benefits.

The Premium plan, at $75 per month plus $8 per employee per month, has the added benefits of same-day direct deposit and time tracking on the go, enabling employers to track and approve employee hours from a mobile app.

With the Premium plan, you’ll have access to an HR support center and workers’ compensation administration. For a minimal amount more, you’ll receive several extra benefits, making the Premium plan a good value. 

The Elite plan, at $125 per month plus $10 per employee per month, has the unique benefit of tax penalty protection: if you’re charged a fee for late tax filings, QuickBooks will cover it up to $25,000, subject to terms and conditions. You’ll also have a personal HR advisor.  

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Two different payroll card options
  • Payroll services are a great value
  • Credit Karma Money Spend means minimal fees
  • Website is easy to use
  • Great mobile app

Cons

  • Customer service options are lacking
  • Turbo Visa Debit Card presents multiple fees
  • Unlike competitors, poor HR support

Our Verdict

Overall, the Intuit QuickBooks site is easy to use and detailed plan information is easy to find. Information regarding their payroll cards is harder to find, but after some digging we managed to find some helpful community posts discussing employee pay cards. We found more readily available information about Credit Karma’s payroll card service than for TurboTax’s pay card.  

Moreover, the majority of the information about the Turbo Visa Debit Card was outdated with links that didn’t work. Reading through the comments in several community discussions, we concluded that we weren’t the only ones frustrated. Customers lamented the absence of accurate information about Turbo’s pay card and the poor customer support from QuickBooks.  

Intuit QuickBooks’ payroll plans are well priced and offer good value for small businesses, and Quickbooks also offers an excellent mobile app for business owners. We additionally liked that all the plans include health insurance and 401K administration. 

QuickBooks has the advantage of its name – most people are familiar with it – and a lot of customers, so we can tentatively assume that many have had a good experience with its services and software. 

Because of the great value delivered to employees using a payroll card via a Credit Karma Money Spend account, as well as Intuit’s valuable payroll plans, we cautiously recommend these services to businesses willing to pay a little more for quality. 

2. Skylight ONE (Netspend) 

Netspend has been providing payroll cards and alternative payment methods since 1999 and, according to its website, serves around 68 million customers. 

Netspend offers the Skylight PayOptions program, a solution that provides payroll services and enables employers to use prepaid payroll cards to pay employees.  

Pricing and Features

Netspend’s Skylight PayOptions service includes payroll execution, compensation via payroll cards, pay card onboarding integrations, a mobile app with 24/7 access, balance alerts, and cashback rewards.  

Employees can even get paid up to two days before payday when wages are directly deposited onto a pay card. Additionally, business owners and their employees can access phone customer support seven days a week. 

Netspend offers two different pay card options: the Skylight ONE Visa Prepaid Card and the Skylight ONE Prepaid Mastercard. The only difference between the two is the partner financial institution (Visa or Mastercard). Fees are the same for both cards. 

Netspend presents three different payment options for their payroll card service:

  • The Monthly Plan
  • The Pay-As-You-Go Plan
  • The Netspend Premier plan

The Monthly Plan

The Monthly Plan is free to open with no initial deposit requirements and unlimited transactions, but it does carry a monthly charge of $9.95. Paying for Netspend’s Monthly Plan also carries additional pay card fees:

  • ATM withdrawal fee: $2.95/transaction
  • Cash reload fee: up to $3.95/reload
  • ATM balance inquiry: $0.50
  • Account inactivity: $5.95/month after 90 days of inactivity
  • Replacement card: $9.95

This plan is great for businesses with employees who use their pay card often. 

The Pay-As-You-Go Plan

This plan doesn’t charge customers a monthly fee, which is perfect for businesses with employees that are unsure how often they’ll use their payroll card. We’ve provided the pay card use fees below: 

  • Purchase fee: $1.95/transaction
  • ATM withdrawal fee: $2.95/transaction
  • Cash reload fee: up to $3.95/reload
  • ATM balance inquiry fee: $0.50
  • Account inactivity fee: $5.95/month after 90 days of inactivity
  • Replacement card fee: $9.95
  • Cash withdrawal at a financial institution fee: the larger of the following:
    • 1% of the funds withdrawn, up to $9.95

    OR

  • $2.95

The Netspend Premier plan

The Netspend Premier plan is only available for employees that meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • The employee is enrolled in Netspend’s Monthly Plan
  • The employee is compensated via direct deposit
  • The employee must have received at least $500 in benefits (via their employer or via the government) in one calendar month

Qualifying employees are automatically enrolled in the Netspend Premier plan, which is linked to what Netspend refers to as their Reduced Monthly Plan. Customers reap the following benefits: 

  • A smaller monthly bill of $5 (instead of $9.95) 
  • A $10 balance cushion
    • This means if you overdraft your card within $10, Netspend will help cover the deficit and deduct it the next time your pay card is loaded
  • A customized pay card at no additional cost
  • Transaction email and text alerts 

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Payment plan options
  • Mobile app 
  • Automatic enrollment in Netspend Premier plan for qualifying employees
  • Option between a Visa or Mastercard pay card

Cons

  • Charges cash loading fees, while many competitors do not
  • Payroll card inactivity charges
  • Charges purchase fees under the Pay-As-You-Go Plan, while many competitors do not

Our Verdict

Netspend’s Skylight ONE Visa and Mastercard payroll cards provide customers with pay cards that can be used anywhere that accepts Visa and Mastercard payments, which is practically everywhere. This means employees can use their Skylight ONE card to easily pay bills and expenses. 

While this feature is extremely advantageous, we found the numerous fees associated with Skylight ONE to be a little problemati. As a result, we recommend Skylight ONE’s payroll card to businesses that are willing to spend a bit more. 

3. Paychex

Paychex is one of the country’s top providers of payroll solutions – and according to its website,  issues pay to one out of 12 U.S. private sector employees.

Paychex Flex is a suite of three payroll processing plans that aim to satisfy a wide variety of business types and needs. One of the key benefits for small and mid-sized businesses that pay for Paychex services is its payroll card.

Other key benefits include running payroll via an online platform or free mobile app, 24/7 customer support, and total calculation and payment of payroll taxes.  

Pricing and Features

Paychex offers three different payroll packages:

  • Paychex Flex Essentials
  • Paychex Flex Select
  • Paychex Flex Pro

For no additional charge, businesses can add payroll card services to their Paychex Flex plan, allowing employers to deposit employee wages directly onto a prepaid card. Below, we outline the other services included in each of the Paychex Flex plans. 

Paychex Flex Essentials is the lowest-tier plan and tailored to businesses with 1-9 employees. This plan includes payroll tax calculations and filings with federal, state, and local bodies. 

With the standard analytics and reporting, you can review payroll reports and make changes as needed prior to submitting payroll. Paychex Flex Essentials contains a robust suite of offerings that center around the employee experience, such as an included HR library and business forms repository.

Paychex Flex Select is the second-tier payroll package and includes everything above plus a number of features, such as more payment options for your employees. In addition to direct deposit and paper checks, Flex Select offers check signing and a check logo service to subscribers.

Another key feature is access to the Paychex Learning Management System, which offers courses to help employees stay engaged and focused and boost retention.

The top-tier Paychex Flex Pro plan includes all the benefits above plus access to a dedicated payroll specialist. Business owners and payroll processors are assigned a single point of contact for both payroll and tax-related matters.

Paychex Flex Pro provides companies with guided setup to ensure you start on the right foot. You’ll also be able to integrate Paychex with your existing accounting software, including QuickBooks Online, Sage Intacct, and Xero.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • User-friendly web experience
  • Payroll card service available with all plans for no additional cost
  • Informative, detailed website
  • Established industry reputation 
  • Flex Essentials offers excellent value
  • Solid mobile capabilities

Cons

  • Poor customer service
  • Lack of pricing transparency 
  • Difficult cancellation process
  • W-2 and 1099 filing costs extra  

Our Verdict

Overall, we have mixed feelings about Paychex Flex. On a positive note, their website is easy to use and presents loads of information on plans and benefits. Businesses can even add paycard services to their package without additional fees. 

However, Paychex’ customer service left much to be desired. For one thing, the initial customer service rep we dealt with could not answer our questions. Also, the high number of complaints about specialist turnover and cancellation issues is troubling. 

Overall, Paychex has been around for years, gaining the trust of companies across the country. Moreover, Paychex offers businesses the opportunity to add paycard services to their payroll plan without any auxiliary expenses – an advantage that makes Paychex stand out from competitors. As a result, we recommend Paychex as a payroll card provider. 

4. Wisely Pay (ADP)

Automatic Data Processing, more commonly known as ADP, is one of the biggest names in payroll processing and counts many Fortune 500 firms among its clients. While its central platform serves those larger businesses, ADP’s RUN service is tailored for startups and companies with 50 or fewer employees. 

For no extra initial charge, businesses can sign up for ADP’s trademark paycard service: Wisely Pay. This allows employers to deposit employee wages directly onto a prepaid card. However, use of a Wisely Pay card carries certain supplementary fees. 

Pricing and Features

Wisely Pay 

Employees that opt to receive their compensation via a Wisely Pay card are able to open an account for free, no minimum balance required. Additionally, Wisely Pay charges no monthly usage fees. Nor will employees face overdraft fees because Wisely bars users from spending more money than the amount on the card.  

Wisely Pay sets itself apart from competitors by offering up to three additional pay cards for employee family members at no extra cost. However, there are certain fees for utilizing certain features.  

  • Cash loading fee for funds between $20 and $500:
    • At participating locations of ADP’s Reload @ the Register program: $4.95/load 
    • At non-participating locations: $5.95/load
  • Cash reloading fees via:
    • Western Union: $3.95/load
    • Green Dot: $5.95/load
    • A mobile check cashing service: 5% of check total
  • Non-participating ATM withdrawal fee: $3.50/transaction
  • International ATM withdrawal fee: $3.50/transaction
  • ATM withdrawal decline fee: $1/declined transaction
  • International transaction fee: 3% of withdrawal total 
  • International bank withdrawal fee:2% of  withdrawal total
  • Card replacement fee: one free card replacement each calendar year
    • Additional card replacement fee: $6
    • Expedited card delivery fee: $24
    • Overnight card delivery fee: $35
  • Account inactivity fee: $4/month after 90 days of inactivity

Note that there are additional factors that can influence these fees, such as state regulations. For example, Connecticut and Illinois waive the first two ATM decline fees every month. ADP recommends that Wisely Pay card users log into their account to access their personalized Wisely Pay list of fees. 

ADP RUN Plans 

As previously stated, ADP’s Wisely Pay card service can be added to all of ADP’s RUN suite of payroll solutions for free. We’ve outlined the other key services included in ADP’s payroll plans below, but it’s important to remember that all of ADP’s RUN plans are custom priced based on the size and needs of the company.

The ADP RUN Essential plan is meant for startups or established businesses looking for a basic payroll solution. The Essential package includes a robust suite of services, including access to an online portal and mobile app, 24/7 customer support, and payroll tax filing. You’ll also be able to run electronic reports and access a new hire reporting feature.

The Enhanced plan from ADP includes everything from the Essential plan plus background checks, access to services from ZipRecruiter, and state unemployment insurance filings. You’ll also get poster compliance services to ensure both the latest state and federal guidelines are always prominently displayed at your workplace. 

The ADP RUN Complete plan contains all the benefits detailed above, plus a variety of HR support services and features. Customers receive access to an HR HelpDesk with live support and an employee handbook wizard. 

Another key feature of the Complete plan is access to salary benchmarks so you can stay up to date on the latest compensation data. This plan also includes access to a regularly updated compliance database and an HR forms and documents repository.

HR Pro is ADP RUN’s top plan and includes everything from the other three plans plus an enhanced version of HR HelpDesk Support and enhanced employee handbook support. It also includes access to ADP’s proactive HR support team, an employee assistance program, employee and employer HR training, business marketing tools, and legal services.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Established reputation of ADP
  • User-friendly website
  • No monthly payroll card subscription fees
  • No service fee for making purchases 
  • myWisely mobile app

Cons

  • Expensive pay card service-usage fees 
  • Plan pricing is available by quote only
  • Many unhappy customers 
  • Complaints about the payroll card product

Our Verdict

This was a tough decision. Overall, we were pleased with our ADP experience. The site is easy to use, information is readily available, and it’s very easy to request a quote. Their four service plans offer a wide variety of features, and it’s free to set up employee payroll cards. 

However,  the service fees linked to the Wisely Pay card are expensive compared to competitors. Furthermore, several negative one- and two-star reviews involve Wisely Pay. Customers complain of transaction disputes, card freezes, and poor customer service. As a result, we do not recommend ADP’s Wisely Pay payroll card. 

5. rapid! (Green Dot Corporation)

rapid! is a subsidiary of the Green Dot Corporation and thus part of its mission to deliver accessible, affordable financial solutions to the every-day consumer.

rapid! is a payment platform that supplies businesses with several different payment tools and services. Employees get to select the method in which they receive their regular payment, which are:

  • Cash pickup at participating retail locations
  • ACH direct deposit
  • Instant deposits to:
    • Bank accounts 
    • Payroll cards
    • Prepaid debit cards 

Pricing and Features

Though the use of a rapid! PayCard includes many services that can be utilized at no charge, there are some additional fees for certain uses of the PayCard, including: 

  • Declined card-purchase fee: $0.50/transaction
  • International debit purchase: $1.00/transaction
  • ATM withdrawal fee: $1.50/transaction
  • ATM balance inquiry: $0.75/transaction
  • ATM card decline: $0.75/transaction
  • International ATM withdrawal fee: $3.50/transaction
  • International ATM balance inquiry: $1.00/transaction
  • International ATM card decline: $1.00/transaction
  • Card-to-card transfer fee: $1.00/transaction
  • ACH-to-bank-account transfer fee: $1.50/transaction
  • Check request: $2.99/request
  • Bill payment fee: $0.99/transaction
  • Account inactivity fee: $4.95/month after 6 months without use
  • Replacement card:
    • Employer issued: $5/replacement
    • Mailed to employee’s home: $10.00
  • Mailed account statement to employee’s home:
    • One free statement/month
    • Additional statements: $1.50/statement

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • No included employer fees to use PayCard program 
  • Mobile application
  • PayCard is FDIC insured
  • All-inclusive payroll platform

Cons

  • Poor customer support
  • Charges a fee every time you pay a bill
  • Many reviews complain of withheld employee payments

Our Verdict

Although the rapid! platform offers several payroll solutions that can provide great value, using the rapid! PayCard presents many corresponding fees. We find the $0.99 fee for every bill payment to be counterintuitive and discouraging to employees. 

When we took a close look at rapid!’s reviews with the Better Business Bureau, we were disappointed to discover that all 34 customer reviews left a one-star rating. Moreover, many of the reviews described employees struggling to receive payment and gain access to their funds. 

As a result, we do not recommend rapid!’s payroll card services.  

Conclusion

The importance of selecting the right payroll card provider for your business is hard to overstate. Selecting a bad provider can lead to pay disputes, added fees and even tax penalties, while selecting a good provider will reduce stress and boost staff morale – and maybe even increase productivity! 

So be sure to take your time and make the best choice for your business.