Yes, you can earn 5% with an online account

Golden dollar sign

If you've been searching for any return that beats what your bank is paying on your savings account, the prospect of earning 5% with online prepaid debit cards may sound too good to be true. And it is -- almost.

But if you obey the rules, tiptoe around the fees and don't mind a little account diligence, you can earn $100 on your $2,000 savings account rather than $15 by year's end.

That's not a lot, but it may be enough to deter you from doing something rash like blowing the works on lotto tickets.

The two top dogs in this growing field are NetSpend and Mango.

Both offer FDIC-insured savings vehicles and both come with a fairly major caveat that we'll discuss shortly.

NetSpend offers a 5% introductory rate on its NetSpend National Savings Program tied to its MasterCard and Visa prepaid debit cards. You can load the card online from another credit or debit card, or via direct deposit, person-to-person payment text or at more than 100,000 reload stations.

Mango offers a 5.1% rate on its prepaid MasterCard debit card. It comes with a $5 monthly maintenance fee that Mango waives if you maintain an account balance of $500 or more during the previous month (excluding card-to-card transfers). Mango even throws in a mobile phone app.

Both cards look and act like a normal debit card, and you can get them without jumping through the credit-check hoops. But before you load your life savings expecting a 5% return, bear in mind that both cards cap the amount to which it will apply that juicy rate.

NetSpend doesn't spell out exactly what its balance cap is, only that "the cap may change." And there's this to consider: "Because savings funds are withdrawn through the card account, card transaction fees could reduce interest earned on the savings account."

Mango's cap is $5,000; any balance above that earns a whopping 0.10%. There are also account fees to step around that could reduce your yield even further.

If you find the prospect of earning $250 a year on a $5,000 deposit worth dodging the fees, go for it. If not, you may wish to hunt for a better strategy using a rewards checking account.

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