AccountNow is marketed as a prepaid debit card that is safer than cash, easy to load and use, and an alternative to a traditional checking account. But a MagnifyMoney review finds AccountNow’s Gold Visa Prepaid Card carries fees that may make it too prohibitively expensive for most people to use.
The fees associated with this card make it a risky bet for cash-strapped consumers looking for a checking account alternative. While it’s free to signup and activate the card, the monthly maintenance fee ($9.95/month) alone adds up to $119.40 per year. The card has also received quite a few complaints from cardholders with the Better Business Bureau, which raises a red flag.
In this review, we’ll go over the features of the AccountNow prepaid debit card, including the pros and cons. We’ll also get to the bottom of the fee structure and expose any hidden fees this card may have.
Why you should use prepaid debit cards
If you’re worried about overspending or you have a poor history with traditional bank accounts, prepaid debit cards can be an ideal alternative. Prepaid debit cards work similar to bank-issued cards because you can deposit and withdraw money and use the card to make purchases.
However, since you can only spend what you have loaded onto the card, it eliminates the risk of overdrafts and spending more than you can afford.
It’s important to know that not all prepaid debit cards are created equally. There are dozens of options to choose from and some cards carry fees that can quickly become expensive.
Overview of the AccountNow Gold Visa Prepaid Card
With the AccountNow Gold Visa Prepaid Card, you can add money to your card through a variety of different methods, shop everywhere and access thousands of different ATMs, send money and pay bills, and earn discounts and rewards.
While the AccountNow Gold Visa Prepaid Card may help you avoid overdraft fees that traditional banks have, there are many different fees to consider before signing up. These fees include:
- Monthly service charge of $9.95
- ATM withdrawal fees
- U.S. ATM withdrawals – $2.50 per transaction
- Non-U.S. ATM withdrawals – $4.95 per transaction
- Teller cash withdrawal – 3% of amount withdrawn
- Balance inquiry at ATMs – $1.50
- Reload at retail locations – up to $4.95 (varies by retailer)
- Automated Clearing House (ACH) debit fee (charged each time funds are withdrawn from your card account using your account and routing number) – $2.50 per transaction
- Monthly paper statements – $1 per statement
- Additional debit card – $10
- Expedited shipping of replacement card – $25
- Expedited Bill Pay service – $9.95 (whenever you request to have your funds delivered 1-4 business days faster using the Bill Pay service)
- Foreign currency conversion – 3% of total transaction amount
According to AccountNow’s listing with the Better Business Bureau, they have hundreds of customer complaints, and many of them are complaints about the fees associated with this prepaid card.
Most customers complained that AccountNow didn’t disclose any of their fees when they signed up and the fees were very inconvenient. Imagine needing to withdraw cash from an ATM or wanting to expedite their Bill Pay service and being faced with an extra fee.
A quality prepaid debit card shouldn’t cost you much money each month.
While AccountNow states you can get your paycheck up to two days earlier when you sign up for direct deposit, that is not a guarantee.
How soon you receive your paycheck depends on your employer’s payment processing system and how soon they notify the bank of direct deposit paychecks. Prepaid card holders with AccountNow do receive account and routing numbers to set up direct deposit with an employer, but you will have to verify with your specific employer to make sure you can set up direct deposit. Speaking with them directly may also give you a better idea about how soon you’ll receive your funds.
Options to Load Money onto Your Card
Direct deposit is free to set up, and you can get paid up to two days faster (depending on your employer’s payroll process and timing). When you sign up for direct deposit, you may also qualify for a $15 bonus.
Use a Loading Network
You can also add cash by using a cash load network like Green Dot’s MoneyPak and Reload at the Register, Western Union, Visa ReadyLink, or MoneyGram. You can find many of these loading networks at locations like Walmart, 7-Eleven, CVS, Kmart, Walgreens, UPS, and more.
With any of these methods, your money will be available within 30 minutes. However, it’s important to keep in mind some stores may charge a small fee to load your card with one of these networks.
Using MoneyGram may be the most affordable option because most stores that offer MoneyGram only charge $3.95 to load your card.
Deposit a Check
If you have a government, payroll, or personal check, you can deposit it for free from your smartphone by using the Ingo Money App. When you use the app to deposit a check, funds are available immediately for a small fee or within 10 days for free.
Making Purchases and Withdrawing Money
You can use your AccountNow Gold Visa Prepaid Card to make purchases anywhere Visa cards are accepted. You can use your card to shop online, reserve rental cars, pay for travel, and more.
AccountNow has a Visa Zero Liability policy. As long as you carry this card, it protects you from unauthorized purchases that can occur as a result of identity theft.
When it comes to withdrawing cash from your card, you can select any ATM, but you may be subject to a fee.
To reduce ATM fees, AccountNow suggests visiting surcharge-free ATMs, or you can request cash back when making purchases at the store.
Options to Send Money and Pay Bills
Paying bills is easy with the AccountNow Gold Visa Prepaid Card because cardholders can simply log on to their bill company’s online portal and enter their card number to pay bills online, or they can use the AccountNow Bill Pay feature to plan ahead and create a list of monthly bills and the due dates so they can be automatically paid each month.
Discounts and Rewards
If you set up direct deposit, you can get $15 credited to your account. In order to qualify for this offer, within six months after being approved for your AccountNow prepaid card, you must have at least $500 deposited into your account via direct deposit for two consecutive months.
AccountNow also has a refer-a-friend program where you can earn $20 and your friend can earn $10 when they sign up for an account using your referral code and add at least $10 to their card within 60 days of applying and signing up.
How to Get Approved
To open an account for a prepaid debit card with AccountNow, you need to be at least 18 years old. You can go to their website to sign up online or call the company at 866-925-2036 to sign up by phone.
The application process is free, and you need the following information: your name, phone number, email, address, mailing address (not a P.O. box), and Social Security number.
AccountNow also states on their website there is a 100% approval rate (subject to verification), and there are no credit checks or activation fees.
How to Access Your Account
Once you open an account and receive your prepaid Visa card, you can go to the Customer Center to view your account balance, transaction details, and user information.
You can also get information about your account on your cell phone via SMS alerts. Carrier message and data rates may apply, but you can set up automatic notifications to receive text messages any time money is deposited into your account.
The terms of this card come with quite a bit of fine print, and you’ll want to review all of it before opening an account.
Applying for and activating your card is free. It takes 5-7 days for your card to arrive after you sign up. There is no minimum balance requirement, but there is a monthly fee of $9.95, which is high compared to other leading prepaid cards. AccountNow also provides free monthly statements, but charges $1 for paper statements.
Loading Money onto Your Card and Making Withdrawals
The maximum daily limit is $10,000 for direct deposit and $1,500 for cash loads. Third-party money transfer services used to load funds to your card may have their own daily, weekly, or monthly limits on the frequency or amount of cash you can load.
AccountNow encourages cardholders to view their specific cardholder agreement for specific details.
There is a daily limit on how much you can withdraw from your card as well. AccountNow says these limits may vary and recommends cardholders refer to their specific cardholder agreement for more details.
Transaction fees and usage limits can also change without prior notice, except as required by law.
Using Bill Pay
Cardholders can make payments to anyone in the U.S and U.S. territories. However, AccountNow discourages people from making the following payments:
- Tax payments to the Internal Revenue Service or any state or other government agency
- Court-ordered payments, such as alimony or child support
- Payments to insurance companies
Fees may apply for expedited requests.
If you are setting up automatic Bill Pay, you can choose from the following options:
- Every other week (payment will be made 14 days apart)
- Twice a month (your first payment will be the same day every month, with the second payment 15 days later)
- Every two months
- Every three months
- Every six months
Pros and Cons
Pro: 100% approval rate and no credit check as long as you can verify your identity.
Con: Monthly fee of $9.95.
Pro: No minimum balance requirement, but if you don’t at least have enough money in your account to cover the monthly fee, it will go negative.
Con: Low ATM withdrawal limits.
Pro: Using the card is safer than cash because your purchases are protected.
Con: Expedited fees to pay bills faster or clear deposited checks quicker can be inconvenient and costly.
Pro: Ability to set up direct deposit and receive a $15 bonus.
Con: ATM fees are unavoidable unless you get cash back or find a surcharge-free ATM.
Pro: Automatic Bill Pay.
Con: Many different fees to consider that can add up, such as calling customer service or checking your balance.
Pro: Referral bonuses for signing up friends.
Con: Daily limit for direct deposit and cash deposits.
Other Prepaid Card Options
Given the pros and cons of the AccountNow Gold Visa Prepaid Card, their high fees overshadow most of the benefits leaving much to be desired in terms of a good prepaid card. Below are two alternative options with much lower fees.
Kaiku Visa Prepaid Card
Kaiku is a prepaid Visa card that allows you to load money onto your card easily and even transfer funds from PayPal and Amazon. The Kaiku card has a $3 monthly maintenance fee that is waived as long as you load at least $750 onto the card each month.
There are also no ATM fees when using this card as long as you use in-network Allpoint ATMs.
American Express Serve
American Express has three different Visa prepaid cards, including a cashback card that provides cardholders with unlimited 1% cash back for every dollar spent in-store and online.
American Express Serve’s basic card provides free early direct deposit, free online bill pay, and free ATM withdrawals at over 24,000 MoneyPass ATMs, along with helpful tools to help you manage your money.
While the American Express Serve cashback card has a $5.95 monthly fee, the basic American Express Serve prepaid card has a $1 monthly fee that is waived as long as you set up direct deposit for at least $500 every month.
The AccountNow Gold Visa Prepaid Card seems like a last resort option for people who don’t qualify for a regular checking account at a traditional bank and want to control their spending.
If you want to deposit money for a large purchase or withdraw cash from the ATM, you may not like encountering some of their daily deposit or withdrawal fees either.
Overall, the fact that cardholders can pay their bills easily on time, set up direct deposit, earn small rewards, and use their prepaid card just like a bank debit card to make purchases at their favorite stores and online can make this card look attractive.
However, there are much better prepaid cards on the market with lower fees and less limitations even if you have a poor banking history.