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Review of the ACE Elite Visa Prepaid Debit Card

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

ACE Elite Visa Prepaid Debit Card features

Those seeking a prepaid debit card have many options available to them, and ACE Elite Visa Prepaid Debit card is one such option, although one that will involve an assortment of rates and fees. This prepaid debit card product offers tiered levels of fee-based services, for those seeking an alternative to traditional banks. However, the card comes with more than two dozen fees and may have limited use beyond the states where its parent company operates.

ACE Cash Express primarily offers payday loans and other short-term consumer loans, check cashing, bill payments and other services to consumers in 22 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Like many short-term loan products, the company’s payday loans can carry astronomical interest rates and origination fees. In Minnesota, for example, ACE charges a staggering 684.64% APR on a 14-day term $100 loan.

In 2014, ACE Cash Express (the parent company associated with the card) was fined by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for “pushing payday borrowers into a cycle of debt” through “illegal debt collection tactics.” While ACE Cash Express’s headquarters aren’t accredited by the Better Business Bureau, it does have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. There have been 212 complaints closed in the past three years, and the parent company holds a 1 ½ star rating, as averaged by 16 customers.

Its reputation as a payday lender isn’t stellar, but the prepaid card offering is a distinct product, so we’ll focus on that in this review.

While the card isn’t charging the same fees and interest rates as the ACE Cash Express locations, savvy debit-card shoppers may want to read the fine print very closely regarding fees, collections and other possibly unexpected charges.

Ace Elite Visa Prepaid card features

Get early access to your paycheck with direct deposit. As is typical with prepaid cards these days, those who enroll in direct deposit have early access to their paycheck – up to two days faster – if your employer participates.

Interest-earning savings. The card has one genuinely useful feature. Cardholders can open a savings account with a fairly decent interest rate. Balances up to $1,000 can earn 5% interest per year, with no required minimum balance. So, if you stash $1000 into the account, you’ll earn $50 after a year. Any amount after $1000 earns a less-impressive 0.50% interest per year, which is lower than what you can find at many online banks these days. One thing to note: this rate has not increased in the past year, although savings account interest rates overall have increased.

Payback rewards. The Payback Rewards program offers discounts to various retailers and restaurants, which can result in a credit back to your ACE Elite cardholder account.

High load limits. You can load up to $15,000 on the card per 30-day period, or $7,500 per day.

No credit check required. The main selling point for prepaid debit cards like this one is they typically require no credit check. The Ace Elite Visa is no different.

The ACE Elite Visa Prepaid card offers three tiers of plans:
ACE Elite Pay-As-You-Go PlanNo monthly fee, but it charges $1 transaction fee every time you swipe the card at retailers.
ACE Elite FeeAdvantage Plan$9.95 per month, no transaction fees.
ACE Elite FeeAdvantage Plan with Direct Deposit$5 monthly fee for cardholders who put a total of $500 ACH deposit(s) into their account every month.

Fees and fine print

This card has a rather lengthy list of more than 20 fees, including an activation fee, declined ATM or transaction fees, international ATM fees, additional card fees and foreign transaction fees, and even a $0.50 fee for checking your account balance at an ATM.

On the free plan, just know that it’s not really free at all if you plan to actually swipe your card regularly, you’ll pay $1 for each transaction. For that reason, if you think you’ll make more than five PIN purchase transactions or 10 signature transactions per month, you may want to move into a monthly-fee, higher-tier FeeAdvantage plan.

ACE Elite Visa Prepaid Debit Card Fees
Transaction fee$1 per transaction for the Pay-As-You-Go plan; no fee if you enroll in the $9.95/month FeeAdvantage Plan or the $5/month Direct Deposit plan.
Activation feeIf purchasing a card in a retail location, the retailer sets the price, but shouldn’t be more than $9.95.
Reload feeFree reload when it’s an online transfer from another ACE Elite cardholder or direct deposit. Reloading with cash at a retailer, in person, may come with – you guessed it – a fee, set by the retailer.
Check deposit feeDirect Deposit no fee; Check deposit fees not listed, and is claimed to be a “third party fee.”
ATM fees$2.50 per withdrawal, plus ATM fees
$1.00 ATM Decline Fee
$4.95 International ATM fee, plus ATM fees and Foreign Transaction Surcharge of 3.5% of the U.S. dollar amount
Card replacement fee$3.95 per card, plus $0 (7-10 business days) to $25 (1-2 business days) card delivery fee.
Purchase transactions$1/each Pay-As-You-Go; No fee for those in FeeAdvantage plans
PIN purchase transactions$2/each Pay-As-You-Go; No fee for those in FeeAdvantage plans
Account maintenance fee$5.95 per month when the card hasn’t been used for purchases, withdrawals, load transactions or balance inquiries in 90 days. This fee is applied instead of the plan fee if enrolled
in any FeeAdvantage Plan.

There are few ways to avoid heavy-duty fees at ATMs ($2.50 per transaction, plus local ATM fees). For example, those enrolled in one of the FeeAdvantage programs can withdraw up to $300 per day, but only at ACE Cash Express locations. You can get cash back at retailers using your PIN, although that will also incur fees, unless in a FeeAdvantage tiered plan. You’ll also pay a $1 fee for any declined transactions, of course.

One “benefit” that may be more of a net negative: signing up for the optional overdraft protection feature, which gives one free overdraft “purchase cushion” of up to $10, a 24-hour grace period, then charges $15 per overdraft, up to three per month. Those trying to adhere to sound financial management might skip the feature, as even the ACE states in a notice, “this is an expensive service and should not be relied upon to meet your financial needs.”

There’s also a general lack of straightforward information about fees. The “Funds Transfer Fee” can’t be viewed until you sign up and log into your Online Account Center, and is determined by “a variety of factors.” Third-party fees not disclosed include a online bill pay fees and any mobile check load fee, which is also determined by a third-party service provider.

More ominously, all these fees with the ACE Elite Visa can lead to a negative balance, and any additional funds will go towards paying off fees, first.

If the plan makes changes to fees, you’ll receive a letter such as this, which is coy about sharing what, exactly, those fees might be. And there’s an arbitration clause you’re opting into when signing up for the card — make sure to read the details.

On the positive side, there aren’t fees for online inquiries, direct deposit or account-to-account transfer via the website. There is no minimum balance, deposit requirements or monthly charges for the Pay-As-You-Go Plan (as long as you continue to use the card…or there’s a $5.95/month maintenace fee). Avoiding ATM fees involve visiting one of the 950 ACE Cash Express locations, which are only available in 22 states and D.C.

Using the ACE Elite Visa Prepaid Debit Card mobile app

The mobile app is available for iPhones through the Apple App Store, where it has a 3.4 rating with 24 Ratings. Android device owners can use Google Play, where the app has 4 out of 5 stars.

The app allows you to check your transaction history and account balances for the prepaid and savings accounts, send money to others (with ACE accounts), find reload locations and upload checks. However, the check load service may have an assortment of varying fees attached.

According to reviews, iPhone and Android users have experienced a difficult time uploading checks, but the app developer appears to be responsive to complaints on both platforms.

Opening a ACE Elite Visa Prepaid Debit Card Account

Order the card online, which will arrive in the mail in seven to ten business days. Or visit an ACE Cash Express location to purchase a card, which will not cost more than $9.95, according to ACE.

Next, you’ll need to activate your card, and verify your identity. Activation requires a Social Security number, name, address and date of birth. Residents of Vermont are not eligible for an ACE debit card.

Then, activate the card online or by calling a toll-free number. Next, add money at one of the ACE Cash Express locations, or at a NetSpend location, of which there are apparently 130,000, although the NetSpend website’s location-finder appears to be nonfunctional at times.

Who could benefit from the ACE Elite Visa Prepaid Debit Card?

Those who might benefit from this card include individuals who live in D.C. or one of the states ACE Cash Express operates in; those who cannot get a bank account or another fee-free or low-fee prepaid debit card. The above individual would want to set up a direct-deposit feature, to lower the monthly fee structure.

Another potential customer: someone desiring a savings-account offering a good interest rate (for savings up to $1000), and who can continue to regularly add to that savings account, and ward off the $5.95 inactivity fee. As well, individuals interested in ACE Elite Visa’s fee-free mobile-app options, such as balance and transaction mobile-alerts.

Overall review of ACE Elite Visa Prepaid Debit Card

Overall, those seeking an alternative to traditional banks would be better off looking into prepaid debit cards like Bluebird that are more straightforward about costs, and charge far fewer fees.

Because individuals who are money-management-challenged may be surprised at just how quickly fees can rack up with the ACE Elite Visa Prepaid debit card, and how the card can continue to charge fees until the debit cardholder ends up with a negative balance. This means debt on your debit card.

And yes, as their terms are clearly stated, they can pursue collections against you.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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Lora Shinn |

Lora Shinn is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lora here

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Review of Bluebird Prepaid Debit Card

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

woman using ATM
Source: Getty Images

Bluebird card features

The Bluebird prepaid debit card functions as a prepaid debit card and a bank — well, if neither charged fees for holding your money. Bluebird sings a different tune, with no minimum balance requirement, no inactivity or inquiry fees, no monthly or annual fees and no overdraft fees, all of which can be common in the prepaid-card world.

Developed in partnership with Walmart, the Bluebird card is a financial product offering more benefits than a traditional prepaid debit card. Users can wield Bluebird like a credit card since it works at almost any location worldwide accepting American Express. Bluebirders also receive extra traditional cardholder benefits, such as fraud protection, roadside assistance and Amex Offers, which provides deals and discounts at a variety of restaurants, shops and other merchants.

The Bluebird prepaid debit card also lowers barriers to traditional bank checking account features that make life easier, such as bill pay, direct deposit and a variety of no- or low-cost ways to add funds. It’s a hybrid financial creature, offering the ease and low expenses of an online bank and the reassurance of physical plastic and paper when it’s needed.

Among the features:

  • Direct deposit. Bluebird account holders can set up direct deposit online or with the Bluebird app, but a form must be printed out for your employer, so access to a printer is necessary. Drawing on funds before payday is available if your employer deposits funds early. But, in general, direct deposit funds are available as soon as the money arrives in the account, which could be up to two days before payday. It can take up to two payday cycles for direct deposit to kick in. Direct deposit can also be set up for federal payments, such as Social Security, a Veterans Affairs pension, a tax refund or a paycheck for a federal government employee.
  • Adding money to your account. There are a variety of ways to add money to a Bluebird account. Users can add cash via direct deposit, linking an existing debit card or bank account, adding cash or cashing a check at a Walmart register (up to $1,999) or via mobile check capture.
  • Mobile check deposit. With the Bluebird mobile app’s mobile check capture, users can deposit checks in minutes using their phone’s camera. But you won’t get the cash you’ve deposited for up to 10 days while the check clears. You can, however, pay a fee to have the money instantly available: 1% on payroll or government checks, or 5% on other checks. There’s a $5 minimum fee for this service.
  • ATM access. Bluebird encourages users to use a Walmart ATM or the MoneyPass network of ATMs found in thousands of locations for fee-free withdrawals. The Bluebird app can help users locate a nearby MoneyPass ATM.
  • Bill pay. Users can pay rent or utility bills with just a click — on the website or in the app — to be delivered within two business days. (If electronically, it takes longer to send a check by mail). Although there’s no way to set up a recurring payment, you can schedule bill reminders. Bluebird offers a Bill Pay Guarantee as long as you pay your bill six business days in advance of the payment deadline.
  • Checks. Yes, Bluebird account holders can even get 40 personalized physical checks for $19.95, plus shipping. But using these checks involves an extra step that traditional banks don’t require: Users must log on to the Bluebird system and personally pre-authorize the check, which in effect, holds the money required to cash the check. On the upside, there is no possibility of overdraft fees.
  • SetAside Account feature. This allows cardholders to save money for a specific goal (a vacation or an anniversary gift, perhaps) by essentially creating another account. Unlike a traditional savings account or money market account, no interest is paid on money saved in SetAside.
  • Family accounts. Parents of teens may be intrigued by Bluebird’s family account option, which allows you to create up to four subaccounts (and cards) for other people — age 13 and older — and set permissions on those accounts. These subaccount users can pay with their Bluebird card at any merchant accepting American Express, withdraw cash (with permission) and request money from the primary Bluebird member. But they can’t pay bills, add funds or cash checks — or create their own accounts. So there won’t be any surprising, bank-breaking Fortnite purchases.
  • Money transfer. Skip the wire expenses. The Bluebird card allows users to send cash from their account to users for pickup at a Walmart store. As well, Bluebird offers user-to-user online send-and-request cash capabilities, but both must be Bluebird users.
  • Account management tools. Bluebird allows users to set up fee-free alerts for low balance, added money, bill pay and fraud, and also has a text-enabled system to get your current balance, last few transactions and SetAside balance. The app also makes it easy to check in on current funds.
  • Other benefits include 24-hour roadside assistance dispatch, purchase protection and the Global Assist Hotline for travelers needing urgent assistance.

Bluebird fees and fine print

There can be sticking points around pre-authorizations, or the amount a merchant pre-authorizes and holds for payment — even if you didn’t actually spend as much as you were pre-authorized for. This, in turn, can lead to extra funds being held hostage (although not maliciously). For this reason, Bluebird advises cardholders to pay gas station attendants inside, not at the pump, and discuss pre-authorizations with other merchants likely to charge a bit extra, such as hotels, cruise lines and rental car agencies.

A deposit limit of $100,000 a year is set for all Bluebird accounts — for linked family members as well. Only $10,000 a month can be added by mobile check deposit. The ceiling for spending, withdrawal and other expenses (including merchants, bills and online transactions) is $15,000 a month.

Wondering about whether your cash is FDIC insured, as with a traditional bank? Money added to registered Bluebird accounts is placed into a custodial account at a FDIC-insured bank. Funds should be insured by the FDIC (up to $250,000, which is more than the Bluebird deposit-per-year limit). But it does remind users that American Express Travel Related Services Co. Inc. isn’t a bank, so there’s a risk of financial complications. As well, funds placed on temporary cards are not eligible for FDIC insurance.

Additionally, American Express isn’t accepted at merchants as widely as some other card issuers. And because Bluebird isn’t a traditional credit card (neither investigated by nor reported to credit bureaus), it will not help build credit.

Bluebird Fees
Activation fee$0 if signing up online; otherwise, $5 to purchase a starter kit at Walmart, which offers a temporary card.
Reload fee$0
Check deposit feeNo charge if you’re willing to wait 10 days;
1% or 5% of a check for “Money in Minutes”
ATM feesWithdrawal at MoneyPass ATMs, $0;
withdrawal at non-MoneyPass ATMs, $2.50
Card replacement fee$0
Money transfer to Walmart store in U.S. or Puerto RicoUp to $50: $4
$50.01-$1,000: $8
$1,000.01-$2,500: $16

Using the Bluebird mobile app

Source: iTunes

The app is available for iPhone and Android devices, and offers some of banking’s most popular features, including the ability to view your balance and detailed information about individual transactions. Users can cash checks, pay bills, add money from other debit cards, send money to family account holders (e.g., your teens) and locate MoneyPass ATMs, which don’t charge fees. Users can also transfer money to their SetAside (savings-adjacent) account.

The app has a 3.2-out-of-5 rating on iTunes and a 4.2-out-of-5 rating on Google Play. Some users complain about iPhone X compatibility. The app also lacks budgeting and savings-pattern features that select banking apps are now offering. To find the Amex Offers that come with a Bluebird card, you’ll also need to download the Amex app.

Opening a Bluebird account

Applicants can sign up for Bluebird in a number of ways. Users can go to Bluebird.com to register for an account, or download and use the Bluebird app (available for iPhone and Android from the App Store and Google Play, respectively). If a registrant needs instant access to a card, they can visit a Walmart store to purchase a Bluebird account setup kit for $5, which includes a temporary card, then register on Bluebird.com for a personalized Bluebird card imprinted with the user’s name.

Users would want to upgrade to the permanent or personalized card as the temporary card has a serious limit: You can only add up to $500. After registering and verifying your email address, Bluebird sends a personalized Bluebird card with your name on it seven to 10 days later. This card should be activated immediately upon receipt, according to Bluebird.

To be eligible for a Bluebird card, you need to have a valid Social Security number, be at least 18 years old and reside in the U.S. No credit reviews are required.

Who could benefit from the Bluebird card?

If you do not qualify for a traditional bank account due to poor credit or disinterest, the Bluebird prepaid debit card is a solid, reliable alternative to check-cashing companies. The card is also an option for those pursuing debt-free living, offering the ease of plastic payment without the monthly bill.

The Bluebird card is also convenient for others:

  • Regular Walmart shoppers who want to deposit and withdraw money
  • Those who do not plan on depositing more than $100,000 a year
  • Those who are interested in helpful financial management tools, such as low balance alerts and preventive measures against check-bouncing.

This prepaid debit card may also work well for tech-savvy parents who want to offer teen kids some plastic for trips and travels — with limits.

Overall review of Bluebird

For those with simple accounting requirements, the Bluebird prepaid debit card is a good alternative to a traditional bank account or prepaid debit card, providing a new, low-cost option to cost-conscious or credit-damaged consumers who still want to manage their money using features, such as bill pay, paper checks and instant online access.

While lacking some of the benefits of a traditional bank — such as interest-bearing savings accounts and brick-and-mortar service — the card offers many card benefits to those who might not otherwise qualify.

As well, the Bluebird prepaid debit card is a great pick for parents of teens, with the option to reload, monitor and reduce funds available to kids.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Avatar
Lora Shinn |

Lora Shinn is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lora here