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Credit Cards, Reviews

Chase Sapphire Preferred Review: What To Know Before You Apply

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

travel train

If you want a rewards credit card, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is worth considering. However, the card is not right for everyone. Here are the highlights:

  • A great sign-up bonus – Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • No annual fee during the first year – $0 Intro for the First Year, then $95.
  • Earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. If you spend a lot of money on travel and dining, this is a great way to boost your earnings. 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • If you redeem your points for travel using the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal, your points are worth 25% more. For example, that 50,000 point sign-up bonus could be worth $625 of travel purchases.
  • You can also transfer your points to leading airlines (like United and Southwest) or hotels (like Marriott or Hyatt) on a 1:1 basis.

The information related to Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

The most value goes to people who spend a lot of their money on travel or dining and want to redeem their points for travel. If you are a foodie and traveler looking to get free trips faster, this card is a great tool to earn free travel fast. Depending upon how much you spend on travel, you might even want to consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve® instead. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is Chase’s most exclusive card yet. You Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. — That’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. You earn 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees. But you have a $450 annual fee (instead of $0 Intro for the First Year, then $95), and it is not waived during the first year. The least value goes to people who spend very little or no money on travel or dining and want to redeem for cash back or gift cards. Spending on all other categories (outside of travel and dining) only earns 1 point per $1 spent. And every 100 points is worth $1 of cash back. That means you would only be earning 1% cash back, which is a very low rate. Using our guide to the best cash back credit cards, you should be able to earn at least 2% on your spending.

How to Earn Points

You can earn 2 points on every dollar spent on travel (from cabs to airplane tickets) and dining. In order to get 2 points, the merchant needs to be classified as a “restaurant” or “travel.”

Dining is a relatively simple classification. All restaurants should classify as dining. Many bars (even those that don’t serve food) may be classified as “dining.” And even most popular food delivery services are categorized as dining (although there have been some reports of GrubHub not always earning 2x points). Here is the exact definition from the Chase website:

  • Merchants in the restaurants category are merchants whose primary business is sit-down or eat-in dining, including fast food restaurants as well as fine dining establishments. Please note that some merchants that sell food and drinks located within larger merchants such as sports stadiums, hotels and casinos, theme parks, grocery and department stores will not be included in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in a restaurant category.

The “travel” category is actually a lot broader than you might imagine. Paying for airplane tickets and hotel stays definitely counts as travel. But Airbnb, New York taxis, and even highway tolls will also count as travel. Here is the exact definition from Chase:

  • Merchants in the travel category include airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages. Please note that some merchants that provide transportation and travel-related services are not included in this category; for example, real estate agents, in-flight goods and services, on-board cruise line goods and services, sightseeing activities, excursions, tourist attractions, merchants within hotels and airports, and merchants that rent vehicles for the purpose of hauling. In addition, the purchasing of points or miles does not qualify in this category.

You will earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other spending with your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card card.

There is no maximum to the number of points that you can earn.

How Much Are the Points Worth?

When you earn points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card card, you are earning “Ultimate Rewards®” points. There are a number of ways that these points can be used. How valuable each point is depends on how you choose to use it.

Here’s a summary:

  • When you redeem points for cash, a statement credit, or a gift card: every 100 points earned = $1
  • When you redeem points for travel using Chase’s Ultimate Rewards® travel portal: every 100 points = $1.25
  • When you transfer points to travel partners: It depends upon the award that you are able to get in the program. For example, you could get a round-trip ticket to Europe on United Airlines for as few as 115,000 miles round trip or as many as 300,000 miles. You just have to shop on the United Airlines website to see how many miles they are charging for the flight. Unfortunately, the number of miles is determined by the airline and is at their discretion.

Who the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Doesn’t Work For

If your objective is to earn cash back on all your purchases, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is not the best option for you.

Why? Every 100 points you earn is only worth $1. That means you will get a 2% return on restaurant and travel spending, and only 1% return on everything else. You can do a lot better with a cash back credit card like the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer, where you can Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay.

Redeeming Points for Travel Rewards

As a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cardholder, you can book travel using the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal. You can book flights, hotels, car rentals, and other activities using the portal. The travel portal is like your own online travel agency:

who-the-chase-sapphire-preferred-card-doesnt-work-for

To pay for the travel, you can use Chase Ultimate Reward® points, your Chase card, or both. Your Ultimate Rewards® points carry even more value when you book using the portal. You only need 80 points to cover $1 of travel expense. For example, if an airfare is $500, you would only need 40,000 points to pay for the ticket. If you only had 30,000 points, you could apply those toward the balance and use cash or your credit card to cover the rest. The 30,000 points would deduct $375 from the purchase price, and you could pay for the remaining $125 out of pocket.

Booking travel through the portal really boosts the value of your credit card. That means you are actually earning:

  • 2.5% on every $1 you spend on restaurants and travel
  • 1.25% on every $1 you spend on everything else — and you can boost this by using Chase Freedom Unlimited® (see below)

Transfer to Travel Partners You have the opportunity to earn the best possible return when you transfer your points to a travel partner. Chase Ultimate Rewards® has an amazing coalition of travel partners where you can transfer your points 1:1. These include: =

  • Airlines: United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and a number of foreign carriers (including British Airways, Air France, JetBlue TrueBlue, Singapore Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic)
  • Hotels: Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, and Ritz-Carlton

The value of your points when transferred depends upon how you redeem them. You will get some of the best returns (and the most fun) when you can you nab a coveted “saver” travel award through one of Chase’s partner airlines. Most airlines have different tiers of fares that are reserved for people who are booking using miles or points. “Saver” awards are often the most deeply discounted and that’s when you get the most bang for your buck when it comes to redeeming points.

For example, we recently looked up a trip to London from Newark on the United Airlines website for a four-day weekend in April. Using our award points, we found a round-trip “saver” award fare for just 115,000 points for business class flight. That same flight cost nearly $5,000 in cash.

If you use those 115,000 points to book travel on the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal, it is worth $1,725. And if you want to convert those points into cash deposited into your bank account, it would be worth $1,150.

With some advance planning, you can get the biggest returns on your Chase Ultimate Rewards® points by transferring your points to Chase airline partners and finding deals on international business class flights. But you have to plan in advance and have a flexible travel schedule if you want to get the best business class redemption opportunities.

Remember: You can transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards® to your existing frequent flier accounts. If you have 40,000 miles in your United Airlines account already and need more miles for an award, you can easily (and instantly) top up your existing account by transferring at a 1:1 ratio.

Boost Your Earning with the  Chase Freedom Unlimited®

One of the weaknesses of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is that you only earn 1 point on all of your spending outside of the restaurant and travel categories. Fortunately, there is a way to boost your earnings.

Chase recently introduced the Chase Freedom Unlimited® credit card. With this credit card, you earn 1.5 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points for every $1 you spend. The good news is that you can combine those Chase Ultimate Rewards® points with your Chase Sapphire Reserve® Ultimate Reward® points. Even better: There is no annual fee on the Chase Freedom Unlimited® credit card.

To get the best value, use:

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited® for all purchases except dining and travel, and
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for all dining and travel purchases, and
  • Use your points to redeem for travel on the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal or get a great deal redeeming frequent flier miles with one of the travel partners

If you do that, you will be earning at least:

  • 2.5% on dining and travel (using Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card), and
  • 1.875% on everything else (using Chase Freedom Unlimited®)

The returns could be even higher if you transferred your points to a travel partner and snagged a great reward ticket.

The information related to the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

What Are the Fees and Charges Associated with the Card?

Here are some of the key fees and charges that come with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card:

  • Annual Fee: $0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: $0
  • Late Fee: Up to $15 if the balance is less than $100; up to $27 if the balance is $100 to less than $250; up to $37 if the balance is $250 or more

Having no foreign transaction fee is an excellent benefit, especially if you are a frequent traveler. There are still cards out there charging a hefty 3% on all foreign purchases.

Figuring out whether or not to pay the annual fee does take a little extra work. Remember that you can easily Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay with the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer credit card, which has a $0 annual fee. That is the baseline return. If you spend $2,000 a month, you could earn $480 a year in cash back. Can you beat that return?

If you are a foodie and world traveler, and you spend all $2,000 a month in the dining and travel categories, you can be much better off with Chase. If you use your card to redeem for travel or transfer to partners, you should be able to earn at least a 2.5% return. That means $20,000 of spend in the dining and travel categories would get you $600 of value before the annual fee. After the annual fee of $95 (waived the first year), you would get $505 of value during the ongoing years — which is a better deal than the flat 2% card. And there is a reason the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is such a great option for travelers: you can get even better returns when you use your miles strategically, and the more you spend in dining and travel categories (above $20,000 a year), the better the card.

This card is not ideal for people who:

  • Do not spend a lot of money in travel and dining categories
  • Do not want to redeem their points for travel (would rather have the cash)

Other Card Benefits

In addition to earning points, there are a number of other benefits that come associated with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. You can tell that this card is targeted toward the traveler because some of the richest (and, in our opinion, best) benefits are travel related. Make sure you understand them because if you are a regular traveler, you will likely have the opportunity to take advantage of them.

Car Rental Insurance

With this card, you get a primary auto rental collision damage waiver benefit. If you decline the auto rental company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card, you can receive coverage that provides reimbursement for up to the actual cash value of the vehicle for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad. Having primary coverage is a big deal — it means you don’t have to submit a claim to your own auto insurance company first (which could result in higher insurance rates after a claim).

The insurance provided on the credit card only deals with collision. You need to have a strategy in place for other risks. Auto insurers typically sell four types of policies. They are:

  • Collision (Loss Damage Waiver): Your Sapphire card can replace this.
  • Liability: If you damage someone else’s property or person, you could be held liable (and the amount of the liability could be significant). You should check to see if your existing auto insurance provides liability coverage on your rental. If it doesn’t, or if you don’t have an auto insurance policy, consider buying that protection at the counter.
  • Personal Effects: This policy protects any items that are damaged while in the rental car. Depending upon your situation, you might not need this coverage.
  • Personal Accident Insurance: This is typically a health care policy that is not necessary if you have sufficient coverage from your existing health insurance.

If you are renting a car overseas, be sure to check with your credit card before traveling to make sure you are covered in that country.

Trip Delay

Remember when airlines used to provide you with a free hotel room if you got stuck somewhere overnight? Not any longer. Thankfully, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card steps in to the rescue.

If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket.

Baggage Delay

You can get reimbursed for essential purchases like toiletries and clothing for baggage delays over six hours by passenger carrier up to $100 a day for five days.

Trip Cancellation

If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather, and other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per trip for your prepaid, nonrefundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours, and hotels.

Other Benefits

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card also offers purchase protection, price protection, return protection, and extended warranty protection benefits.

How to Get Approved

As you can tell from the details of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, it comes rich with rewards and benefits. And it targets people with excellent or good credit.

If you have a a credit score in the fair/average range or you have missed a lot of payments historically, you will likely be rejected.

People with the best chance of being approved have Excellent credit.

If you have a bad credit score and are looking for a credit card, you can review our guide here.

An Example of Who Gets the Most from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Here is a profile of an ideal Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card customer:

Mary lives in New York City. She doesn’t have a car (because she uses the subway), and she spends a ton of money eating out and traveling. She has a good job and a good credit score but would love to travel even more.

This card is ideal for Mary because:

  • So much of her spending is on dining and travel, which earns at the highest level.
  • She wants to earn free travel, and the redemption opportunities are richest when redeemed for travel.
  • She doesn’t have primary auto insurance (because she doesn’t have a car) so the primary auto rental benefit is ideal.
  • She has excellent credit.

If that sounds like you, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a great addition to your wallet or purse.

An Example of Who Gets the Least from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Here is a profile of someone who might be better off with a different card:

John is a father of three. He spends a lot of money on groceries (to feed his growing family) and gas (to drive to all of his children’s events). He just doesn’t have the money to eat out, and hopes to do some traveling later in life — once he funds three college educations.

There are other options that would be much better for John. Because none of his spending would be in dining or travel, he would only be earning 1 point for every $1 spent. Because he would not be redeeming his points for travel, he would likely be earning only 1% on his spending. John would be better with a cash back credit card that better rewarded his spending patterns.

Should I Consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Instead?

In the last year, Chase also introduced the incredibly popular Chase Sapphire Reserve® card. Here are the key differences between the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve®?:

  • There is an annual fee of $450. It is not waived during the first year. However, you can receive up to $300 in statement credits annually as reimbursement for travel purchases such as airfare and hotels charged to your card.
  • You earn 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • When you redeem for travel on the Chase travel portal, you get 50% more value (compared to only 25% more value for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card).
  • Just like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you earn 1 point for every $1 spent in all other categories (excluding dining and travel).

For spending in travel and dining that is redeemed on the Chase travel portal, you get incredible value. Every $1 spent on travel and dining is worth 3 points. And 3 points redeemed for travel on the Chase travel portal would be worth 4.5 cents. That means you could get an incredible 4.5% of value on the Chase Sapphire Reserve® compared to 2.5% on Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

When you decide between the two cards ask yourself the following question:

  1. Do you spend at least $300 a year on travel? If yes, answer the next question. If no, the Reserve card might not be for you.
  2. If you spend at least $300 on travel and more than $3,750 a year in travel and dining combined — you will be better off with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card.

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.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at nick@magnifymoney.com

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Reviews

Review of Netspend Prepaid Card

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

If you cannot get a traditional bank account, you may have few options but to manage your money via a prepaid card. That’s where companies like Netspend come in. Netspend issues prepaid cards which allow you to receive your paycheck, government benefits and tax refunds via direct deposit. You can also use Netspend to pay bills, conduct financial transactions online, track your spending automatically via Netspend’s app and complete most other tasks you would be able to with a traditional checking account. In this review, we’ll explain what Netspend has to offer, fees and fine print and how it compares to other prepaid options out there.

Netspend Prepaid Card features

Your name is embossed on your card. If a cashier ever asks you for an ID to match to your card, but your card says “Valued Customer” or something of the like on it in lieu of your name, you could be denied the purchase. It would also prevent you from receiving funds via MoneyPak, and could cause other disruptions in your financial life. The fact that the Netspend Prepaid Card has your name printed on it alleviates a lot of friction.

Free direct deposit. If you want to receive your paycheck, government benefits or tax refund on your Netspend card, you can do so at no cost.

You will also be able to use the app to send money to anyone with Netspend FlashPay. While the app does offer mobile check deposit, there may be fees charged by the service provider Netspend partners with in order to enable this feature. That being said, Netspend does not charge any fees for this service directly.

Cashback rewards. Netspend issues these rewards when your spending lines up with sponsored offers, which are preselected for you based on your spending habits.

NetSpend also has a refer-a-friend feature which rewards you both with a $20 when your friend uses your referral link to open a new card and loads at least $40 onto it.

High-yield savings account. As long as you’re not currently subject to IRS backup withholding, another perk Netspend offers is access to a savings account with an APY of 5.00% for balances under $1,000. This can be a huge perk for those who are having trouble opening a bank account as it could potentially establish a more positive banking history. Beyond that, the APY is phenomenal.

Netspend Prepaid Card fees and fine print

Monthly fees range from $5 to $9.95 per month. Although the Netspend Prepaid Card comes with a lot of benefits, it comes with a lot of fees, too. Different plans will incur different monthly fees. For example, the FeeAdvantage Plan, which allows you to circumvent a $1 charge for every purchase requiring a signature and a $2 fee for every purchase requiring a PIN, will run you $9.95/month. If you have a regular direct deposit of at least $500/month set up, you qualify for the Netspend Premier FeeAdvantage Plan, which does the same thing at a much lower price point of $5/month.

Reload fees can sting. While there are no activation fees or check deposit fees charged by Netspend, you will have to contend with reload fees everytime you want to put cash on your card.

Lots of miscellaneous fees. There are fees if your purchase is declined, fees if you want to stop a pre-authorized payment, ATM fees, foreign transaction fees and account inactivity fees should you let your account sit for 90+ days without any transactions, withdrawals or deposits.

Checking your balance via text, email or your online account center is free. However, checking via ATM or a customer service agent will incur a $0.50 fee. You will also be charged this fee if you make a balance inquiry via the automated telephone service, though the $0.50 fee is waived in this instance if you have a Netspend Premier FeeAdvantage Plan.

Overdraft protection plan is limited. While you can opt into overdraft protection to protect yourself from declined purchase fees, you will have to go through the steps of enrollment in the program first. You will only be allowed three overdrafts per calendar month, and each one will cost you $15. Unless you’re getting your purchases declined 15 times or more per month, this service may not be worth it.

Try not to lose your card. If you lose your card, there is a $9.95 fee to replace it. If you need your replacement card within less than seven business days, you will have to pay $20 to $25 in shipping costs depending on how quickly you need it.

NetSpend Prepaid Card Fees
Activation feeNone
Monthly Plan FeePay-As-You-Go Plan: None; FeeAdvantage Plan: $9.95/month; Netspend Premier FeeAdvantage Plan: $5/month
Reload feeVaries depending on location and deposit type.
Check deposit feeNone
ATM fees$2.50 at domestic ATMs; $4.95 at foreign ATMS
ATM decline fee$1.00
Foreign transaction fee3.5% of withdrawal or purchase in USD, in addition to the $4.95 foreign ATM fee
Account-to-account transfer fee$4.95 when initiated by customer service representative
Bill payment feeVaries
Stop payment fee for ACH debit/preauthorized payment transactions$10
ACH debit/Preauthorized payment transaction decline fee$1
Card replacement fee$9.95
Balance inquiry fee$0.00 to $0.50 depending on plan and modality of deposit.
Account inactivity fee$5.95/month after your account has been inactive for 90 days

Using the Netspend Prepaid Card mobile app

Netspend’s mobile app allows you to deposit checks via mobile, send or receive money from anyone with Netspend’s FlashPay and find the lowest-cost reload locations near you.

If you’re looking for the more advanced budgeting features some financial institutions offer to their mobile users, you’re out of luck. But you will still be able to monitor your account balance and transaction history.

Opening a Netspend Prepaid Card Account

Ordering a card is easy and can be done online You simply provide your name, address and email and your card will be shipped to you in 7-10 days.

However, in order to activate your card, you’ll have to meet some eligibility requirements. First, you must be 18 years of age and not live in Vermont. You will also be required to verify your identification by supplying your name, address, date of birth and government-issued ID number. In some cases, Netspend will require you to provide your actual ID in order to verify your identity.

Your credit history and checking history will not be run as a part of the application process.

Overall review of Netspend Prepaid Card Account

There is no way around it: Netspend Prepaid Cards are loaded with fees that will eat into your paycheck or any other source of income. If you can get a traditional checking account, you should as it is extremely likely that it will be leagues cheaper to manage your money.

However, Netspend isn’t built for those who can easily get a bank account. It is built for those who have been shut out of the traditional financial system. If you need a way to get your money into digital form to conduct financial transactions, cards like Netspend’s can be one of the few ways to take care of business, despite the dramatic fees. A better option would be to find a prepaid card option with lower fees, like Walmart’s Bluebird by American Express Prepaid Debit Card or the Chase Liquid Prepaid Card.

Do note that if your employer offers to pay you via a prepaid card, you do not have to accept. Specific laws vary by state, but regardless of where you live, your employer must give you the option of either a paper check or direct deposit. If you have access to a bank account, it’s likely not to your advantage to accept your paycheck via prepaid card. If you don’t, you may still choose to use cash checking services if they end up being cheaper than the fees on a card like Netspend’s Prepaid Card.

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.

Brynne Conroy
Brynne Conroy |

Brynne Conroy is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brynne here

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Reviews

Acorns Spend Review

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Acorns Spend is the third product offered by popular micro-investing tool Acorns. Spend is a checking account integrated with the firm’s two existing products, Acorns Core and Acorns Later. Combined, the three products are designed to get people saving and investing on an automatic basis.

Acorns Spend has all the features of a traditional checking account, including a debit card and ATM access. The Acorns twist is that purchases made using the account are rounded up to the nearest dollar, with the excess money being invested in six different exchange-traded funds, or ETFs.

When you pay the $3 monthly fee for Acorns Spend, you’re automatically enrolled in Acorns Core and Acorns Later, although you’re not required to fund or use these products.

If you’re curious about Acorns Spend, we’ll take a look at the features and benefits of the account, along with its associated fees and drawbacks to see if its a good fit for you.

Account features

No minimum balance or overdraft fees. You don’t have to fund an Acorns Spend account to open it, and you don’t have to worry about ever overdrawing the account.

Includes Acorns Core and Acorns Laterfor no additional fee. Although some online checking accounts don’t charge a monthly fee at all, the Acorns Spend account is part of a financial universe that rounds up your money and invests it for you; the $3 monthly fee also includes IRA services through the Acorns Later program.

Unlimited free or reimbursed ATM withdrawals nationwide. With out-of-network ATM fees often topping $2.50, unlimited fee reimbursements alone may make the $3 monthly charge for Acorns Spend a bargain.

A host of mobile banking services. The account includes free bank-to-bank transfers, digital direct deposit, mobile check deposit, and check sending.

Found Money rewards program. When you shop with specific merchants, they will credit your Acorns account with rewards cash within 90 to 120 days after your purchase.

Integrated with the Acorns ecosystem. Acorns Core already has over 3 million customers, meaning its being used by lots of people. Acorns Spend is an easy add-on service for those already familiar with how Acorns works.

Money invested according to Modern Portfolio Theory. Your spare change is invested in one of five ETF-based portfolios that Acorns has developed in line with Modern Portfolio Theory, which aims to generate the highest possible returns with the lowest possible risk.

Fees and fine print

Acorns is pretty transparent when it comes to its fees and pricing structure. With no overdraft, ATM or minimum balance fees, your monthly service charge is the only fee you’ll have to worry about. This account is the most expensive product available from Acorns, but the fee remains modest.

Pricing

The original Acorns product, now named Acorns Core, charges $1 per month. If you add on the IRA services of Acorns Later, that fee jumps to $2. Acorns Spend, which includes all three products, is $3 per month.

There are a few small twists in the pricing structure. Students do not have to pay the $1 fee for using Acorns Core, so they can access the complete Acorns Core + Acorns Later + Acorns Spend package for just $2. If you’re a millionaire, the fee structure jumps quite a bit, with Acorns charging $100 per million invested.

Other fees and fine print

Although fees for this account are low, they are flat; this means that customers with lower balances can see a significant percentage of their balances eaten away by the monthly fee. For example, if you have just $100 invested via Acorns Spend, the $3 monthly fee amounts to 3% of your balance every month.

ATM fees$0, with unlimited nationwide reimbursements of any non-preferred ATM fees
Withdrawal limits$500 per day
Overdraft fees$0
Card replacement fee$0

Pros and cons

The main pro of the Acorns Spend account is that it “forces” you to save and invest. Like the Acorns Core account, your purchases using the Spend debit card are rounded up and placed into an investment portfolio matching your investment objectives and risk tolerance. The idea behind Acorns Spend – and indeed, the entire Acorns investment philosophy – is that while you’re not likely to miss the additional $0.23 you’ll be charged on your $3.77 cup of coffee, over time, those $0.23 deposits add up.

Another prime benefit of Acorns Spend is its low cost. Yes, there’s a $3 monthly fee, but you are getting a lot for that cost. While some checking accounts charge fees just to provide basic services, the account automatically invests your money for you; not only that, but Acorns Spend invests your money for you in small increments. When was the last time you called your broker and asked him to buy $0.23 of an ETF? At most firms, that’s not even possible, and if it is, commissions will likely eat a large portion of your investment.

The unlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursement is another significant feature of the Acorns Spend account. Although some firms, such as Charles Schwab, offer unlimited international ATM fee reimbursements, many banks charge their own additional fees for out-of-network ATM transactions, on top of the fees that are imposed by ATM operators themselves.

There aren’t a lot of obvious “cons” to this account; ironically, the same features that are “pros” for many customers can end up being “cons” for others.

For example, some customers may not enjoy the “forced savings” method that Acorns employs; these customers may prefer to choose their own investments and may not like the portfolios that Acorns creates for customers. After all, Acorns only has five investment options, and they are categorized generically as “Conservative,” “Moderately Conservative,” “Moderate,” “Moderately Aggressive,” and “Aggressive” — and all five portfolios use the same six ETFs, in varying measure.

Another “pro” that may end up being a “con” for some customers is the $3 monthly fee. For those integrated into the Acorns ecosystem, paying this fee makes sense. For those that aren’t interested in the Acorns investment philosophy, or for those who don’t make a lot of reimbursable ATM transactions, the $3 fee could outweigh the benefits, especially when considering that plenty of online banks, from Discover to Capital One, offer no-fee checking accounts.

Overall, this account is a bit different than some of its major competitors, such as the PayPal Prepaid Mastercard® and the Venmo debit card.

The Acorns Spend account is primarily focused on saving and investing, with round-ups automatically finding their way to predetermined investment portfolios. The Venmo and PayPal cards, on the other hand, are primarily focused on money transfer/access to and from Venmo and PayPal accounts, respectively, although they also operate as debit cards for purchases.

The Acorns Spend account has another advantage over these cards in that it is a fully functioning checking account, rather than just a money transfer or investment portal.

However, things are changing a bit in the competitive landscape, and PayPal and Acorns have recently formed a financial partnership. Now, you can use your PayPal account to open an Acorns account and begin funding your investments, starting with as little as $5.

How to open an Acorns Spend account

Log in to your existing Acorns account. The fastest way to sign up for Acorns Spend is if you are already an Acorns customer. If you log in to your account, you can pre-order the Acorns Spend debit card in a few clicks. The first 100,000 Acorns Spend debit cards sold out in four days, but the company is still accepting pre-orders for additional cards as of February 8, 2019.
Open an Acorns account online. If you’re not already a customer, you’ll have to sign up for an Acorns account to access Acorns Spend. You can access the application at this link. Once there, click “Don’t Have an Account?” You’ll need to provide your email address and create a password to open an account.

To finish opening your account, you’ll need to connect your spending cards, such as your debit and credit cards, so that Acorns can set up the “round-up” portion of the process. Next, you’ll provide personal information, such as your address and Social Security number. The last step of the process is to choose your investment allocation.

Overall review of Acorns Spend

Acorns Spend was a smart idea for Acorns itself because it’s something of a no-brainer for its existing three million-plus strong customer base. For those that already have Acorns Core and Acorns Later, Acorns Spend is just an additional $1 per month, and it provides access to a feature-packed checking account. For existing customers, Acorns Spend is another easy way to keep rounding up purchases into an investment account.

For potentially new customers, whether or not to switch from an existing checking account to Acorns Spend is an open question. On the plus side, Acorns Spend combines the key benefits of the best online checking accounts, such as mobile check deposit and no minimum deposit requirements, to the low fee structure most customers want, with no ATM fees, overdraft fees or card replacement fees.

One of the few outright negatives of the Acorns Spend account is the $3 monthly fee; although it’s lower than what many traditional, national banks charge, it’s $36 more per year than the $0 charged by many online banks.

For many customers, the unlimited ATM fee rebates will more than compensate for the monthly fee. However, for customers that have limited a need for out-of-network ATM withdrawals, or for those that aren’t interested in the Acorns ecosystem, this may not be the right product for them.

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John Csiszar
John Csiszar |

John Csiszar is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email John here

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