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Updated on Wednesday, February 20, 2019
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|
|Monthly Plan Fee||Pay-As-You-Go Plan: None; FeeAdvantage Plan: $9.95/month; Netspend Premier FeeAdvantage Plan: $5/month|
|Reload fee||Varies depending on location and deposit type.|
|Check deposit fee||None|
|ATM fees||$2.50 at domestic ATMs; $4.95 at foreign ATMS|
|ATM decline fee||$1.00|
|Foreign transaction fee||3.5% 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 fee||Varies|
|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.