Prepaid Cards Report – 2013

Overview

CardHub-2013-Prepaid-Card-ReportIncreasingly consumers are turning away from traditional checking accounts towards alternative cash management tools including prepaid cards. According to the CFPB, “ the two largest prepaid card program managers have reported a jump from 3.4 million active cards in 2009 to over 7 million” in 2012. And according to Mercator Advisory Group Inc., the amount of money loaded on general purpose reloadable prepaid debit cards almost tripled from 2008 to 2012, rising to $76.7 billion. Mercator predicts that number will rise to $168.4 billion by 2015.

Prepaid cards founded or endorsed by celebrities continue to make up a sizable portion of the prepaid market, speaking to the investment issuers are making in the product. And big banks typically focused on traditional retail banking relationships with consumers have jumped into the market as well, perhaps adopting the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” motto. In light of their ever-growing role in the personal finance landscape, at CardHub.com we conducted our annual report evaluating the monthly cost and usefulness of 26 popular prepaid cards based on their fees and features.

The cost of prepaid cards varies greatly depending on a customer’s usage. In general, prepaid cards serve four primary usage patterns including; 1) An alternative to a checking account; 2) A tool to give your child their allowance; 3) An alternative check cashing tool and 4.) To provide access to electronic transactions. Based on these usage patterns, we came up with four hypothetical scenarios (see Methodology section for more details) to determine which card is the most cost effective and convenient for each application. If a card is not suitable for a given application due to its lack of a key feature, it will be disregarded and noted with “Not Suitable.”   Several of the cards that we reviewed have multiple plans that allow consumers to switch from one plan to another depending upon their usage and needs. In those cases, we compared the most affordable plan for each card and denoted the others as “N/A” for that particular scenario.

 

 Key Findings

 

  • Overall lower fees in 2013, but not for all types of usage. The average cost for each scenario that we tracked in both years was significantly lower for both the Alternative Checking Account (down 46%) and the Child’s Allowance Account Scenario (down 29%). Costs for the Alternative Check Cashing Tool were up over last year (up 9%).
Cost Comparison Prepaid Cards 2012 vs. 2013

 

  • Celebrity Founded/ Endorsed Cards are 17%-36% more expensive. We reviewed cards endorsed or founded by Justin Bieber, Lil Wayne, Suze Orman, George Lopez and Russell Simons.
Cost Comparison Celebrity Vs. Non-Celebrity Prepaid Cards

 

 

Note: Only one celebrity card was suitable as an alternative check cashing tool, thus we did not compare averages for this scenario.

  • Prepaid cards have an average of 10 different fees. The NetSpend Pay as You Go card had a whopping 18 fees that a consumer could run across compared with the American Express Prepaid Card and the American Express Serve card with only 1 fee a piece.
  • Annual costs can range from $0-$360, therefore picking the right card is very important.  
Alternative Checking Account Child’s Allowance Account Alternative Check Cashing Tool Access to Electronic Transactions
Min Annual Cost $0.00 $23.40 $59.4 $0.00
Max Annual Cost $360.00 $211.32 $323.52 $191.40
  • Depending upon your usage and needs, up to 62% of cards may not be suitable for your individual needs.
Unsuitable Cards by Scenario
    • Prepaid cards from large banks are up to 200% more affordable than those from smaller institutions. This year we reviewed prepaid cards from four large bank cards including Chase, US Bank, PNC, and BB&T and found their fees to be significantly lower than the other cards, opening up new more affordable options for prepaid card consumers.
Cost Comparison Prepaid Cards Issued by Large Banks vs. Smaller Institutions

 

 

Summary Best and Worst Prepaid Cards

 

Alternative Checking Account Child’s Allowance Account Alternative Check Cashing Tool Access to Electronic Transactions Total Number of Fees
Best Green Dot Gold Prepaid Visa Card, Bluebird and American Express Serve Kaiku Visa Chase Liquid Card and PNC Smart Access Prepaid Card Chase Liquid Card and Bluebird American Express Serve and American Express Prepaid Card
Worst AccountNow Visa Classic NetSpend MasterCard / Ace Elite Green Dot Gold Prepaid Visa Card AccountNow Gold Visa and Moneygram AccountNow Prepaid Visa  

Green Dot Gold Visa,  Bluebird and the American Express Serve Cards allow consumers in this scenario to avoid all fees. Additionally each offers a large number of in-network ATMs, direct deposit and online bill pay, making it a very practical checking account alternative.

While the AccountNow Visa Classic Prepaid Card does not assess a monthly fee, it does charge $2.50 per ATM withdrawal and $1 for each purchase, which makes it the most expensive alternative checking account. A consumer who is looking to escape rising checking account fees is not likely to be interested in paying roughly $30 per month for a prepaid card.

The Kaiku Visa Prepaid Card is the least expensive option for giving your child their monthly allowance based on the above scenario. The only fee it charges in this scenario is a $1.95 monthly fee. The Approved Prepaid Card by Suze Orman, the Walmart Prepaid Card, and the Bluebird card also offer affordable options for parents all coming in at $3-$4 per month.

Lack of an in-network ATM drive up the costs for the NetSpend MasterCard and Ace Elite Prepaid Visa in this scenario making them the most expensive card for a child’s allowance account at $17.61.

At $4.95 and $5.00 respectively, The Chase Liquid Card and the PNC SmartAccess Prepaid card are without a doubt the least expensive options when used as an alternative check cashing tool. Rather than pay to cash checks and load funds via MoneyPak, Chase Liquid and PNC SmartAccess cardholders can do both for free at their respective bank branches. They can also withdraw cash for free from Chase and PNC ATMs.

Of the ten cards that received scores for this scenario, the Green Dot Prepaid Gold Visa Card is the most expensive (coming in at a monthly cost of $26.96), due to high monthly and ATM withdrawal fees.

With no monthly fees and no cash reload fees, the Bluebird and the Chase Liquid are fee free in this scenario.

The AccountNow Gold Visa and the Money Gram Account Now cards are the most expensive cards for this scenario with a monthly cost of $15.95.

 

Alternative Checking Account

Child’s Allowance Account

Alternative Check Cashing Tool

Access to Electronic Transactions

Total Number of Fees

AccountNow Gold Visa

$19.95

$14.95

$19.95

$15.95

13

AccountNow Visa Classic

$30.00

$13.00

$22.00

$14.00

15

ACE Elite Prepaid Visa – FeeAdvantage Plan

Not suitable – no bill pay by check

N/A*

Not suitable (can’t deposit checks)

N/A*

15

ACE Elite Prepaid Visa – Pay-As-You-Go Plan

Not suitable – no bill pay by check

$17.61

Not suitable (can’t deposit checks)

$14.00

16

American Express Pass Card

Not suitable – no bill pay by check

$6.66

Not suitable (can’t deposit checks)

Not suitable – no bill pay by check

1

American Express Prepaid Card

Not suitable – no bill pay by check

$6.66

Not suitable (can’t deposit checks)

$6.00

1

American Express Serve

$0.00

$8.66

Not suitable (can’t deposit checks)

$6.00

3

American Express/ Wal-Mart Bluebird

$0.00

$4.00

$8.00

$0.00

4

Approved Card from Suze Orman

$5.00

$3.00

Not suitable (can’t deposit checks)

$9.00

9

BB&T Money Account

$3.00

$5.00

Not suitable (can only deposit govt. & BB&T checks)

$5.00

11

Chase Liquid Card

Not suitable – no bill pay by check

$4.95

$4.95

$0.00

4

Green Dot Gold Prepaid Visa Card

$0.00

$5.95

$26.96

$11.95

7

KAIKU Visa Prepaid Card

Not suitable – no bill pay by check

$1.95

Not suitable (can’t deposit checks)

$7.95

17

Mango Prepaid Card

Not suitable – no bill pay by check

$13.66

Not suitable (can’t deposit checks)

$6.00

6

MoneyGram AccountNow Prepaid Visa

$10.00

Not suitable since can’t add money bank account

Not suitable (can’t deposit checks)

$15.95

18

NetSpend Prepaid MasterCard – Fee Advantage

Not suitable – no bill pay by check

N/A*

Not suitable (can’t deposit checks)

N/A*

16

NetSpend Prepaid MasterCard – Pay-As-You-Go

Not suitable – no bill pay by check

$17.61

Not suitable (can’t deposit checks)

$14.00

18

Original RushCard – Monthly Plan

N/A*

N/A*

N/A*

N/A*

12

Original RushCard – Pay-As-You-Go Plan

N/A*

N/A*

N/A*

N/A*

14

Original RushCard – Unlimited Plan

$5.95

$7.95

$7.95

$13.95

11

PNC SmartAccess Prepaid

Not suitable – no bill pay by check

$5.00

$5.00

$5.00

9

SpendSmart Prepaid MasterCard

Not suitable – no bill pay by check; must have bank account

$11.61

Not suitable (can’t deposit checks); must have bank account

Not suitable – no bill pay by check; must have bank account

9

US Bank Convenient Cash Card

Not suitable – no bill pay by check

Not suitable – must be 18 or older

Not suitable – US Bank checks only

$3.00

12

Walmart MoneyCard

Not suitable – no bill pay by check

$3.00

$12.00

$9.00

6

Western Union Prepaid MasterCard

Not suitable – no bill pay by check

$8.56

Not suitable (can’t deposit checks)

$6.00

10

Young Money Prepaid Discover Card

$21.27

Not suitable since can’t add money bank account

Not suitable (can’t deposit checks)

$9.95

7

 *”N/A” does not mean that a card cannot be used for the respective purpose due to a lack of requisite features. Instead, it is meant to indicate that the cost under this scenario is not applicable given that cardholders can call customer service and immediately change their payment plan for free in order to minimize expenses. For example, the Netspend Fee Advantage Plan is listed as “N/A” on Scenario 2 because cardholders can easily switch to the Pay-As-You-Go Plan, which is cheaper.

Methodology

We reviewed 26 prepaid cards.

In general, prepaid cards serve four primary usage patterns including;  1) An alternative to a checking account; 2) A tool to give your child their allowance; 3) An alternative check cashing tool and 4.) To provide access to electronic transactions. Based on these usage patterns, we came up with four hypothetical scenarios to determine which card is the most cost effective and convenient for each application and applied those scenarios to the twenty-six prepaid plans in our study. If a card is not suitable for a given application due to its lack of a key feature, it will be disregarded and noted with “Not Suitable.”   Several of the cards that we reviewed have multiple plans. For each scenario, we compared the most affordable of each card’s plan since cardholders can call customer service and immediately change their payment plan for free in order to minimize expenses.

It is important to note that every card has different fees based on the specific usage of each card. How often a person uses an ATM and how much money they load onto the card each month are the most important drivers in the cost of each card, so depending on the cardholder’s habits, the cost and rank order of the cards could change.

Scenario 1: Alternative Checking Account 

  • This person receives a monthly paycheck of $2,000, is able to use direct deposit, goes to the ATM once a week, makes five purchases using their prepaid card each week, and needs to pay two bills by check per month (i.e. the billers do not accept card payments). How much will each card cost them per month?-1X monthly fee +1X direct deposit card load fee+ 4X ATM withdrawal fee + 20X purchase transaction fee + 2X online bill pay by check fee = Total monthly costNote: In order for cards to be suitable for this scenario, they must have, at a minimum, the following key features: direct deposit and online bill pay by check

Scenario 2: Child’s Allowance

  • This person gives their teenager a monthly allowance of $100, using their bank account or PayPal. The teenager goes to the ATM twice a month and makes two purchases using their prepaid card each week. How much will each card cost them per month?-1X monthly fee + 1X bank transfer card load fee + 2X ATM withdrawal fee+ 8X purchase transaction fee  = Total monthly costNote: In order for cards to be suitable for this scenario, they must allow funds to be loaded via a bank account or PayPal since most parents would not want to go to the store every time they give their kids an allowance.

Scenario 3: Alternative Check Cashing Tool

  • This person has a monthly income of $1,600, which they receive in weekly checks. Direct deposit is not an option for them, and as a result, they will need to load money to their prepaid card and make ATM withdrawals on a weekly basis. This person will also make three purchases using their prepaid card each week. How much will each card cost them per month?-1X monthly fee + 4X check reload fee+ 4X ATM withdrawal + 12X purchases  = Total monthly costNote: In order for cards to be suitable for this scenario, they must have, at a minimum, the following key feature: the ability to deposit checks directly into a prepaid card account.

Scenario 4: Access to Electronic Transactions

  • This person has a monthly income of $2,000 and gets paid in cash weekly. They use a prepaid card to pay bills online and to make large purchases so that they are not forced to carry around large sums of cash. For these purposes, they load $250 onto their prepaid card twice a month to pay two bills online and make two debit purchases per week. How much will each card cost them per month?-1X monthly fee + 2X cash reloads + 0X ATM withdrawals+ 2X online bill pay (electronically) + 8X purchases  = Total monthly costNote: In order for cards to be suitable for this scenario, they must have, at a minimum the following key features: the ability to deposit cash onto a prepaid card and electronic online bill pay

ATM Fees: For all scenarios, if the company has a nationwide network of participating ATMs, we assumed that the cardholder could use one of these ATMs and therefore avoid ATM fees. The numbers for all scenarios take into account an average ATM surcharge fee of $2.33 for those cards without an ATM network.

Number of ATM and Purchase Transaction Assumptions: The number of debit purchases cardholders are expected to make under each scenario were based on usage information from The 2009 Survey of Consumer Payment Choice from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. According to this survey, the average debit card user makes roughly 20 purchases each month, and given that Scenario 1 involves an alternative checking account, that was the number used. For Scenario 2, we assumed two purchases per week (8 per month) due to the fact that the child using the card only receives a $100 monthly allowance and will make purchases mostly on weekends. Scenario 3 assumes three purchases per week (12 per month) because consumers in this group are more accustomed to using cash and therefore will not make as many purchases with plastic as cardholders in Scenario 1. The consumer in Scenario 4 gets paid in cash and therefore has no need to withdraw money from ATMs and less reason to use the card for purchases since they can use cash for most purchase transactions.  We therefore assumed two purchases per week for this scenario. In addition, some cards charge different fees for signature and PIN transactions, and in those cases we assumed cardholders would make signature transactions because their fees are smaller.

Cash Reload Fee assumptions: Cash reload fees are determined by the third party retail establishment where consumers conduct their reload transactions. These fees can range from $1.00-$4.95. The majority of issuers disclose third party reload fees from $2.95 – $4.95. For all cash reloads in scenario four, we assumed a conservative average fee of $3.00. Specific transactions will vary and consumers may pay more or less to load cash onto their prepaid cards depending upon the location.

Number of Fees: To determine to total number of fees charged by an issuer, we reviewed fee schedules and customer agreements online and then asked each issuer to confirm the total number of different fees for each card.

Detailed Findings

The information below was confirmed by the issuer of each card, with the exception of the Mango Prepaid Card. Despite multiple attempts to garner verification, the issuer did not respond, and the respective information was gleaned from Mango Prepaid Card’s Terms and Conditions and through their customer service line.

 

AccountNow Gold Visa Prepaid Card

Key Costs:       

  • Activation Fee: $0.00
  • Monthly Fee: $9.95
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: $2.50
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: Over 6,000 surcharge free ATMs at participating 7-Elevens nationwide (withdrawal fee still applies); A surcharge/ATM owner fee may apply at out of network ATMs (in addition to withdrawal fee)
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: $0.00
  • Reload Fees: Free with direct deposit, from another AccountNow account, from a bank account, check* or with PayPal; up to $4.95 at retail establishment  (third party fee)
  • Customer Service Fees: None
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: None

Key Features:

  • Online Bill Pay by Check: Yes (Free)
  • Direct Deposit: Yes ($15.00 Bonus Credit)
  • Able to Add Money by Check: Yes*
  • Maximum Balance: $10,000.00

*Ingo Check Cashing App: AccountNow customers with smart phones can load checks using their mobile device with the Ingo Money App. After downloading the free app, customers can take a picture of their check and load it to their AccountNow remotely via the app. AccountNow does not charge a fee to use the service Ingo fees are as follows: $0.00 for 5-day funds availability; for immediate funds availability, 1% for government benefits and payroll, and 4% for all other checks.

Total Number of Fees:    13

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: 4 ATM withdrawals at $2.50 each (no surcharge at 6,000 nationwide 7-Eleven ATMs) + $9.95 monthly fee (given that the scenario assumes $2,000.00 of monthly direct deposit) + 2 bills paid by check at $0.00 each + 20 purchases made at $0.00 each = $19.95

Scenario 2: 2 ATM withdrawals at $2.50 each (no surcharge at 6,000 nationwide 7-Eleven ATMs) + $9.95 monthly fee + $0.00 reload fee + 8 purchases made at $0.00 each = $14.95

Scenario 3: $9.95 monthly fee + 4 ATM withdrawals at $2.50 + 12 signature purchases at $0.00 each + $0.00 reload fee (Ingo check cashing app – funds available within 5 days) = $19.95

Scenario 4: $9.95 monthly fee + 2x $3.00 (average third party cash reload fee)+ 8 purchases made at $0.00 + 2x online electronic bill pay at $0.00 = $15.95

Notes from Issuer:

ATM Withdrawal Fee: Note that consumers are encouraged and can get cash back at no charge at the cashier. See Cardholder Agreement Tip: To avoid ATM fees, select “Debit” and enter your PIN to get cash back when making purchases at many retailers, such as grocery stores. http://www.accountnow.com/services/fees-schedule.aspx

Reload FeesThe fee at retail is not an AccountNow fee but rather a fee charged by the load network. AccountNow does not charge for loads. In addition, AccountNow offers First Load Free promotions on an ongoing basis to allow customers to load at no cost by rebating the load network fee.

Scenario 1: “The direct deposit bonus credit should be added here to offset the cost. Amortizing the credit by 12 months that would reduce the monthly cost to $19.95 – $1.25 = $18.70][Getting cash back at grocery store rather than using ATMs: $8.70”

Scenario 2: “Getting cash back at grocery store rather than using ATMs: $9.95”

Total Number of Fees: “…includes optional services like paper statements, additional cards, and expedited delivery. There are 7 primary fees.”

Back to Table

AccountNow Visa Card “Classic” (Pay-As-You-Go)

Key Costs:

  • Activation Fee: $4.95
  • Monthly Fee: None
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: $2.50
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: Over 6,000 surcharge free ATMs at participating 7-Elevens nationwide (withdrawal fee still applies); A surcharge/ATM owner fee may apply at out of network ATMs (in addition to withdrawal fee)
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: $1.00
  • Reload Fees: Free with direct deposit, from another AccountNow account, from a bank account, check* or with PayPal; cash reload $3.95 MoneyGram or Reloadit locations
  • Customer Service Fees: None
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: $0.00

Key Features:

  • Direct Deposit: Yes
  • Online Bill Pay: Yes (Free)
  • Able to Add Money by Check: *Yes
  • Maximum Balance: $10,000.00

*Ingo Check Cashing App: AccountNow customers with smart phones can load checks using their mobile device with the Ingo Money App. After downloading the free app, customers can take a picture of their check and load it to their AccountNow remotely via the app. AccountNow does not charge a fee to use the service Ingo fees are as follows: $0.00 for 5-day funds availability; for immediate funds availability, 1% for government benefits and payroll, and 4% for all other checks.

Total Number of Fees: 15

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: 4 ATM withdrawals at $2.50 each (no surcharge at 6,000 nationwide 7-Eleven ATMs) + $0.00 monthly fee + 2 bills paid by check at $0.00 each + 20 purchases made at $1.00 each = $30.00

Scenario 2: 2 ATM withdrawals at $2.50 each (no surcharge at 6,000 nationwide 7-Eleven ATMs) + $0.00 monthly fee + $0.00 reload fee + 8 purchases made at $1.00 each = $13.00

Scenario 3: $0.00 monthly fee + 4 ATM withdrawals at $2.50 + 12 signature purchases at $1.00 each + $0.00 reload fee (Ingo check cashing app - funds available within 5 days) = $22.00

Scenario 4: Scenario 4: $0.00 monthly fee + 2x $3.00 (average third party cash reload fee) + 8 purchases made at $1.00 + 2x online electronic bill pay at $0.00 = $14.00

Notes from Issuer:

ATM Withdrawal Fee: Note that consumers are encouraged and can get cash back at no charge at the cashier. See Cardholder Agreement Tip: To avoid ATM fees, select “Debit” and enter your PIN to get cash back when making purchases at many retailers, such as grocery stores. http://www.accountnow.com/services/fees-schedule.aspx

Reload FeesThe fee at retail is not an AccountNow fee but rather a fee charged by the load network. AccountNow does not charge for loads. In addition, AccountNow offers First Load Free promotions on an ongoing basis to allow customers to load at no cost by rebating the load network fee.

Scenario 1“4 ATM withdrawals at $2.50 each (no surcharge at 6,000 nationwide 7-Eleven ATMs) + $0.00 monthly fee + 2 bills paid by check at $0.00 each + 20 purchases made at $1.00 each  = $30.00 [Getting cash back at grocery store rather than using ATMs: $20]”

Scenario 2“2 ATM withdrawals at $2.50 each (no surcharge at 6,000 nationwide 7-Eleven ATMs) + $0.00 monthly fee + $0.00 reload fee + 8 purchases made at $1.00 each  = $13.00 [Getting cash back at grocery store rather than using ATMs: $8]”

 Scenario 3 “Weekly deposit of $1,600.00 check $0 + 4 ATM withdrawals at $2.50 each (no surcharge at 6,000 nationwide 7-Eleven ATMs) + $0.00 monthly fee + [12 purchases made at $1.00 each]  = $22.00]  [Getting cash back at grocery store rather than using ATMs: $12.00]”

Total Number of Fees: “…includes optional services like paper statements, additional cards, and expedited delivery. There are 5 primary fees.”

 Back to Table

ACE Elite Prepaid Card – FeeAdvantage Plan

While you might assume that ACE, one of the largest check cashing chains in the U.S., would offer terms particularly well-suited to consumers looking for replacement checking accounts or check cashing tools, its products are merely co-branded versions of Netspend’s Prepaid Cards. The ACE Elite Prepaid Card – FeeAdvantage Plan offers the same features and charges the same fees as the NetSpend Prepaid MasterCard – Fee Advantage.

Total Number of Fees: 15

 Back to Table

ACE Elite Prepaid Card – Pay-As-You-Go Plan

While you might assume that ACE, one of the largest check cashing chains in the U.S., would offer terms particularly well-suited to consumers looking for replacement checking accounts or check cashing tools, its products are merely co-branded versions of Netspend’s Prepaid Cards. The ACE Elite Prepaid Card – Pay-As-You-Go Plan offers the same features and charges the same fees as the NetSpend Prepaid MasterCard – Pay-As-You-Go Plan.

Total Number of Fees: 16

Key Costs:

  • Activation Fee: $0.00 (When you purchase the Card, you must initially load at least $25.00 to the Card from a U.S. savings or checking account in your name.)
  • Monthly Fee: $0.00
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: No charge for first ATM withdrawal per calendar month. $2.00/withdrawal thereafter
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: No in-network ATMs; A surcharge/ATM owner fee may apply at all ATMs
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: None
  • Reload Fees: Free with direct deposit, bank account transfer; cash reload $4.95 with Green Dot MoneyPak and $3.95 with Vanilla Prepaid Reloadable
  • Customer Service Fees: None
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: None

Key Features:

  • Direct Deposit: Yes
  • Online Bill Pay by Check: No
  • Able to Add Money by Check: No
  • Maximum Balance: $5,000.00

Total Number of Fees: 1

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: Not suitable since there is no online bill pay by check feature and must have bank account to open

Scenario 2: 1 ATM withdrawal at $2.00 (first monthly withdrawal is free, but an ATM owner surcharge may still apply) + 2 ATM surcharges at $2.33  + $0.00 reload fee + 8 purchases made at $0.00 each = $6.66

Scenario 3: Not suitable since you cannot add money directly into your account by check and must have bank account to open

Scenario 4: Not suitable since must have bank account to open

Back to Table

American Express Pass Card

Key Costs:

  • Activation Fee: $0.00 (When you purchase the Card, you must initially load at least $25.00 to the Card from a U.S. savings or checking account in your name.)
  • Monthly Fee: $0.00
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees:  No charge for first ATM withdrawal per calendar month. $2.00/withdrawal thereafter
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees:  No in-network ATMs; A surcharge/ATM owner fee may apply at all ATMs
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: None
  • Reload Fees: Free with direct deposit, bank account transfer; cash reload $4.95 with Green Dot MoneyPak and $3.95 with Vanilla Prepaid Reloadable
  • Customer Service Fees: None
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: None

Key Features:

  • Direct Deposit: Yes
  • Online Bill Pay by Check: No
  • Able to Add Money by Check: No
  • Maximum Balance: $5,000.00

Total Number of Fees: 1

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: Not suitable since there is no online bill pay by check feature and must have bank account to open

Scenario 2: 1 ATM withdrawal at $2.00 (first monthly withdrawal is free, but an ATM owner surcharge may still apply) + 2 ATM surcharges at $2.33 + $0.00 reload fee + 8 purchases made at $0.00 each = $6.66

Scenario 3: Not suitable since you cannot add money directly into your account by check and must have bank account to open

Scenario 4: Not suitable since must have bank account to open

Back to Table

American Express Prepaid Card

Key Costs:

  • Activation Fee: $0.00
  • Monthly Fee: $0.00
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: One free ATM withdrawal per month, $2.00 afterward
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: No ATM network; A surcharge/ATM owner fee may apply at all ATMs
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fee: $0.00
  • Reload Fees: Free with Direct Deposit, Account-to-Account transfers, or from a Bank Account; cash reload up to $4.95 at retail locations with MoneyPak or $3.95 with Vanilla Reload
  • Customer Service Fees: None
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: None

Key Features:

Direct Deposit: Yes
Online Bill Pay: No
Able to Add Money by Check: No
Maximum Balance: $5,000.00

Total Number of Fees: 1

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: Not suitable since there is no online bill pay feature

Scenario 2: 1 ATM withdrawal at $2.00 (first monthly withdrawal is free, but an ATM owner surcharge may still apply) + 2 ATM surcharges at $2.33 + $0.00 reload fee + 8 purchases made at $0.00 each = $6.66

Scenario 3: Not suitable since you cannot add money directly into your account by check

Scenario 4: $0 monthly fee + 2x $3.00 (average third party cash reload fee) + 8 purchases made at $0.00 + 2X online electronic bill pay at $0.00 = $6.00

Back to Table

American Express Serve Prepaid Card

Key Costs:

  • Activation Fee: $0.00
  • Monthly Fee: $0.00
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: DD Free at in-network MoneyPass ATMS; No Direct Deposit $2.00  (You can withdraw money out of your Serve account at more than 22,000 MoneyPass® ATMs. A $2 Serve fee applies for each ATM withdrawal, in addition to any ATM owner fees. The $2 Serve ATM withdrawal fee is waived for Serve Direct Deposit customers who have received a Direct Deposit payment within the prior 30 days. Additionally, the ATM owner fee does not apply if you use a MoneyPass ATM.)
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: No surcharge fee at MoneyPass ATMs
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: $0.00
  • Reload Fees: $0 DD, $0 bank transfer; up to $4.95 Green Dot MoneyPak
  • Customer Service Fees: None
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: None

Key Features:

  • Direct Deposit: Yes
  • Online Bill Pay: Yes (Free)
  • Able to Add Money by Check: No
  • Maximum Balance: You may add up to $10,000.00 to your Serve Account per month, depending on your account limits.

Total Number of Fees3

 Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: 2 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 each (with DD) + $0.00 monthly fee + 2 bills paid by check at $0.00 each + 20 purchases made at $0.00 each (assuming signature transactions) = $0.00

Scenario 2: 2 ATM withdrawals at $2.00  + 2X $2.33 ATM surcharge fee + $0 monthly fee + $0.00 reload fee + 8 purchases at $0.00 each (assuming signature transactions) = $8.66

Scenario 3: Not suitable since you cannot add money directly into your account by check

Scenario 4: $0.00 monthly fee + 2x $3.00 (average third party cash reload fee) + 8 purchases made at $0.00 + 2x electronic bill pay (biller accepts card payments online) $0.00 = $6.00

Back to Table

American Express/Wal-Mart Bluebird

Key Costs:

  • Activation Fee: $0.00
  • Monthly Fee: $0.00
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: $2.00; Free with DD
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: No surcharge fees at MoneyPass ATMs (verify that this applies to all consumers and not just those that have direct deposit).
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: $0.00
  • Reload Fees: $0.0 DD; $0.00 Bank transfer; $0.00 cash reload at Wal-Marts; $0.00 check reload by mail
  • Customer Service Fees: None
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: None

Key Features:

Direct Deposit: Yes
Online Bill Pay: Yes (Free)
Able to Add Money by Check: Yes, by mail or through mobile check capture feature on the Bluebird mobile app
Maximum Balance: $100,000.00

Total Number of Fees4

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: 2 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 each + $0.00 monthly fee + 2 bills paid by check at $0.00 each + 20 purchases made at $0.00 each (assuming signature transactions) = $0.00

Scenario 2: 2 ATM withdrawals at $2.00 + $0 monthly fee + $0.00 reload fee + 8 purchases at $0.00 each (assuming signature transactions) = $4.00

Scenario 3: 4 ATM withdrawals at $2.00 + $0.00 monthly fee + $0.00 reload fee + 12 purchases made at $0.00 each = $8.00

Scenario 4: $0.00 monthly fee + 2 reload fees at $0.00 + 8 purchases made at $0.00 + 2X electronic online bill pay $0.00 = $0.00

Back to Table

The Approved Card from Suze Orman

Key Costs:

  • Activation Fee: $3.00
  • Monthly Fee: $3.00 (First month is waived)
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: Free for 30 days following a qualifying Direct Deposit or Bank Transfer of $20.00 or more; $2.00 otherwise
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: 43,000 Allpoint ATMs (no surcharge fees at these ATMs); A surcharge/ATM owner fee may apply at out of network ATMs, in addition to the card’s ATM fee
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: $0.00
  • Reload Fees: Free with direct deposit, bank account transfer; to add cash $4.50 average at Western Union reload networks and $3.50 at MoneyGram for Approved Cardholders
  • Customer Service Fees: One free call per month; $2.00 per call thereafter
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: None

Key Features:

  • Direct Deposit: Yes
  • Online Bill Pay: Yes (free for billers who accept plastic; $1.00 for those that will only take checks)
  • Able to Add Money by Check: No
  • Maximum Balance: $9,000.00

Total Number of Fees: 9

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: 4 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 each (given use of direct deposit) + $3.00 monthly fee + 2 bills paid by check at $1.00 each + 20 purchases made at $0.00 each = $5.00

Scenario 2: 2 ATM Withdrawals at $0.00 (given parents’ bank transfer of $100 per month) + $3.00 monthly fee + $0.00 bank transfer fee + 8 purchases made at $0.00 each = $3.00

Scenario 3: Not suitable since you cannot add money directly into your account by check

Scenario 4: $3.00 monthly fee + 2x $3.00 (average third party cash reload fee) + 8 purchases made at $0.00 + 2X online bill pay $0.00 = $9.00

Back to Table

BB&T MoneyAccount

Key Costs:       

Activation Fee: $0.00
Monthly Fee: $5.00; $3.00 if load $1,000.00 in month
ATM Withdrawal Fees: None (at BB&T ATMs)
In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: $0.00
Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: $0.00
Reload Fees: None (at BB&T branches)
Customer Service Fees: First call free; then $2.95
Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: None

Key Features:

  • Direct Deposit: Yes
  • Online Bill Pay: Yes
  • Able to Add Money by Check: BB&T and Government Checks only
  • Maximum Balance: $10,000.00

Total Number of Fees: 11

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: 2 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 each + $3.00 monthly fee + 2 bills paid by check at $0.00 each + 20 purchases made at $0.00 each (assuming signature transactions) = $3.00

Scenario 2: 2 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 + $5 monthly fee + $0.00 reload fee + 8 purchases at $0.00 each (assuming signature transactions) = $5.00

Scenario 3:  Not suitable since you can only load Government and/ or BB&T checks.

Scenario 4: $5.00 monthly fee + 2 reload fees at $0.00 (at BB&T branch) + 8 purchases made at $0.00 + 2X electronic bill pay (biller accepts card payments online)  $0.00 = $5.00

Back to Table

Chase Liquid Card

Key Costs:       

  • Activation Fee: None
  • Monthly Fee: $4.95
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: Free at in-network ATMs; $2.00 otherwise
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: 17,500 in-network ATMs (no withdrawal fee and no surcharge fees at these ATMs); A surcharge/ATM owner fee may apply at out of network ATMs
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: $0.00
  • Reload Fees: Free with direct deposit or at Chase Bank branches and ATMs (only loading methods available)
  • Customer Service Fees: None
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: None

Key Features:

  • Direct Deposit: Yes
  • Online Bill Pay by Check: No
  • Able to Add Money by Check: Yes
  • Maximum Balance: None

Total Number of Fees4

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: Not suitable since there is no online bill pay feature by check

Scenario 2: 2 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 + $4.95 monthly fee + $0.00 reload fee + 8 purchases made at $0.00 each = $4.95

Scenario 3: 4 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 + $4.95 monthly fee + $0.00 reload fee + 12 purchases made at $0.00 each = $4.95

Scenario 4: $4.95 monthly fee + 2x cash reload fees at $0.00 (at Chase branch) + 8 purchases made at $0.00 + 2x online electronic bill pay $0.00 = $0.00

Issuer Notes:

Online Bill Pay by Check“Chase Liquid does not offer online bill pay [by check] as noted. Customers do pay bills using the card number – there is no fee for this. They can also come to the branch and purchase a money order or cashier’s check. The fee for a money order is $5.00; cashier’s checks are $8.00.”

Back to Table

Green Dot Gold Prepaid Visa Card

Key Costs:       

  • Activation Fee: $0.00
  • Monthly Fee: Free when you load at least $1,000.00 or have 30 posted transactions in a month; $5.95 otherwise
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: Free at in-network ATMs; $2.50 otherwise
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: Over 22,000 in-network MoneyPass ATMs; no withdrawal fee and no surcharge fees at these ATMs. A surcharge/ATM owner fee may apply at out of network ATMs.
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: $0.00
  • Reload Fees: Free with direct deposit, from a bank account, cash reload $3.74 for Rapid Reload at Wal-Mart cash registers and up to $4.95 with Swipe Reload at participating retailers or with Moneypak, Check reload $3.74 for Rapid Reload at Wal-Mart cash registers plus $3.00 Walmart check cashing fee
  • Customer Service Fees: None
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: None

Key Features:

  • Direct Deposit: Yes
  • Online Bill Pay by Check: Yes (Free)
  • Able to Add Money by Check: Yes, with Rapid Reload at Walmart locations (see Reload Fees above)
  • Maximum Balance: $2,500.00 with cash load; Green Dot may allow balances in excess of this limit if the Card is loaded through direct deposit

Total Number of Fees: 7

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: 4 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 each (at MoneyPass fee-free ATM Network) + $0.00 monthly fee (scenario assumes $2,000.00 of monthly direct deposit) + 2 bills paid by check at $0.00 each + 20 purchases made at $0.00 each = $0.00

Scenario 2: 2 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 (at MoneyPass fee-free ATM Network) + $5.95 monthly fee + $0.00 bank reload fee + 8 purchases made at $0.00 each = $5.95

Scenario 3: $0.00 monthly fee (load $1600) x 4 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 (at MoneyPass fee-free ATM Network) + 4X check reload fee at $6.74 ($3.00 Walmart check cashing fee + $3.74 Rapid Reload) + 12 purchases at $0.00 = $26.96

Scenario 4: $5.95 monthly fee + 2x $3.00 (average third party cash reload fee) + 2x online electronic bill pay at $0.00 + 8 purchases made at $0.00 = $11.95

Back to Table

KAIKU Visa Prepaid Card

Key Costs:       

  • Activation Fee: None
  • Monthly Fee: $1.95
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: $0.00 at In-network at Allpoint ATMs; $1.95 at out-of network ATMs
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: $0 at Allpoint ATMs;  A surcharge/ATM owner fee may apply at out of network ATMs
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: None
  • Reload Fees: $0.00 DD; $0.00 online reload from bank account ;A third party retailer fee may apply to load cash at Visa ReadyLink locations ($2.95-$4.95)
  • Customer Service Fees: None
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: None

Key Features:

  • Direct Deposit: Yes
  • Online Bill Pay by Check: No (Coming Fall 2013)
  • Able to Add Money by Check: No (Coming Fall 2013)
  • Maximum Balance: $10,000.00

Total Number of Fees: 17

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: Not suitable since card does not offer online bill pay

Scenario 2: 2 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 + $1.95 monthly fee + $0.00 reload fee + 8 purchases made at $0.00 each = $1.95

Scenario 3: Not suitable since you cannot add money directly into your account by check

Scenario 4: $1.95 monthly fee + 2x $3.00 (average third party cash reload fee) + 2x electronic online bill pay at $0.00 + 8 purchases made at $0.00 = $7.95

Back to Table

Mango Prepaid Card

Key Costs:

  • Activation Fee: None
  • Monthly Fee: Free if you load at least $500.00 per calendar month; $5.00 otherwise
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: $2.00
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: No ATM network; A surcharge/ATM owner fee may apply at all ATMs
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: $0.00
  • Reload Fees: Free with direct deposit, PayPal, or from a bank account; $3.74 for Green Dot rapid reload at Walmarts, cash reloads up to $4.95 at other participating retail establishments.
  • Customer Service Fees: None
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: $10.00 to send funds remaining on card at the time of closure

Key Features:

  • Direct Deposit: Yes
  • Online Bill Pay by Check: No
  • Able to Add Money by Check: No
  • Maximum Balance: A limit may be placed on the maximum amount of funds you can deposit into your account. This limit may be exceeded by interest accruing on the funds. The limit may be changed from time to time.
  • Account Setup Fee: $4.95

Total Number of Fees: 6

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: Not suitable since card does not offer online bill pay by check

Scenario 2: 2 ATM withdrawals at $4.33 ($2.00 withdrawal fee + $2.33 ATM surcharge) + $5.00 monthly fee + $0.00 reload fee + 8 purchases made at $0.00 each = $13.66

Scenario 3: Not suitable since you cannot add money directly into your account by check

Scenario 4: $0.00 monthly fee + 2x $3.00 (average third party cash reload fee) + 8 purchases made at $0.00 + 2X online electronic bill pay at $0.00 = $6.00

Back to Table

MoneyGram Prepaid Visa Debit Card

Key Costs:

  • Monthly Fee: $9.95 (Waived for Direct Deposit >$1,500)
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: $2.50
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: No in-network ATMs; Surcharge-free at most 7-Eleven locations.
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees:$0.00
  • Reload Fees: Free with direct deposit; For $3.95 at MoneyGram locations or $1.00 at Visa ReadyLink locations (fees vary depending on location)
  • Customer Service Fees:  One free call to a live customer service agent per month with direct deposit, $1.00 per call thereafter; free for customers on Direct Deposit; Automated customer service is free with direct deposit and $0.50 otherwise
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: $15.95 to request a check to bring your balance to zero

Key Features:

  • Direct Deposit: Yes ($15.00 Bonus Credit)
  • Online Bill Pay by Check: Yes (Free)
  • Able to Add Money by Check: No (will be available 4th quarter 2013)
  • Maximum Balance: $10,000.00

Total Number of Fees: 18

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: 4 ATM Withdrawals at ($2.50 withdrawal fee + $0 surcharge at 7-Eleven) + $0 monthly fee (DD >$1,500)  + 2 bills paid by check at $0.00 each + 20 purchases made at $0.00 each = $10.00

Scenario 2: Not suitable since you cannot add money with a bank account or PayPal

Scenario 3: Not suitable since you cannot add money directly into your account by check

Scenario 4: $9.95 monthly fee + 2x $3.00 (average third party cash reload fee) + 8 purchases made at $0.00 + 2x online electronic bill pay at $0.00 = $15.95

 Back to Table

NetSpend Prepaid MasterCard – Fee Advantage

Key Costs:

  • Activation Fee: None
  • Monthly Fee: $9.95 ($5.00 with direct deposit of $500.00 or more in a single month)
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: $2.50
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: A portion of cardholders have access to the Allpoint® surcharge-free ATM network (those cardholders are still subject to the NetSpend ATM cash withdrawal fee); At all other ATMs, both the withdrawal fee and any surcharge/ATM owner fees apply
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: None
  • Reload Fees: Free with Direct Deposit; Free with bank transfer; Free account-to-account transfers; Up to $3.95 at retail locations
  • Customer Service Fees: Free for Transaction Inquiry, $0.50 for Balance Inquiry
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: No cancellation fee; $5.95/month after 90 days of inactivity

Key Features:

  • Direct Deposit: Yes
  • Online Bill Pay: Available through Money Gram Express Pay, electronic payments only (cannot pay by check).
  • Able to Add Money by Check: No
  • Maximum Balance: $15,000.00

Total Number of Fees: 16

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: Not suitable since they do not offer on line bill pay by check.

Scenario 2: 2 ATM withdrawals at $4.83 each ($2.50 withdrawal fee assessed by NetSpend and $2.33 ATM surcharge fee) + $9.95 monthly fee + $0.00 reload fee + 8 purchases made at $0.00 each = $19.61

Scenario 3: Not suitable since you cannot add money directly into your account by check

Scenario 4: $9.95 monthly fee + 2x $3.00 (average third party cash reload fee) + 8 purchases made at $0.00 + 2X online electronic bill pay $0.00 = $15.95

Back to Table

NetSpend Prepaid MasterCard – Pay-as-You-Go

Key Costs:

  • Activation Fee: None
  • Monthly Fee: None
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: $2.50
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: A portion of cardholders have access to the Allpoint® surcharge-free ATM network (those cardholders are still subject to the NetSpend ATM cash withdrawal fee); At all other ATMs, both the withdrawal fee and any surcharge/ATM owner fees apply
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: $1.00
  • Reload Fees: Free with Direct Deposit; Free with bank transfer; Free account-to-account transfers; Up to $3.95 at retail locations
  • Customer Service Fees: Free for Transaction Inquiry, $0.50 for Balance Inquiry
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: No cancellation fee; $5.95/month after 90 days of inactivity

Key Features:

  • Direct Deposit: Yes
  • Online Bill Pay: Available through Money Gram Express Pay, electronic payments only (cannot pay by check).
  • Able to Add Money by Check: No
  • Maximum Balance: $15,000.00

Total Number of Fees: 18

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: Not suitable since they do not offer online bill pay by check.

Scenario 2: 2 ATM withdrawals at $4.83 each ($2.50 withdrawal fee assessed by NetSpend and $2.33 ATM surcharge fee) + $0.00 monthly fee + $0.00 reload fee + 8 purchases made at $1.00 each = $17.66

Scenario 3: Not suitable since you cannot add money directly into your account by check

Scenario 4: $0.00 monthly fee + 2x $3.00 (average third party cash reload fee) + 8 purchases made at $1.00 + 2X online electronic bill pay $0.00 = $14.00

Notes from Issuer:

Scenario 2: “This card is not designed for child allowance”

Scenario 3: “Check cashing tool to launch Q4; check loads are free if willing to wait 5 day or 1% of check if check is loaded immediately. [Weekly $1,600 check load at $0.00 + 4 ATM withdrawals at $2.50 each + 3 purchases at $0.00 + $9.95 monthly fee (waived for deposit over $1,500 = $19.95)]

Total Number of Fees: “…includes optional services like paper statements, additional cards, and expedited delivery. There are 7 primary fees.”

Back to Table

Original RushCard – Monthly Plan

Key Costs:       

  • One Time Card Fee: $3.95
  • Activation Fee: $0.00
  • Monthly Fee: $9.95
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: $0.00 at MoneyPass Network ATMs, 2 free out of network ATM withdrawals per month
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: No charge at MoneyPass network ATMs; A surcharge/ATM owner fee may apply at all other ATMs
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: $0.00
  • Reload Fees: Free with direct deposit, check* or PayPal; free between your own RushCards (personal card-to-card); $0.99 for cardholder-to-cardholder transfer; cash reload up to $4.95 at retail establishments (third party fee)
  • Customer Service Fees: None
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: None

Key Features:

  • Direct Deposit: Yes
  • Online Bill Pay: Yes (Free)
  • Able to Add Money by Check: Yes*
  • Maximum Balance: $9,999.00

*Ingo Check Cashing App: RushCard customers with smart phones can load checks (up to $2,500.00) using their mobile device with the Ingo Money App. After downloading the free app, customers can take a picture of their check and load it to their RushCard remotely via the app. RushCard does not charge a fee to use the service Ingo fees are as follows: $0.00 for 5-day funds availability; for immediate funds availability, 1% for government benefits and payroll, and 4% for all other checks.

Total Number of Fees: 12

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: 2 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 each + $9.95 monthly fee + 2 bills paid by check at $0.00 each + 20 purchases made at $0.00 each (assuming signature transactions) = $9.95

Scenario 2: 2 ATM withdrawals at $0 + $9.95 monthly fee + $0.00 reload fee + 8 purchases at $0.00 each (assuming signature transactions) = $9.95

Scenario 3: $9.95 monthly fee + 4 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 + 12 signature purchases at $0.00 each + $0.00 reload fee (Ingo check cashing app – funds available within 5 days) = $9.95

Scenario 4: $9.95 monthly fee + 2x $3.00 (average third party cash reload fee) + 8 purchases made at $0.00 + 2X online electronic bill pay $0.00 = $15.95

Issuer Notes:

“No RushCard Fee to Cash Reload”

Scenario 4: [Including RushCard Fees only] “$9.95 monthly fee + + 2 reload fees at $0.00 + 8 purchases made at $0.00  + 2X electronic online bill pay $0= $9.95”

Back to Table

Original RushCard – Pay-As-You-Go Plan

Key Costs:       

  • One Time Card Fee: $3.95
  • Activation Fee: $0.00
  • Monthly Fee: $0.00
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: $0.00 at MoneyPass Network ATMs
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: No charge at MoneyPass network ATMs; A surcharge/ATM owner fee may apply at all other ATMs
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: $1.00, with a maximum of $10.00 per month
  • Reload Fees: Free with direct deposit, check*, or PayPal; free between your own RushCards (personal card-to-card); $0.99 for cardholder-to-cardholder transfer; cash reload up to $4.95 at retail establishments (third party fee)
  • Customer Service Fees: None
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: $1.95/month after 90 days of inactivity

Key Features:

  • Direct Deposit: Yes
  • Online Bill Pay: Yes (Free)
  • Able to Add Money by Check: Yes*
  • Maximum Balance: $9,999.00

*Ingo Check Cashing App: RushCard customers with smart phones can load checks (up to $2,500.00) using their mobile device with the Ingo Money App. After downloading the free app, customers can take a picture of their check and load it to their RushCard remotely via the app. RushCard does not charge a fee to use the service Ingo fees are as follows: $0.00 for 5-day funds availability; for immediate funds availability, 1% for government benefits and payroll, and 4% for all other checks.

Total Number of Fees: 14

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: 4 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 + $0.00 monthly fee + 2 bills paid by check at $0.00 each + 20 purchases made at $1.00 each (capped at a $10 fee) = $10.00

Scenario 2: 2 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 each + $0.00 monthly fee + $0.00 reload fee + 8 purchases at $1.00 each = $8.00

Scenario 3: $0.00 monthly fee + 4 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 + 12 signature purchases at $1.00 each (max $10.00) + $0.00 reload fee (Ingo check cashing app – funds available within 5 days) = $10.00

Scenario 4: $0.00 monthly fee + 2x $3.00 (average third party cash reload fee) + 8 purchases made at $1.00 + 2X online electronic bill pay $0.00 = $14.00

Issuer Notes:

“No RushCard Fee to Cash Reload”

Scenario 4: [Including RushCard Fees only] “$0.00 monthly fee + 2 reload fees at $0.00  + 8 purchases made at $1.00 + 2X online electronic bill pay $0.00 = $8.00”

Back to Table

Original RushCard – Unlimited Plan

Key Costs:      

  • One-Time Card Fee: $3.95
  • Activation Fee: $0.00
  • Monthly Fee: $5.95 with direct deposit; $7.95 without direct deposit
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: $0.00
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: No charge at Moneypass network ATMs; A surcharge/ATM owner fee may apply at all other ATMs
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: None
  • Reload Fees: Free with direct deposit, check*,  or PayPal; free between your own RushCards (personal card-to-card); $0.99 for cardholder-to-cardholder transfer; cash reload up to $4.95 at retail establishments (third party fee).
  • Customer Service Fees: None
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: None

Key Features:

  • Direct Deposit: Yes
  • Online Bill Pay: Yes (Free)
  • Able to Add Money by Check: *Yes (See note on Ingo check cashing app above)
  • Maximum Balance: $9,999.00

*Ingo Check Cashing App: RushCard customers with smart phones can load checks (up to $2,500.00) using their mobile device with the Ingo Money App. After downloading the free app, customers can take a picture of their check and load it to their RushCard remotely via the app. RushCard does not charge a fee to use the service Ingo fees are as follows: $0.00 for 5-day funds availability; for immediate funds availability, 1% for government benefits and payroll, and 4% for all other checks.

Total Number of Fees: 11

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: 4 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 + $5.95 monthly fee + 2 bills paid online (by check) at $0.00 each + 20 purchases made at $0.00 each = $5.95

Scenario 2: 2 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 + $7.95 monthly fee + $0.00 reload fee + 8 purchases at $0.00 each = $7.95

Scenario 3: $7.95 monthly fee + 4 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 + 12 signature purchases at $0.00 each + $0.00 reload fee (Ingo check cashing app – funds available within 5 days) = $7.95

Scenario 4: $7.95 monthly fee + 2x $3.00 (average third party cash reload fee) + 8 purchases made at $0.00 + 2X online electronic bill pay at $0.00 = $13.95

Issuer Notes:

“No RushCard Fee to Cash Reload”

Scenario 4: [Including RushCard fees only] “$7.95 monthly fee + 2 reload fees at $0.00 + 8 purchases made at $0.00 + 2X online bill pay $0.00 =$7.95”

Back to Table

PNC SmartAccess

Key Costs:       

  • Activation Fee: $0.00
  • Monthly Fee: $5.00
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: None at PNC ATMs
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: None at PNC ATMs
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: $0.00
  • Reload Fees: None at PNC branches
  • Customer Service Fees: None
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: $10.00 for refund of outstanding balance in paper check

Key Features:

  • Direct Deposit: Yes
  • Online Bill Pay by Check: No
  • Able to Add Money by Check: Yes
  • Maximum Balance: $10,000.00

Total Number of Fees: 9

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: Not suitable since card does not offer online bill pay by check

Scenario 2: 2 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 + $5 monthly fee + $0.00 reload fee + 8 purchases at $0.00 each (assuming signature transactions) = $5.00

Scenario 3: 4 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 + $5.00 monthly fee + $0.00 reload fee + 12 purchases made at $0.00 each = $5.00

Scenario 4: $5.00 monthly fee + 2x $0.00 cash reload fee (at PNC branch) + 2x electronic bill pay (biller accept Visa/MC)  at $0.00 + 8 purchases made at $0.00 = $5.00

Issuer Notes:

Online Bill Pay: “No ACH bill payments. However, cards are the fastest growing bill payment type and users of prepaid cards very rarely use a bill payment feature like that of checking accounts. They prefer biller direct payments with their card.”

Scenario 1“PNC customers can purchase money orders for $0.49 each at a branch. This is popular among SmartAccess customers that need to make payments with a check. Therefore the cost breakdown is: $0.00 reload fee + 4 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 + 20 purchases at $0.00 each + 2 money orders at $0.49 each + $5.00 monthly fee = $5.98

Back to Table

SpendSmart Prepaid MasterCard

Key Costs:       

  • Activation Fee: None
  • Monthly Fee: $3.95
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: $1.50
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: No in-network ATMs; A surcharge/ATM owner fee may apply at all ATMs
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: None
  • Reload Fees: Load from bank account free if a monthly allowance is set up for the account; if no allowance then $0.75; $ 2.95 from credit or debit card
  • Customer Service Fees: None
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: None

Key Features:

  • Direct Deposit: Yes
  • Online Bill Pay: No
  • Able to Add Money by Check: No
  • Maximum Balance: $2,500.00

Total Number of Fees: 9

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: Not suitable since there is no online bill pay feature and must have bank account to open

Scenario 2: 2 ATM withdrawals at $1.50 + 2 ATM surcharges at $2.33  + $3.95 monthly fee + $0.00 reload fee + 8 purchases made at $0.00 each = $11.61

Scenario 3: Not suitable since you cannot add money directly into your account by check and must have bank account to open

Scenario 4: Not suitable since must have bank account to open

Back to Table

US Bank Convenient Cash Card

Key Costs:       

  • Activation Fee: $3.00
  • Monthly Fee: $3.00
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: None at US Bank ATMs
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: None at US Bank ATMs
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: None
  • Reload Fees: None at US Bank branches
  • Customer Service Fees: 2 free per month
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: None

Key Features:

  • Direct Deposit: Yes
  • Online Bill Pay: No
  • Able to Add Money by Check: Only checks form US Bank accounts
  • Maximum Balance: $10,000.00

Total Number of Fees: 12

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: Not suitable since card does not offer online bill pay by check

Scenario 2: Not suitable – must be 18 years or older.

Scenario 3:  Not suitable since you can only load US Bank checks.

Scenario 4: $3.00 monthly fee + 2x $0.00 cash reload fee (at US Bank branch)+ 2x electronic online bill pay at $0.00 + 8 purchases made at $0.00 = $3.00

Issuer Notes:

“The U.S. Bank Cash Convenient prepaid card can be used for direct deposit, to pay bills online using the card number (not via check or ACH debit), is available for teens 18 years and older, and checks drawn from a U.S. Bank account can be cashed at any U.S. Band branch and deposited onto the card. We also have the Visa Buxx prepaid card pecifically designed for teens with a minimum age of 13 years. “

Scenario 2“(U.S. Bank Visa Buxx prepaid card) 2 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 + $10-15 initial fee depending on whether you are an existing U.S. Bank customer or using a U.S. Bank funding source + $0.00 monthly fee + $0.00 reload fee + 8 purchases at $0.00 each (assuming signature transactions)  = $10.00-$15.00”

Back to Table

Walmart MoneyCard

Key Costs:       

  • Activation Fee: None for cards ordered online; $3.00 issuance fee for temporary cards purchased at Wal-Mart
  • Monthly Fee: $3.00 (waived when you load $1,000.00)
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: $2.00
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: Free at Moneypass ATM network
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: $0.00
  • Reload Fees: Free with direct deposit, from a bank account, cash reload $3.00 for Rapid Reload at Walmart cash registers  up to $4.95 with a MoneyPak or Cash Reload, Reload Check $3.00 for Walmart Check Cashing fee ($6.00 for checks > $1,000.00), $3.00 at Walmart cash registers plus Walmart check cashing fee. Reload fee $3.00 (waived with direct deposit or Walmart check cashing)
  • Customer Service Fees: None
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: None

Key Features:

  • Direct Deposit: Yes
  • Online Bill Pay: No
  • Able to Add Money by Check: Yes; $3.00 check cashing fee applies ($6.00 checks  >$1,000.00)
  • Maximum Balance: $7,500.00

Total Number of Fees: 6

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: Not suitable given the lack of an online bill pay feature with checks.

Scenario 2: 2 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 each + $3.00 monthly fee + $0.00 reload fee + 8 purchases made at $0.00 each = $3.00

Scenario 3: 4 ATM withdrawals at $0.00 + $0.00 monthly fee + 4X $0 reload (fee waived with checks cashed in Walmart Money Center) + 4X $3.00 check cashing fee + 12 purchases made at $0.00 each = $12.00

Scenario 4: $3.00 monthly fee + 2x $3.00 cash reload fee + 2x electronic online bill pay at $0.00 + 8 purchases made at $0.00 = $9.00

Back to Table

Western Union Prepaid MasterCard

Key Costs:       

  • Activation Fee: None
  • Monthly Fee: None
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: $1.95
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: No in-network ATMs; A surcharge/ATM owner fee may apply at all ATMs
  • Reload Fees: Free with direct deposit; $0.00 to transfer funds from a bank account; cash reloads $2.95 to $3.95 at a Western Union agent location
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: $0.00
  • Customer Service Fees: None
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: $2.95 monthly fee after 120 days of inactivity

Key Features:

  • Direct Deposit: Yes
  • Online Bill Pay: No
  • Able to Add Money by Check: No
  • Maximum Balance: $10,000.00

Total Number of Fees: 10

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: Not suitable since card does not offer online bill pay by check

Scenario 2: 2 ATM Withdrawals at $4.28 ($1.95 withdrawal fee + $2.33 ATM owner surcharge) + $0.00 monthly fee + $1.00 reload fee + 8 purchases made at $0.00 each  = $8.56

Scenario 3:  Not suitable since you cannot add money directly into your account by check

Scenario 4: $0.00 monthly fee + 2x $3.00 (average third party cash reload fee) + 2x electronic bill pay at $0.00 + 8 purchases made at $0.00 = $6.00

Back to Table

Young Money Prepaid Discover Card

Key Costs:

  • Activation Fee: $6.95
  • Monthly Fee: $3.95
  • ATM Withdrawal Fees: $2.00 (US ATM)
  • In-network ATMs and ATM Surcharge Fees: No ATM Network; A surcharge/ATM owner fee may apply at all ATMs
  • Purchase Transaction (Signature) Fees: None
  • Reload Fees: Free with direct deposit; Up to $4.95 at retail establishments (third party fee).
  • Customer Service Fees: None
  • Cancellation & Inactivity Fees: None

Key Features:

  • Direct Deposit: Yes
  • Online Bill Pay: Yes (Free)
  • Able to Add Money by Check: No
  • Maximum Balance: $5,000.00

Total Number of Fees: 7

Cost Breakdown by Scenario:

Scenario 1: 4 ATM withdrawals at $4.33 ($2.00 withdrawal fee + $2.33 ATM surcharge) + $3.95 monthly fee + 2 bills paid by check at $0.00 each + 20 purchases made at $0.00 each = $21.27

Scenario 2: Not suitable since you cannot add money from a bank account or PayPal

Scenario 3: Not suitable since you cannot add money directly into your account by check

Scenario 4: $3.95 monthly fee + 2x $3.00 (average third party cash reload fee) + 8 purchases made at $0.00 + 2x online electronic bill pay at $0.00 = $9.95

Issuer Notes:

Reload Fee“The retail reload fee is one charged and collected by Green Dot, not the Young Money Card.”

Back to Table

 

UPDATE 7/17/13: Our original report mistakenly identified Green Dot as the worst (most expensive) prepaid card for Access to Electronic Transactions and the AccountNow Gold Visa as the worst Alternative Checking Cashing Tool.  In fact our results showed that the AccountNow Gold Visa and the Moneygram AccountNow Prepaid Visa were the most expensive cards in the Access to Electronic Transactions category and the Green Dot Prepaid Gold Visa Card was the most expensive card for the Alternative Check Cashing Tool. Both the Best and Worst Summary Table and the description of the best and worst cards have been updated to reflect this correction.

 

For questions or more information regarding this report, please contact our media department.

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