NetSpend prepaid cards can empower you to "self-bank," but it could really cost you in fees
For almost 20 years, NetSpend has been challenging the idea that everyone needs a credit card and a bank account.
Not a credit card company and not a bank.NetSpend is a company that issues prepaid Visa and Mastercard debit cards.
These cards can be used wherever those credit cards are accepted.
The ability to load the card with checks (including paychecks), cash, direct deposits, or bank account transfers means these NetSpend prepaid card accounts function a lot like bank accounts.
You deposit money to reload it and spend what's available using a debit card.
Your NetSpend account is neither a bank account nor a credit card account.
Essentially, an account holder is "self-banking."
They are using NetSpend prepaid debit cards as a service to park their money and make it available to them whenever they need it.
Sounds convenient, but convenience comes at a cost. If you think "self-banking" means escaping the transaction fees or account fees charged by banks, think again.
When you sign-up for a pay-as-you-go NetSpend prepaid debit card, you're going to get dinged for $1-$2 for every regular purchase you make.
You can avoid those sky-high fees if you pay for one of the company's pricey fee plans.
They range from $5 a month to $9.95 a month taking a bite off your monthly budget and the sheen off the NetSpend service.
Why You Should Consider NetSpend
You should use NetSpend prepaid cards if you need tools to manage your money
NetSpend has been providing prepaid cards since 1999, and today there are 130,000 locations where you can reload them.
People have their reasons for not having a credit card or bank account. But they still need to do things like cash checks, put money aside as savings, and make digital payments.
No need to miss out.With NetSpend cards you can cash checks by taking a photo with your phone, and pay wherever and however Visa or Mastercard is accepted.
There is even an option to move some of the money you deposit into a connected high-yield savings account that earns you 5% APY interest.
You can even earn cash back rewards.A person doesn't even have to give up earning cash back rewards by choosing NetSpend over a rewards credit card.
NetSpend's Payback Rewards program sends you personalized offers for purchases that earn you cash back as a statement credit at the end of the following month.
- Apply Now for a New Credit Card
- Compare Cards for All Credit Ranges
Why People Love NetSpend
NetSpend prepaid cards let a person who can't qualify for a credit card still have access to Mastercard or Visa payments
Online customer reviews commonly illustrate this point, noting the convenience of having a card for purchases, without the downside of accruing debt.
Everyone needs a credit card. There are some things (like online purchases) that you just can't pay cash for.
The problem for a lot of people with low credit scores is that they can't qualify for a credit card.
Or perhaps they don't want one, since credit card misuse is a common reason for a low credit score.
Learning how to boost your credit score is a great first step.
Payment functions without the credit check.For people who can't pass a credit check, or don't want to have a credit card, a NetSpend prepaid Visa or Mastercard gives them the payment functions of those major credit cards without such restrictions.
Biggest Consumer Complaints
NetSpend prepaid cards are weak in the customer service department and the fees are brutal
If you're thinking of signing up for a NetSpend prepaid card but you'd like to talk to a representative first, you might find that to be a bit difficult.
You need to sign up to talk to a human being. The only customer service available is for existing customers.
So, you have to have an account number to talk to anyone on the phone.
If you want to send NetSpend an e-mail the only way to do it is by logging in to your account inbox in the Online Account Center.
Online reviews are sour.Online customer reviews are negative about customer service.
Customers talk about long waits to speak to telephone support reps.
When they do talk to someone, they're charged a $0.50 fee just to be informed of their card balance.
The fees are killing customers.In fact, the fees are the main complaint customers have about NetSpend.
The long list of other fees includes $2.50 ATM withdrawal fees, 3.5% foreign transaction fees, $2.50 cash withdrawal fees, $15 overdraft fees, and even a $5.95 fee if you don't use your card for over 90 days.
And none of those go away, even if you buy a fee plan.
Mango also provides prepaid debit cards but with fewer and lower fees
NetSpend's biggest customer issue is the fees so another prepaid card option that has lower fees is the Mango prepaid card.
You are spared the transaction fees.The Mango card doesn't charge you every time you buy something with it like NetSpend does.
Lower monthly cost.The monthly fee is only $3, which is also a lot less than the $9.95 NetSpend charges every month to have transaction fees waived.
Mango also has the advantage of adding funds through PayPal.
But, while the Mango prepaid card advertises a 6% APY, you only get this if you deposit at least $500 per month.
Reviews show Mango has reputedly negative customer service.
Reports suggest that accounts are closed, money is lost, and while they are advertised as being FDIC-insured, this is only mentioned passively, on a single line of the website.
Sunrise Banks is a member of FDIC. Whether customer deposits are parked and covered by the FDIC has yet to be confirmed.
The Question Everyone Is Asking Now
"How does a cardholder reload money onto the card?"
Although NetSpend doesn't have brick and mortar locations like banks, you can reload your card in person at one of the 130,000 reload locations across the USA.
Reload at many common stores and pharmacies.Many Walgreens locations offer a reload station, and there are other options like CVS Pharmacy, 7-Eleven, Office Depot, and Rite Aid.
Flexible reload options.You can also put funds on the card by depositing cash or cashing checks at reload locations.
Or, you can reload through direct deposit, account transfers, and the Mobile Check Load phone photo app.
You pay to pay.But the catch is that you pay a fee even to add money to the card. The reload stations all set their own prices, usually $3.95 per reload.
How NetSpend Works
All the functions of a bank account and credit card in one card you control
Like its competitor Mango, a NetSpend prepaid card has security and insurance features that come via partnerships with Visa and Mastercard.
NetSpend prepaid cards come with Visa and Mastercard features and protections.You can choose to apply for a NetSpend Visa prepaid card or a NetSpend prepaid Mastercard.
Regardless of which one you pick, you get all the security protections that each of those cards offers.
For example, a NetSpend prepaid Visa or Mastercard debit card is FDIC-insured and has Zero Liability protection in case of fraud.
A payment card for the bankrupt.For people who have been through bankruptcy, losing some of the functions a credit card offers is just one of the many annoying issues they face.
Their credit score will be completely destroyed. But what if they need a credit card to put down a security deposit on a hotel room?
With a NetSpend prepaid Visa or Mastercard, you can pay a hotel security deposit up front (as long as you have the required funds on the card.)
Then, if you don't cause any damages, the deposit is reimbursed to the card.
People use NetSpend to receive direct deposits.This is another issue someone with no bank account can struggle with.
Direct deposit is much more efficient and less expensive for payroll departments to administer than paper paychecks.
In fact, many employers now require direct deposit.
If you connect your payroll department with your NetSpend prepaid Visa or Mastercard account, it can also save you the two days it can take to clear a check.
Government benefits are also much more streamlined if you choose to have them directly deposited into your NetSpend prepaid Visa or Mastercard accounts.
NetSpend Premier gives you a break on fees for going all-in
You could use NetSpend as a replacement or substitute for a bank account or credit card.
But the $1 purchase transaction fee for signature purchases and the $2 transaction fee for PIN purchases are going to start adding up pretty quick.
You can pay $9.95 a month and have the purchase transaction fees erased through the FeeAdvantage Plan.
Take the service to the highest level.The NetSpend Premier card is only $5.00 a month and also covers all of your purchase transaction fees.
To qualify, you need to enroll in direct deposit with your NetSpend account. Then you need to have either your government check or your paycheck sent to the card.
Once you've had a calendar month with $500 in payroll or government checks deposited, you become eligible to upgrade to the NetSpend Premier Card.
A cushion if you need one.Another benefit of upgrading to Premier status is you get a purchase cushion of $10.
That means if you're a little short, you can have a small overdraft. When you load the card again, the amount that was covered is deducted.
Custom card design included.You can also personalize your Premier card with your own favorite photo.
"It works for personal use, so why not use it for business too?"
TheNetSpend Small Business Accountis a great way to separate business expenses from personal expenses.
It's also perfect for employees to have as an expense card for business purchases and controlled spending.
Versatile and portable payment acceptance.The NetSpend Small Business Account lets you take payments in all forms.
Debit and credit cards can be accepted online, over the phone, or in person.
You can also accept checks and deposit them using Mobile Check Load.
If you're an entrepreneur who is working out of locations like outdoor markets or trade shows, you can receive payment through the ProPay mobile card reader.
It plugs right into your smartphone and sends the payment straight to the card.
Sky-high user fees.The user fees are once again really high with this NetSpend card.
NetSpend takes 2.7% of swiped transactions you receive, and 3.5% of keyed transactions.
A biz account is not cheap.The NetSpend Small Business Account also requires you to sign up for the business version of the FeeAdvantage plan.
It costs $9.95 a month. If you add a subaccount, it's $1.95 per month.
Withdrawals from an ATM are $2.50 each with the plan.
If you let NetSpend verify your business, you can get your company logo on the card.
Verification also increases your maximum balance from $15,000 to $25,000, and the number of possible subaccounts jumps from 2 to 10.
Key Digital Services
NetSpend's smartphone app lets you "Do everything, anywhere"
When you download the NetSpend Mobile App, you get everything you need to manage your NetSpend prepaid card in the palm of your hand.
It's got a killer app you can use for all the account functions.Account information such as balances and transactions, as well as detailed account information, are all available in the app.
Move your money in and out with your phone. You can send and receive money through the app, including loading the card.
If you need to find a reload location, the app will tell you where to find the nearest ones.
If you're at your desk and prefer to use a desktop computer rather than your phone, you can log in from anywhere.
1. How do you get started with NetSpend prepaid cards?
Go online to sign up for a NetSpend Visa prepaid card or a NetSpend prepaid Mastercard.
Or you can sign up for a NetSpend Small Business Account.
But don't apply expecting to instantly have the card in your hands as delivery takes 7-10 business days.
You can also purchase a NetSpend prepaid card in person at any of the reload sites.
2. How do you stop using NetSpend prepaid cards?
The easiest way to cancel your account is to withdraw 100% of your remaining funds from an ATM or just spend all the money on the card.
You can also log in to your online account to cancel your card or call 1-866-930-9924.
NetSpend will send you a check with your remaining balance for a fee of $5.95.
One thing to watch out for is keeping your account open by leaving a balance.
There is a $5.95 fee for accounts that are inactive for 90 days.
3. How do you talk to a human being at NetSpend?
If you're not a customer, you can't talk to a human.
The customer service line requires you to enter an account number.
If you do have an account, you can't talk to someone in person, but you can call 1-866-930-9924 to talk to a customer service representative.
4. Can you have an overdraft with a NetSpend prepaid card?
You can opt in for overdraft protection on your NetSpend prepaid card, if you qualify.
Qualification requires you having a card that receives $400 in deposits within the first 35 days after enrollment and maintains a rate of at least $200 a month in deposits.
Once you've opted in, you will be charged a $15 fee for every charge that exceeds your balance by more than $10.
There is a maximum of 3 overdrafts per month.
NetSpend is not clear on the maximum overdraft available, other than to say overdraft transactions will be approved at its discretion and can be declined.
5. What is the maximum balance with a NetSpend prepaid card?
For a NetSpend prepaid card, the maximum balance you can carry is $15,000.
NetSpend Small Business Accounts can have a max of $15,000 if the business isn't verified, and $25,000 if it is verified.
6. Is there an activation fee for a NetSpend prepaid card?
No, there are no activation fees to start your NetSpend prepaid card or NetSpend Small Business Account.
7. Can I send someone money using my NetSpend prepaid card?
Yes, you can send money to any other person with a NetSpend account.
If you do it online it's free, and if you do it through a Customer Service Agent over the phone, it costs $4.95.
NetSpend prepaid cards are wonderful if you don't have (or want) a bank account or credit card, but still need tools to manage your money
If you do have a credit card or bank account, you can do all of the functions of the NetSpend prepaid card and probably avoid paying as much in fees.
We like the NetSpend Small Business Account for its portability and its convenience for receiving payments wherever you do your business.
But the fees are so high for processing the transactions, it might be worth looking at other options for your business.
NetSpend's value is going to be different for everyone.
If you have options for credit cards and banking this is probably not the best choice.
But if you can't get a credit card or don't want to open a bank account, NetSpend can be the perfect answer for important functions like receiving direct deposits and purchasing online.
Do you use NetSpend prepaid cards?
How has it worked out for you?
Any great tips (or nightmares) to share with the rest of us?
Let us know in the comments below!