The Chase Liquid Prepaid: Yeah, It's a Game-Changer - NerdWallet
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The Chase Liquid Prepaid: Yeah, It’s a Game-Changer

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Yesterday, Chase announced its newest product: the Liquid prepaid debit card. It’s not like most prepaid cards out there on the market: there are no fees for activating or closing the card, getting a replacement, receiving paper statements or paying bills. And as long as you use Chase ATMs or bank branches, you can deposit checks or cash, withdraw money, and check your balance for free. The old guard of prepaids, on the other hand, charges for all of the above, as well as for customer service, bank transfers, declines and more.

But that’s not the real news. Low-cost, bank-issued prepaid cards like those from U.S. Bank, PNC and Regions already offered basic services for free, charging only a monthly maintenance and occasionally activation fee. There’s been a growing trend away from fee-heavy cards to cheap, debit-like offers. So why is the Chase Liquid so exciting? Because anyone, anywhere in the United States, can get it.

Liquid vs. the big names: no contest

When you compare the Liquid to established prepaid debit cards, there’s really no comparison. Here’s the annual cost of various cards to the typical user, as defined by Bretton Woods:

Card Name Annual Cost
Chase Liquid $59
Green Dot Card $195
Walmart MoneyCard $236
NetSpend Prepaid Premier
($500+ direct deposit)
$295
NetSpend Prepaid (FeeAdvantage) $373
NetSpend Prepaid (Pay As You Go) $457

There are a number of reasons that the Liquid is so much cheaper. As Chase will be quick to tell you, they don’t charge for card activation, transactions, bill payments, paper statements or customer service, unlike most other prepaid cards. But the real kicker is what a physical bank can offer: free check and cash deposits, and free ATM withdrawals. Cards with no ATM networks, like NetSpend, incur two fees: the card’s own fee, and the surcharge levied by the ATM’s owner. Those two combined can bring the cost of a single ATM withdrawal up to $5 or more. And cash reloads through Green Dot or Western Union? Easily $3.95 plus. Consider the average price of services that the Liquid gives away for free:

  • Activation: $8.95
  • Card replacement: $6.32
  • ATM withdrawal: $2.12
  • Cash reload: $4.36

*NerdWallet average of cards charging the fee, from a pool of 53 cards

If you can treat your prepaid debit card like a regular debit card, but with a lower monthly fee, you’re going to see some pretty big savings.

Liquid vs. bank-issued prepaid cards: a chicken in every pot, a branch in every community

But as we said, that the Liquid is better than the old guard of prepaids isn’t exactly news. Other banks can – and do – offer the same. Here’s the annual cost to the typical consumer, as described above:

Card Name Annual Cost
U.S. Bank Convenient Cash $39
Chase Liquid $59
PNC Access $60
Regions Now $64

The difference is Chase’s ubiquity. Compared to other banks, there are far more places to reload and withdraw money for free, and such locations are available nationwide rather than confined to a single region. Regions and PNC are both, well, regional, but how accessible is the Liquid compared to the Convenient Cash, or even the seemingly ubiquitous Walmart?

Chase U.S. Bank Wal-Mart
Deposit Locations 15,500 ATMs, 5,300 branches
(no fee)
3,089 branches
(no fee)
3,804 locations
($3 cash/$2 check fee)
Free ATM withdrawal locations 17,500 ATMs 5,092 ATMs None
States with branches/locations 32 25 50

The proliferation of Chase branches and ATMs creates an exciting opportunity. Whereas other banks may be confined to certain regions or to more affluent areas, Chase’s reach extends further. This puts it in a position to reach the target audience of prepaid issuers: the un- and under-banked, who are disproportionately minority and low-income.

Can the Liquid help consumers as much as it helps Chase?

Bringing in the unbanked. Those who forgo checking accounts tend to be wary of overdraft fees, and the Liquid doesn’t allow cardholders to run a negative balance. Still, unlike most prepaid cards, it’s attached to a traditional bank and encourages cardholders to come into a branch to make deposits and withdrawals. Hopefully, such an arrangement will help draw the unbanked into the mainstream financial system and give them the means to save money, plan for retirement or college, and build up a credit history.

Extending credit. Currently, debit card use (prepaid or otherwise) isn’t factored into FICO scores. Someone who pays off his bills every month, but who does so from his checking account, will find himself unable to borrow despite his financial solidity. American Express plans to use its prepaid card to determine creditworthiness, offering select cardholders a charge card and eventually a credit card. Chase might well do the same, collecting data from the Liquid to extend lines of credit it would otherwise shy away from.

Influencing the market. Prepaid debit cards have a reputation – some say a well-deserved one – for carrying high and surprising fees. Take Russell Simmons’ Baby Phat card: $14.95 to activate, $9.95 monthly fee, $1 per PIN transaction and $2.50 per ATM withdrawal (we could go on). But a recent influx of new entrants like the Liquid, U.S. Bank’s Convenient Cash card and the American Express prepaid suite presents consumers with a new option. They can eschew checking accounts while still using affordable products, most of which offer FDIC insurance and some form of fraud protection.

It’s not all roses

Obviously, the card isn’t perfect, and many obstacles stand in the way of fulfilling its potential. To begin with, if you’re close to a U.S. Bank location, the Convenient Cash is cheaper – a lot cheaper. If you hold the card for just one year, you’ll save over $20; hold the card for five and you’ll save $114. It’s just simple math.

And for all the promise that low-cost prepaid cards offer, there are a number of complications. And while Chase branches are more prolific than other banks’, they, like many other for-profit banks, are pulling out of low-income communities. Still, if they can overcome these hurdles, prepaid cards may transform from a fee-laden, second-tier banking product to a path to traditional financial system.

A few notes about the annual fee calculation

Bretton Woods, a prepaid industry expert, defines the typical consumer’s monthly use as:

  • 2 ATM withdrawals
  • 1 ATM decline
  • 1 bill payment
  • 8 point-of-sale purchases
  • 3 call center inquiries
  • 2 deposits/loads

Additionally, we at NerdWallet assume:

  • All ATM transactions are made in network, if applicable
  • All point-of-sale transactions are PIN transactions
  • Bill payment is made online
  • Card is loaded with cash
  • Card is held for one year
  • Criteria to waive the monthly fee (minimum load or direct deposit) is not met
  • Pingback: The Chase Liquid Prepaid: Yeah, It's a Game-Changer | hjuioi()

  • Indiana

    What is the American Express prepaid card compared to the Chase Liquid like then??

  • Indiana

    What is the American Express prepaid card compared to the Chase Liquid like then??

  • Amanda

    States with branches/locations 50?

    This is incredibly untrue.

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Hi Amanda, you’re totally right – we apologize for the mistake. It should be 32: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District Of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

  • Amanda

    States with branches/locations 50?

    This is incredibly untrue.

  • Amanda

    States with branches/locations 50?

    This is incredibly untrue.

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Hi Amanda, you’re totally right – we apologize for the mistake. It should be 32: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District Of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

  • Bill

    Can this liquid card be used in the Philippines?

  • Bill

    Can this liquid card be used in the Philippines?

  • Bill

    Can this liquid card be used in the Philippines?

  • Tony

    I discovered opening and loading initial funds on the Chase Liquid card is simple and straight forward. However, it was a nightmare trying to access my funds from an out of state Chase branch. It was ridiculous. The Chase branch manger himself was forced to get on the phone and try to negotiate with the Liquid card operations department to release my recent cash deposit. Contrary to published deposit guidelines, Chase Liquid refused to remove the hold on my cash deposit. I closed my Liquid account on the spot. Enough was enough.

    • Guest

      Thanks for your comment. I recently had a 10 business day hold put on a deposit for an instate check because of overdraft history. By doing this the bank screwed some of the bills I was paying. I’m also short selling my condo and need a job that’s direct deposit & I need to hide the money from the mortgage company. Prepaid debit cards seem to be the answer while still being able to pay bills on line and shop. Tony…what other cards would you recommend? I can’t afford to have funds being held for no reason at all. Thank you, Janice

  • Tony

    I discovered opening and loading initial funds on the Chase Liquid card is simple and straight forward. However, it was a nightmare trying to access my funds from an out of state Chase branch. It was ridiculous. The Chase branch manger himself was forced to get on the phone and try to negotiate with the Liquid card operations department to release my recent cash deposit. Contrary to published deposit guidelines, Chase Liquid refused to remove the hold on my cash deposit. I closed my Liquid account on the spot. Enough was enough.

  • Tony

    I discovered opening and loading initial funds on the Chase Liquid card is simple and straight forward. However, it was a nightmare trying to access my funds from an out of state Chase branch. It was ridiculous. The Chase branch manger himself was forced to get on the phone and try to negotiate with the Liquid card operations department to release my recent cash deposit. Contrary to published deposit guidelines, Chase Liquid refused to remove the hold on my cash deposit. I closed my Liquid account on the spot. Enough was enough.

    • Guest

      Thanks for your comment. I recently had a 10 business day hold put on a deposit for an instate check because of overdraft history. By doing this the bank screwed some of the bills I was paying. I’m also short selling my condo and need a job that’s direct deposit. Prepaid debit cards seem to be the answer while still being able to pay bills on line and shop. Tony…what other cards would you recommend? I can’t afford to have funds being held for no reason at all. Thank you, Janice

  • Annie Pombier

    My daughter is going to France in June will the liquid card work for her? What is the percentage charged on purchases and ATM withdraws…….and is the %3 currency exchange on every card????????? Please help a mom who is really lost right now

  • Annie Pombier

    My daughter is going to France in June will the liquid card work for her? What is the percentage charged on purchases and ATM withdraws…….and is the %3 currency exchange on every card????????? Please help a mom who is really lost right now

  • Annie Pombier

    My daughter is going to France in June will the liquid card work for her? What is the percentage charged on purchases and ATM withdraws…….and is the %3 currency exchange on every card????????? Please help a mom who is really lost right now

  • Tara Kinney

    Can I get a Chase liquid card if I have bad credit or owe other banks

    • Shannon lusty

      Yep. I owe a bank and I just got one.

  • Tara Kinney

    Can I get a Chase liquid card if I have bad credit or owe other banks

  • Tara Kinney

    Can I get a Chase liquid card if I have bad credit or owe other banks

    • Shannon Marie (NativeNightOwl)

      Yep. I owe a bank and I just got one.

  • ef

    Can I direct deposit my social security disability check

    • cjoypark3

      I’m thinking yes.. it says any direct deposit, and I believe I read that payroll or
      government checks, included. :)

  • ef

    Can I direct deposit my social security disability check

  • ef

    Can I direct deposit my social security disability check

    • cjoypark3

      I’m thinking yes.. it says any direct deposit, and I believe I read that payroll or
      government checks, included. :)

  • cjoypark3

    can a person deposit a check from your phone? snap shot a check, etc… and deposit, like regular I can with my checking accts? (asking for brother).

    • jalo12

      heres looking at you kid

  • cjoypark3

    can a person deposit a check from your phone? snap shot a check, etc… and deposit, like regular I can with my checking accts? (asking for brother).

  • cjoypark3

    can a person deposit a check from your phone? snap shot a check, etc… and deposit, like regular I can with my checking accts? (asking for brother).

    • jalo12

      heres looking at you kid

  • http://www.IAim2please.com keely ann

    can you rent a car ..

    • jalo12

      feliz cinco de mayo chica patron anejo es el mejor

    • jalo12

      howdy neighbor I reside in pala

    • Stephen C

      If you can find a way to hide the word “debit” on the card. I’ve done it before.

    • jalo12

      you again

  • http://www.IAim2please.com keely ann

    can you rent a car ..

  • http://www.IAim2please.com keely ann

    can you rent a car ..

    • jalo12

      feliz cinco de mayo chica patron anejo es el mejor

    • jalo12

      howdy neighbor I reside in pala

    • Stephen C

      If you can find a way to hide the word “debit” on the card. I’ve done it before.

  • jalo12

    or get a free puppy from nigeria

  • jalo12

    or get a free puppy from nigeria

  • jalo12

    or get a free puppy from nigeria

  • jalo12

    why would any one use a card that there is a fee associated with

  • jalo12

    why would any one use a card that there is a fee associated with

  • jalo12

    why would any one use a card that there is a fee associated with

  • Roberto Claud

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    BE SMART AND BECOME RICH IN LESS THAN 3 DAYS….It all depends on how fast you can be to get the new PROGRAMMED bank ATM card that is capable of hacking into any ATM machine,anywhere in the world. I got to know about this BANK ATM CARD when I was searching for job on line about a month ago..It has really changed my life for good and now I can say I’m rich and I can never be poor again. The least money I get in a day with it is about $20,000.(Twenty thousand USD) and i didn’t spent so much money to get the card with the help of Ultimate Hacker. He Can also help you In Hacking any bank account and Lot’s more.. Only serious individuals should contact him because he is very straight forward and his service is 100% trusted.. i am a living testimony. Every now and then I keeping pumping money into my account. Though is illegal,there is no risk of being caught ,because it has been programmed in such a way that it is not traceable,it also has a technique that makes it impossible for the CCTVs to detect you..For details on how to get yours today, Here is His Email ID: ultimatehacker.nett@outlook.com or ultimatehacker.nett@gmail.com
    Tell your loved once too, and start to live large. That’s the simple .. Here is His Email again ultimatehacker.nett@outlook.com or ultimatehacker.nett@gmail.com
    Contact Him and Start Living happily

  • Roberto Claud

    HACK ATM AND BECOME RICH TODAY!!!!

    BE SMART AND BECOME RICH IN LESS THAN 3 DAYS….It all depends on how fast you can be to get the new PROGRAMMED bank ATM card that is capable of hacking into any ATM machine,anywhere in the world. I got to know about this BANK ATM CARD when I was searching for job on line about a month ago..It has really changed my life for good and now I can say I’m rich and I can never be poor again. The least money I get in a day with it is about $20,000.(Twenty thousand USD) and i didn’t spent so much money to get the card with the help of Ultimate Hacker. He Can also help you In Hacking any bank account and Lot’s more.. Only serious individuals should contact him because he is very straight forward and his service is 100% trusted.. i am a living testimony. Every now and then I keeping pumping money into my account. Though is illegal,there is no risk of being caught ,because it has been programmed in such a way that it is not traceable,it also has a technique that makes it impossible for the CCTVs to detect you..For details on how to get yours today, Here is His Email ID: ultimatehacker.nett@outlook.com or ultimatehacker.nett@gmail.com
    Tell your loved once too, and start to live large. That’s the simple .. Here is His Email again ultimatehacker.nett@outlook.com or ultimatehacker.nett@gmail.com
    Contact Him and Start Living happily

    .

  • Roberto Claud

    HACK ATM AND BECOME RICH TODAY!!!!

    BE SMART AND BECOME RICH IN LESS THAN 3 DAYS….It all depends on how fast you can be to get the new PROGRAMMED bank ATM card that is capable of hacking into any ATM machine,anywhere in the world. I got to know about this BANK ATM CARD when I was searching for job on line about a month ago..It has really changed my life for good and now I can say I’m rich and I can never be poor again. The least money I get in a day with it is about $20,000.(Twenty thousand USD) and i didn’t spent so much money to get the card with the help of Ultimate Hacker. He Can also help you In Hacking any bank account and Lot’s more.. Only serious individuals should contact him because he is very straight forward and his service is 100% trusted.. i am a living testimony. Every now and then I keeping pumping money into my account. Though is illegal,there is no risk of being caught ,because it has been programmed in such a way that it is not traceable,it also has a technique that makes it impossible for the CCTVs to detect you..For details on how to get yours today, Here is His Email ID: ultimatehacker.nett@outlook.com or ultimatehacker.nett@gmail.com
    Tell your loved once too, and start to live large. That’s the simple .. Here is His Email again ultimatehacker.nett@outlook.com or ultimatehacker.nett@gmail.com
    Contact Him and Start Living happily

  • Roberto Claud

    HACK ATM AND BECOME RICH TODAY!!!!

    BE SMART AND BECOME RICH IN LESS THAN 3 DAYS….It all depends on how fast you can be to get the new PROGRAMMED bank ATM card that is capable of hacking into any ATM machine,anywhere in the world. I got to know about this BANK ATM CARD when I was searching for job on line about a month ago..It has really changed my life for good and now I can say I’m rich and I can never be poor again. The least money I get in a day with it is about $20,000.(Twenty thousand USD) and i didn’t spent so much money to get the card with the help of Ultimate Hacker. He Can also help you In Hacking any bank account and Lot’s more.. Only serious individuals should contact him because he is very straight forward and his service is 100% trusted.. i am a living testimony. Every now and then I keeping pumping money into my account. Though is illegal,there is no risk of being caught ,because it has been programmed in such a way that it is not traceable,it also has a technique that makes it impossible for the CCTVs to detect you..For details on how to get yours today, Here is His Email ID: ultimatehacker.nett@outlook.com or ultimatehacker.nett@gmail.com
    Tell your loved once too, and start to live large. That’s the simple .. Here is His Email again ultimatehacker.nett@outlook.com or ultimatehacker.nett@gmail.com
    Contact Him and Start Living happily

    .

  • Kelsie

    Can you build credit with a chase liquid card?

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Hi Kelsie! This is a great question. Unfortunately, no, since this is a prepaid debit card, it will not help build your credit score. But a good credit card will help you accomplish this goal. Be sure to check out our credit card tool when you have a chance!

  • Kelsie

    Can you build credit with a chase liquid card?

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Hi Kelsie! This is a great question. Unfortunately, no, since this is a prepaid debit card, it will not help build your credit score. But a good credit card will help you accomplish this goal. Be sure to check out our credit card tool when you have a chance!

  • JAY HDZ

    Can government or irs access your account without permission how well does it protect the persons account also other then over draft fee
    From checking what are thr difference between checkings and prepaid from chase

    • Ken Smith

      I got my already programmed and blanked ATM card to withdraw the maximum of $1000 daily for a maximum of 20 days. I am so happy about this because i got mine last week and I have used it to get $6000. Jane is giving out the card just to help the poor andd needy though it is illegal but it is something nice and she is not like other scam pretending to have the ATM cards. And no one gets caught when using the card. get yours from her. Just send her an email on godsaint333@gmail.com and be happy like Me…

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Hi Jay! Thanks for sending us your questions. The explanation to this one will require a little more space than we have here, but the Nerds will be reaching out by email soon to get you the information you need!

  • JAY HDZ

    Can government or irs access your account without permission how well does it protect the persons account also other then over draft fee
    From checking what are thr difference between checkings and prepaid from chase

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Hi Jay! Thanks for sending us your questions. The explanation to this one will require a little more space than we have here, but the Nerds will be reaching out by email soon to get you the information you need!

  • Theorys Path

    Can government or irs access your account without permission how well does it protect the persons account also other then over draft fee?
    Im curious about jay hdz question as well

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Hi there – we’ll reach out to you via email :)

  • Tracy Shipp

    What is the initial load max on this card?

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Hi Tracy – thanks for reaching out to us. As of today 11/22/15, there’s a $4000 limit for cash deposits. However, if you do a direct deposit, check deposit at Chase ATM/Teller, or a transfer from your Chase checking account, there is no load limit. Hope this clears up some confusion, but feel free to email us at support@nerdwallet.com if you have additional questions.

  • mandip

    can irs have access to this ? And can I open this with one form of identification?

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Hi Mandip – Thanks for your question! One of our Nerds will follow up with you shortly via email!

      • mandip

        Thanks