Western Union MoneyWise: Best of the Prepaid Debit Cards?

You can trust that we maintain strict editorial integrity in our writing and assessments; however, we receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners and get approved. Here's how we make money.

NerdWallet isn’t too keen on prepaid debit cards, but if you’re adamant about getting one, check out the Western Union Moneywise Card. It’s a step up from the ever-popular WalMart MoneyCard, and here’s why.

Fee fi fo fum (and fee again)

Prepaid credit cards are plagued by fees. Any activity on your card is likely to incur the wrath of the fee giant, who has a voracious appetite and will gobble up your money with minimal satisfaction. The WalMart MoneyCard, developed by Green Dot, charges an activation fee, a monthly fee, and a deposit/reload fee that stand at $3 apiece (direct deposit is free). The ATM fee is $2, and it’s another $1 for a simple balance inquiry. Those are some pretty hefty charges, just for the privilege of carrying the card around.

The Western Union Moneywise card does not have an activation or a monthly fee, and its ATM fee is a bit lower at $1.95. The cash deposit/reload fee is a tad steep at $4.95, but you can use direct deposit at no charge. While this is by no means a perfect program, you’ll dump less money into fees with the MoneyWise card than with most prepaid debit cards. And with far more Western Union locations than Wal-Marts in the U.S., taking care of your finances should be a little more convenient.

Fee WalMart MoneyCard Western Union MoneyWise
Activation $3.00 $0.00
Monthly Fee $3.00 $0.00
ATM Fee $3.00 $1.95
Balance Inquiry Fee $1.00 $0.45
Deposit/Reload Fee $3.00 $4.95

The customer is always right, but who cares?

A quick perusal of relevant message boards will yield thousands of Green Dot and WalMart MoneyCard customer complaints. A good chunk of these complaints involve the complete loss of deposited money. People usually don’t respond well when their funds go missing. Another big complaint category is refunds gone wrong. With startling frequency, attempts to return merchandise seem to result in no refunds issued.

Contrast this the scarcity of complaints surrounding the Western Union MoneyWise card. Granted, there are a lot more MoneyCards and Green Dot cards floating around out there, but the difference is disproportionate. This may be due to the apparent absence of Green Dot customer service. People aren’t getting their questions answered or their issues resolved, so their complaints find the only other available outlet—the vast, lonely expanse of apathetic cyberspace.

Fair warning

Again, prepay at your own risk. A handful of prepaid card distributors are currently under investigation for possible deceptive practices, Green Dot included. Prepaid debit cards are ridden with fees, do not help you build your credit, and offer little protection against scams. As an alternative, consider applying for a regular rewards debit card or getting a credit card for bad credit. But if you’re sticking to prepaid, Western Union is the way to go.