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ACE Elite Prepaid Debit Card Review

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ACE Elite Prepaid Debit Card Review

ACE Elite Prepaid Debit Card
NerdWallet’s rating: 2.0 / 5.0

2.0 stars out of 5

ACE Elite
Learn more
at ACE Elite
The ACE Elite prepaid debit card, managed by NetSpend and issued by MetaBank, can cost more than it’s worth. You get a few extra services that aren’t on many other prepaid cards, such as an interest-bearing savings account, but you pay the price in fees.

The bottom line

  • Steep monthly fee that can’t be waived.
  • No free way to reload quickly.
  • Has overdraft program with high fee.
  • Free withdrawals at ACE Cash Express locations for some cardholders.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best prepaid debit cards

Our Ratings
General fees2.0 stars out of 5
Purchases and withdrawals1.5 stars out of 5
Reloads3.5 stars out of 5
Other services4.0 stars out of 5
Overall2.0 stars out of 5

NerdWallet’s overall rating is a weighted average of these four categories: general fees and features (40%), purchases and withdrawals (35%), reloads (15%) and other services (10%).

Read on for more details about the ACE Elite’s fees and services.

General fees and features

2.0 stars out of 5
2.0 / 5.0

There are three plans for the ACE Elite card: standard, discounted and pay-as-you-go. Monthly fees on the standard FeeAdvantage Plan come to $120 a year, but that cost drops by half on the discounted plan. The pay-as-you-go plan has no monthly fees; instead, you pay a fee every time you make a purchase.

There are also fees if you stop using the ACE Elite card or if you request a check for a remaining balance.

The fee for buying the card varies by retail store, but it’s free to get online — a fact that the company doesn’t advertise. “There is no posting or disclosure of the zero charge, but when you do apply online, you are not charged,” says Eric Norrington, senior vice president of ACE Cash Express.

ProsCons
  • Monthly fee can be reduced to $5 by setting up $500 or more in direct deposits from payroll or government benefits.
  • Can get card for free online.
  • Up to $9.95 to buy the card in stores. Price varies by retailer.
  • $9.95 monthly fee, which is on the higher end for prepaid cards.
  • $5.95 inactivity fee kicks in after 90 days of no account activity (replaces monthly fee if applicable).
  • $5.95 per check for remaining balance.
Plan reviewed for rating: ACE Elite FeeAdvantage Plan

Purchases and withdrawals

1.5 stars out of 5
1.5 / 5.0

You get a few standard features — Visa merchant acceptance, cash back at retail checkouts — but this card doesn’t offer a free withdrawal network for all its cardholders. Those on the monthly plan with direct deposit can get free withdrawals at ACE Cash Express stores. But getting money at any bank branch or ATM results in one fee from NetSpend and possibly a second one from the bank or ATM operator you use.

Since ACE Elite is a NetSpend card, there’s an optional overdraft program that lets NetSpend cover purchases you can’t otherwise afford. That leads to the highest of all the card’s fees, though.

» MORE: What you should know about prepaid debit cards

ProsCons
  • For cardholders with direct deposit: Free withdrawals of up to $300 in cash a day at over 1,000 ACE Cash Express locations.
  • No fees for signature- or PIN-based purchases for those on monthly plans.
  • $2.50 fee for withdrawals at ATMs and bank branches.
  • Retailer fee for withdrawing at a NetSpend reload location.
  • $15 overdraft fee charged if you opt into overdraft protection program and overdraw your account by more than $10; maximum of three fees per month.
Plan reviewed for rating: ACE Elite FeeAdvantage Plan

Reloads

3.5 stars out of 5
3.5 / 5.0

Besides direct deposit, you have three options for reloading money onto the card, but there’s no free way to add money instantly or even within a day. Online transfers from a PayPal or bank account take days to process, and free mobile check deposits take 10 business days to clear.

Cash reloads at retailers in NetSpend’s reload network, such as CVS Pharmacy and 7-Eleven, are instant but carry a fee that varies by store.

ProsCons
  • Free online transfers from PayPal or bank account.
  • Up to $5 fee per reload at over 130,000 NetSpend reload locations.
  • Takes 10 business days to process mobile check deposits for free; same-day processing costs 2% of payroll check amount.
  • Online transfers take two to four business days to process.

Other services

4.0 stars out of 5
4.0 / 5.0

The card has a savings account, offered through MetaBank, with a generous 5% annual percentage yield — but only up to the first $1,000. After that, the rate drops to 0.50% APY for the remaining balance. This means you can earn $50 in interest for your first $1,000, then $5 for your next $1,000 and so on. If you pay a year’s worth of monthly fees, though, that cost alone might outweigh whatever you make in interest.

There’s a free online bill payment option, too, but no check writing. Checking your balance at ATMs or over the phone will cost you fees, as will asking customer service to help you transfer money.

ProsCons
  • Free online bill pay.
  • Has savings account with 5% APY for first $1,000.
  • Extended customer service hours plus weekends.
  • No check writing.
  • $4.95 fee for transferring between ACE Elite cards with customer service help.
  • 50 cent fee for checking balance at ATM or on the phone.

Better options elsewhere

ACE Elite
Learn more
at ACE Elite
With the ACE Elite, you get many of the same services that other prepaid debit cards offer but you’ll be hit with several fees. Whether you choose a monthly or a pay-as-you-go plan, you can’t avoid them. If you have direct deposit, you can cut down on some costs. But know that there are more affordable prepaid debit cards.

Spencer Tierney is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: spencer@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @SpencerNerd.


Ratings methodology

NerdWallet’s overall rating is a weighted average of these four categories: general fees and features (40%), purchases and withdrawals (35%), reloads (15%) and other services (10%). Factors we consider, depending on the category, include fees, ATM access, reload options, breadth of merchant acceptance, account features and limits, consumer-facing tech and customer service. Because prepaid debit cards help to manage money without using credit, any overdraft program gets penalized under the “purchases and withdrawals” category. Several Nerds contribute to prepaid debit card ratings to ensure consistency and accuracy.

What the ratings mean:
5 stars out of 5 — Among the very best
4.5 stars out of 5 — Very good; only minor caveats for most customers
4 stars out of 5 — Good; issues that might make a difference to some customers
3.5 stars out of 5 — Fair; make sure strengths and weaknesses are a good match for you
3 stars out of 5 — Poor; proceed with great caution
2.5 stars out of 5 (or below) — Best to avoid