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BBVA Compass ClearSpend Prepaid Debit Card Review

Banking, Prepaid Debit Cards
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BBVA Compass ClearSpend Prepaid Debit Card
NerdWallet’s rating: 4.0 / 5.0

 

BBVA Compass
Learn more
at BBVA Compass
The BBVA Compass ClearSpend prepaid debit card has online features and a mobile budgeting app on par with those available for top-of-the-line checking accounts. This plus other solid web services might be enough to make up for the card’s limited network of branches and ATMs and its monthly fee.

But the card is available in only seven states where BBVA has branches. If you’re not a resident of Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico or Texas, check our list of best prepaid debit cards for other options.

The bottom line

  • Customizable budgeting feature and transaction alerts
  • $4 monthly fee that’s relatively easy to waive
  • Card not available in 43 states, even through the online application
  • Limited access to reloading cash for free because of small branch and ATM network

» MORE: What you should know about prepaid debit cards

Our Ratings
General fees and features
Purchases and withdrawals
Reloads
Other services
Overall
NerdWallet’s overall rating is a weighted average of these four categories: general fees and features, purchases and withdrawals, reloads and other services.

Read on for more details about the BBVA Compass ClearSpend’s fees and services.

General fees and features


4.0 / 5.0

The BBVA Compass prepaid card, which used to be free, started charging a monthly fee in May 2017. It isn’t steep and you can waive it by loading $400 or more each month. There’s no longer any cost the first time you load cash onto the card.

If you decide to close the card, you can withdraw funds at any financial institution that accepts Visa. BBVA Compass doesn’t charge a fee, but the other bank might. If you ask for your remaining balance by check, though, there’s a steep fee.

ProsCons
  • No inactivity or activation fees
  • Card available for free online
  • No credit check to apply
  • Card not available in 43 states
  • $4 monthly fee
  • $15 fee for receiving remaining balance by check

Purchases and withdrawals


4.5 / 5.0

You don’t have to worry about fees for purchases, and the card works with all merchants that accept Visa. Getting cash back at store checkouts when you make a purchase is free. Beyond that, though, you’ll run into limited free withdrawal access. BBVA Compass doesn’t charge a fee for the first out-of-network ATM withdrawal of the month, but finding its branches and ATMs near you for more free withdrawals may be difficult.

ProsCons
  • No fees for making purchases or having transactions declined
  • Ability to get cash back at retailers with a purchase
  • No bank fee for one out-of-network ATM withdrawal per month
  • Limited bank network of 672 branches and about 1,000 ATMs, with over half in Texas
  • $2 fee for out-of-network ATM withdrawals after the first one each month, plus any ATM operator fees

Reloads


3.5 / 5.0

Besides direct deposit, web transfers are another way to reload money for free. You can move money to the prepaid card from a BBVA Compass debit card through the bank’s service or from another financial account through PayPal, Venmo or Popmoney. Transfers take two or three business days.

But if you need to reload cash, you might get stuck paying fees. Adding cash at a BBVA Compass branch is free, but finding one nearby may be tough. Instead, you might have to visit one of the over 50,000 Visa ReadyLink locations, where retailers can charge up to $4.50 per load.

There’s another downside: Unlike other BBVA Compass account holders, cardholders don’t have a mobile check deposit option.

ProsCons
  • Free online transfers from BBVA Compass debit card or third-party transfer service
  • Minimum loads of $25
  • No mobile check deposit
  • Limited free network for cash reloads

Other services


4.5 / 5.0

ClearSpend gives you a best-in-class budgeting feature that automatically tracks and categorizes your transactions, starting after the first month of card use. You can set up limits for a category such as entertainment, dining out or groceries, which can trigger real-time alerts if you overspend. Additional cards for family members, including teens ages 13 and up, are available for free.

Customer service is another strength. There are live customer service phone hours beyond the 9-to-5 weekday schedule, and you can check your balance for free over the phone as well as online and at BBVA Compass locations.

The card doesn’t offer a separate savings account or check writing, but you can pay bills online.

ProsCons
  • Robust budgeting app and real-time text alerts
  • Up to three additional cards linked to main account for free
  • BBVA Compass doesn’t charge for balance inquiries made at out-of-network ATMs
  • Free replacement cards (up to three)
  • No check writing
  • No savings account

Strong prepaid option with limited reach

BBVA Compass
Learn more
at BBVA Compass
You get a lot of freebies with the BBVA Compass ClearSpend card, including the budgeting feature and one free out-of-network ATM withdrawal a month. But gone are the days when the price tag was free.

If you live in the limited area the card serves, you can take full advantage of the card’s pluses. If you live elsewhere, consider another prepaid debit card.

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

Updated May 23, 2017.


Ratings methodology

NerdWallet’s overall rating is a weighted average of these four categories: general fees and features, purchases and withdrawals, reloads and other services. 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