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Green Dot Prepaid Debit Card Review

Banking, Prepaid Debit Cards
Green Dot Prepaid Debit Card Review
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Green Dot Prepaid Debit Card
NerdWallet’s rating: 3.5 / 5.0

3.5 stars out of 5

Green Dot

at Green Dot

Green Dot cards are sold at retailers such as CVS, Rite-Aid and Wal-Mart. The latest version of this prepaid debit card, the Green Dot Reloadable Prepaid MasterCard or Visa, has a higher monthly fee — but a lower activation fee — than previous versions.

Unlike older Green Dot cards, this one has no free ATM access. If that’s a deal breaker for you, check out our list of best prepaid debit cards for some other options.

The bottom line

  • Must load at least $1,000 per month to avoid a service fee of $7.95.
  • Loading cash at CVS, Rite Aid, Wal-Mart and other retailers costs up to $4.95.
  • No free ATM network, but cash back is available at no cost with a debit purchase.

» MORE: What you should know about prepaid debit cards

Our Ratings
General fees and features2.5 stars out of 5
Purchases and withdrawals4.0 stars out of 5
Reloads2.5 stars out of 5
Other services4.0 stars out of 5
Overall3.5 stars out of 5
*NerdWallet’s overall rating is a weighted average of the four categories listed.

Here are more details about Green Dot’s fees and services.

General fees and features

2.5 stars out of 5
2.5 / 5.0

With the Green Dot card, you can use direct deposit, make purchases at stores and online, manage your account online or with a smartphone app, and use online or mobile bill pay. Fees are steep, though, so you may want to stick with the free features.

The card costs $1.95. There’s a $7.95 service fee that Green Dot waives if you load at least $1,000 each month. That’s pricey compared with some other prepaid cards. Kaiku, for example, costs $3 a month and waives its fee with a $750 load. Amex’s Bluebird charges no monthly fee.

Just by buying the Green Dot card you could be setting yourself up for a fee, even if you don’t use it. If you buy it and don’t activate it, one monthly charge will be assessed after 90 days. If you activate it after that, your card balance will fall below zero and you could get charged up to two monthly fees.

ProsCons
  • No credit check needed.
  • Free online and mobile bill pay.
  • You can get your account balance and recent transactions by text.
  • No free ATM network.
  • $7.95 monthly fee; waived if you load at least $1,000 a month.
  • If your balance falls below $0, you’ll be charged up to two monthly fees.
  • If you buy a card but don’t activate it, you’ll be charged one monthly fee after 90 days.
Card reviewed for rating: Green Dot Reloadable Prepaid Debit Card.

Purchases and withdrawals

4.0 stars out of 5
4.0 / 5.0

One big disadvantage of the Green Dot card is the lack of a free ATM option. There is a $2.50 ATM fee, in addition to any fee the ATM owner might charge. Older Green Dot prepaid cards had access to free MoneyPass ATMs. To get cash, your only fee-free option is to ask a cashier for cash back with a debit purchase.

ProsCons
  • Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted among merchants.
  • You can ask for cash back with a debit purchase.
  • $2.50 ATM fee — plus any fees charged by the ATM owner.
  • Withdrawing cash through a bank teller costs $2.50.
  • Foreign transaction fee of 3%.

Reloads

2.5 stars out of 5
2.5 / 5.0

You have four ways to add money. The best option is direct deposit, since that is free.

If you have a bank account, you may be able to transfer money onto your Green Dot card for free via Automated Clearing House, or ACH, transfer. Green Dot doesn’t charge for this service, but your bank might. This could take one to three days.

You can make mobile check deposits with the Green Dot app. The cost is 95 cents, with the money arriving on your card in five days, or $5.95 for same-day deposit.

Finally, if you want to load cash onto your card, you can do so at participating retailers for a fee of up to $4.95.

ProsCons
  • Free direct deposit.
  • No Green Dot fee for ACH transfer from a bank account, but your bank may charge a fee.
  • Loading cash onto your card at retailers costs up to $4.95.
  • Mobile check deposit is available, but there is a fee of 95 cents, or $5.95 for same-day deposit.

» MORE: Bluebird prepaid debit card review

Other services

4.0 stars out of 5
4.0 / 5.0

Through Green Dot’s free online and mobile bill pay, you can set up e-payments or have a paper check sent out for you.

You can also buy checks from Green Dot and write them yourself, but there are limitations. Before you write a check, you must pre-authorize it using the Green Dot app. If you don’t pre-authorize it, your check won’t go through. The check can’t be for more than $3,000, and the pre-authorization is valid for 90 days. You can stop payment on a check that hasn’t yet been paid, and Green Dot will return the money to your account on the next business day.

ProsCons
  • Free online and mobile bill pay, including having paper checks sent.
  • Ordering paper checks is pricey at $5.95 for 12 checks.
  • Checks require pre-authorization from the app.

» Looking for a savings option too? See NerdWallet’s list of best high-yield online savings accounts

Convenient but expensive

Green Dot

at Green Dot

The Green Dot card has wide merchant acceptance and free bill pay. But depending on how much you load on it and which features you use, the fees can add up. If keeping fees low is a priority, you may want to consider more economical prepaid card options.

Jeanne Lee is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: jlee@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @jlee_jeanne.

Updated Nov. 23, 2016.


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