The Netspend prepaid debit card has a nationwide network and an interest-bearing savings account, but its fees can add up quickly each month.
But some customers have had serious issues. Netspend settled in March with the Federal Trade Commission over claims that the company falsely advertised that customers would have immediate access to money loaded on cards and blocked many customers from accessing their money. Under the settlement, Netspend will provide at least $53 million in monetary relief, which includes $40 million in customer account deposits previously unavailable and $13 million in fees.
The settlement affects certain cardholders from Jan. 1, 2010, to Aug. 31, 2016, who put funds onto a Netspend card but couldn’t use the card. If that includes you, Netspend should have contacted you by June 9, 2017, via mail or email with instructions for getting a refund. You have until Oct. 7 of this year to apply for the refund. If problems arise, email NetSpend@ftc.gov.
The bottom line
- $9.95 fee each month for basic monthly plan and no way to waive the fee completely
- No free ATM network but locations nationwide to add cash to your card
- Expensive overdraft program
- Savings account with 5.00% APY for balances of $1,000 or less
|Purchases and withdrawals|
Here are more details about Netspend’s fees and services.
General fees and features
There’s no fee to order the card online, but costs a fee if you buy it in stores such as CVS and Wal-Mart. The cost varies by retailer; CVS, for example, charges $2.95.
To use the card, you must choose between two plans. The default is a pay-as-you-go plan that charges $1 to $2 every time you make a purchase. You can opt for a monthly plan, instead, that costs $9.95, which is on the higher end for prepaid debit cards. If you receive $500 in monthly direct deposits on the card, you get upgraded automatically to the Netspend Premier FeeAdvantage plan, which drops the fee to $5 a month.
Unlike some prepaid card companies, Netspend charges an inactivity fee of $5.95 if the card isn’t used for 90 days.
To close the account, you can request a refund check to be sent by mail. This takes three to four weeks, and a fee of $5.95 will be deducted from the balance. Or you can withdraw your balance at a bank for a fee of $2.50.
Purchases and withdrawals
Netspend’s MasterCard or Visa prepaid card is widely accepted by merchants. It doesn’t have a free ATM network, so your best bet to withdraw money is to get cash back during a purchase — which doesn’t incur a fee. But it costs $2.50 to withdraw cash at an ATM (in addition to any ATM operator fees) or to make an over-the-counter withdrawal at a financial institution.
You can sign up for an overdraft service to cover purchases you can’t afford, but the fee is $15 per overdraft, capped at three times per month. Additional overdrafts would be covered with no fee. Still, if you want to avoid the risk of incurring overdraft fees, it might be better to skip the overdraft service and let transactions be declined in the event that there’s not enough money in your account.
There are several free ways to reload money to the card including direct deposit and transfers from a PayPal and bank account. Mobile check deposits are free but take 10 days to clear unless you pay a steep fee of 1% to 4% of the check amount for same-day processing. It’s also free to transfer money to another Netspend account, such as that of a friend or relative.
Loading cash at more than 130,000 retailers typically costs a fee of $2 to $3.95. Type in your zip code at the Netspend site to see a list of addresses near you along with the fee charged. The company says the amount of the fee is “determined by location partners.” It also says that “select partners,” mainly in Texas, offer free reloads.
You can’t write checks with Netspend. To pay bills, cardholders can set up payments using ACH transfer with no Netspend fee, or use the card to make a debit or credit payment. Or use MoneyGram bill payment, a third-party service available through your Netspend account. MoneyGram charges a fee of $1.49 to $12.99, but there’s no Netspend fee.
The savings account boasts a high promotional rate of 5.00% annual percentage yield on deposits of up to $1,000. For balances above that, the rate drops to 0.50% APY, below the national average for savings accounts.
» Looking for online savings accounts with high rates and lower monthly fees? Check out NerdWallet’s list of best online savings accounts
Savings rate doesn’t offset fees
Netspend’s savings account shines out as this card’s biggest perk, but it’s not enough to justify the fees for using and keeping the card. Even not using the card results in monthly fees.
That savings rate may lessen the sting of the unavoidable fees, but there are cheaper prepaid options.
Updated June 15, 2017.
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:
— Among the very best
— Very good; only minor caveats for most customers
— Good; issues that might make a difference to some customers
— Fair; make sure strengths and weaknesses are a good match for you
— Poor; proceed with great caution
(or below) — Best to avoid