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Netspend Prepaid Debit Card Review: Fees Add Up

Aug. 30, 2019
Banking, Banking Basics, Prepaid Debit Cards
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3.0 NerdWallet rating

Where Netspend shines:

  • 5% APY savings account on balances of up to $1,000.
  • Easy access to adding and withdrawing cash within a network of retailers.
  • You can get your paycheck up to two days early with direct deposit.

Where Netspend falls short:

  • Steep monthly fee for basic fee plan and no way to waive the fee completely.
  • No free network for reloads or withdrawals.
  • Inactivity fee if you stop using the card, among other fees that many prepaid cards don’t have.

Where Netspend shines:

  • 5% APY savings account on balances of up to $1,000.
  • Easy access to adding and withdrawing cash within network of retailers.
  • You can get your paycheck up to two days early with direct deposit.

Where Netspend falls short:

  • Steep monthly fee for basic fee plan and no way to waive the fee completely.
  • No free network for reloads or withdrawals.
  • Inactivity fee if you stop using the card, among other fees that many prepaid cards don’t have.

Where Netspend shines:

  • 5% APY savings account on balances of up to $1,000.
  • Easy access to adding and withdrawing cash within network of retailers.
  • You can get your paycheck up to two days early with direct deposit.

Where Netspend falls short:

  • Steep monthly fee for basic fee plan and no way to waive the fee completely.
  • No free network for reloads or withdrawals.
  • Inactivity fee if you stop using the card, among other fees that many prepaid cards don’t have.

The bottom line

Netspend’s prepaid debit card is an expensive alternative to a checking account. It’s easy to get and there’s no banking history or credit check required to open, but Netspend makes you choose between paying a monthly fee or paying a fee every time you make a purchase. Either way, you might spend more in fees in a year than you could earn in interest from the prepaid card’s savings account. The card’s nationwide reload network of 130,000 locations for cash reloads is convenient, but the network isn’t free and there’s no free access to ATMs.

» Want cheaper prepaid options? See our list of best prepaid debit cards


Read on for details on Netspend’s general fees, features, funds access, and more.

General fees and features: 2.0/5.0

Netspend charges a lot of fees, and you can’t avoid all of them.

Upside:

You can open without a fee. You can order and register the card online for free, but if you buy the card at retailers such as CVS and Walmart, there’s generally a fee of up to $9.95.

Downsides:

Regular fees no matter what you do. You pay a fee for the Netspend card in one of three ways. You can fork over $1 to $2 every time you make a purchase; pay a flat $9.95 per month and have free transactions; or choose the second option and receive $500 in direct deposits monthly on the card, in which case the monthly fee drops to $5 a month.

Fee if you stop using the card. Unlike some prepaid cards, Netspend charges an inactivity fee of $5.95 if there’s no card activity for 90 days.

Closing the account can cost you. If you request a mailed check with remaining funds from your prepaid card, the fee is $5.95.

» Unsure about prepaid cards? Learn the basics to prepaid debit cards

Purchases and withdrawals: 3.5/5.0

Upsides:

You can get cash back for free at retailers’ checkouts. This is a standard feature for Mastercard and Visa debit cards and prepaid debit cards. Not all prepaid cards are in these payment networks.

No overdraft fees. This has not always been the case for Netspend. Transactions that go over the amount available on the card are likely to be declined, though a “purchase cushion” feature may cover negative balances of up to $10 for qualifying customers. (Unclear about overdraft fees? See our guide to overdraft fees.)

Downsides:

$2.50 fee for ATM withdrawals. This is what Netspend charges; there may also be an ATM operator fee.

$2.50 fee for over-the-counter withdrawals at banks or credit unions.

A fee for declined ATM transactions. If your card gets rejected at an ATM, you pay $1.

Reloads: 3.0/5.0

Upsides:

130,000 reload locations. You can add cash to your card from many retailers nationwide, generally for a fee.

Many ways to reload money. Apart from cash reloads, you can transfer money from a bank account, PayPal, or another Netspend account. Other ways include direct deposit, mobile check deposit and tax refunds.

Downsides:

Up to $3.95 per cash reload at Netspend locations.

Steep fee to get timely mobile check deposits. You have to pay 1% to 5% of the check amount for same-day processing, or wait 10 days to get the money for free.

Other services: 4.0/5.0

Upsides:

5.00% APY savings account on balances of up to $1,000. For balances above that, the rate drops to 0.50% APY.

Long support hours. You can reach customer service beyond the standard 9-to-5 on weekdays as well as on weekends.

Downsides:

No free online bill pay service. Netspend uses a third-party provider, MoneyGram, which charges a fee. A free alternative is to give a biller your card’s routing and account numbers.

No check writing. Some prepaid cards have this ability.

Additional fees for seeing your account balance at an ATM and for asking customer service to help transfer money from your card.

» 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 is the card’s biggest perk, but it’s not enough to justify the fees for using and keeping the card. See our cheaper prepaid options.

 


Ratings methodology

NerdWallet’s overall rating is a weighted average of each category: general account fees, transactions and funds access, 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, user-facing tech and customer service. Several Nerds contribute to prepaid debit card ratings to ensure consistency and accuracy.

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