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NetSpend Prepaid Debit Card Review: Fees Can Get Costly, But Savings Rate Is High

Banking, Banking Basics, Prepaid Debit Cards
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netspend prepaid debit card

NetSpend, along with competitors like Green Dot and Bluebird, is a prepaid debit card provider that is popular with consumers who don’t have bank accounts. There’s no need for a credit check or a spotless ChexSystems record.

You can deposit checks, make purchases, pay bills and get cash with NetSpend, but the associated fees can add up quickly. However, NetSpend’s promotional 5% interest rate on savings may help offset some of the fees.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best prepaid debit cards

NetSpend may be right for you if:

  • You’ve been turned down for a checking account — perhaps after a ChexSystems review of your banking history — and need a debit card.
  • You can meet the $500 a month direct deposit requirement for a Premier FeeAdvantage NetSpend card, which cuts your monthly fee to $5 from $9.95.
  • You’re building up savings and looking for high yield. NetSpend offers cardholders a savings account currently paying a promotional 5% annual percentage yield on balances up to $5,000.
  • You can avoid all other fees by limiting yourself to the free options for loading money, getting cash and checking your balance.

NetSpend prepaid debit card


No credit check or ChexSystems requirement.

There’s no avoiding fees. The basic NetSpend card charges $1 to $2 per transaction, while the monthly plans cost $5 or $9.95.

You can get cash back on debit transactions at many retailers without paying a fee.

No free ATMs. Cash withdrawals cost $2.50, plus any fee from the ATM owner. If the transaction is declined, it's still $1.

You can load money on your card for free via direct deposit, mobile check deposit or online transfer from another NetSpend account.

Loading checks or cash at grocery stores and gas stations costs up to $3.95. Mobile check deposits take 10 days to clear — same-day processing is available for a minimum fee of $5.

3 tiers of prepaid card


$1 per signature purchase transaction (when you select “credit”)

$2 per PIN purchase transaction (when you select “debit”)

$9.95 per month. Includes all transactions.$5 per month. Includes all transactions.

No minimum deposit or minimum balance.

No minimum deposit or minimum balance.Requires $500 direct deposit in payroll or government benefits each month.

NetSpend fees at a glance

ATM withdrawal (domestic)

$2.50 plus fees from ATM owner

Load cash or checks at retailers

$0 to $3.95

Deposit check by mobile app or direct deposit


Balance inquiry (ATM or phone)


Overdraft protection service fee (optional)

$15 per overdraft, up to 3 per month

Declined transactions (ATM or debit)


NetSpend’s hits and misses

NetSpend can be one of the more expensive prepaid debit cards, depending on your usage. You’ll pay $1 or $2 per purchase, or $9.95 a month for an unlimited transactions plan. If you can commit to the $500 direct deposit threshold, the fee drops to $5 a month.

The card is widely accepted, and you can load money at more than 130,000 retailers — but the fee to do so can be as high as $3.95. Because there is no free ATM network, your best bet is to use the cash back function with your debit purchases. For loading checks, the frugal option is free mobile check deposits, but there’s a 10-day waiting period before your money is available.

The game changer for the NetSpend prepaid card is its promotional high-yield savings account. It pays a variable interest rate — currently 5% — on deposits up to $5,000. For balances above that, the rate drops to 0.5%.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s top high-yield savings accounts

With Netspend’s fee structure, the interest you earn might just cancel out the fees you pay. If you put $1,000 in a NetSpend savings account and leave it there for a year, for example, you would earn right around $50 in interest — about $9 less than what you’d pay in fees if you’re using the card’s Premier FeeAdvantage plan.

That top-of-market yield may alleviate the sting of the fees you can’t avoid. But if you’re really trying to avoid paying fees, it may be worth looking into a no-fee checking account instead.

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

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