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Another Chilling Prepaid Debit Card: The Hazards of the MonGo Card

Oct. 9, 2011
Credit Cards
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Prepaid debit cards are the scum of the personal finance world, and the MonGo Card is one of the worst we’ve seen. Capitalizing on recent legislation that may affect debit card rewards programs, prepaid debit cards are attempting to rise to power using some pretty slimy and underhanded tactics. They prey on the disenchanted and downtrodden, painting mirages of too-good-to-be-true credit lines for those already burdened by financial woes. If there is one card in the entire world you should absolutely avoid no matter how desperate you get, it’s the MonGo Prepaid Debit Card. We’re putting up the caution tape and making a PSA: stay away from MonGo.

Familiar formula

The MonGo card operates like any other prepaid debit card. You load money onto it and spend where accepted. MonGo tries to lure in prospective cardholders by offering one dollar in rewards for every dollar loaded onto the card. But, unusual for prepaid debit cards, they also boast a $2,500 shopping credit line upon signing.

Here’s why it’s awful

For starters, that $2,500 is not a cash giveaway, though the way MonGo advertises it may lead you to believe otherwise. It’s a credit line, meaning you can spend up to $2,500 in money you don’t actually have (throwing a curveball at the traditional definition of a “prepaid” debit card). It is important to note your credit is only good at their online shopping mall; it won’t help you anywhere else.

The one point per one dollar loaded is also a pretty raw deal. Since rewards are only redeemable at their online shopping mall, your options are very limited. And just because you have enough rewards dollars to buy an item, don’t count on getting it for free. No matter how many rewards you’ve accumulated, you have to pay 25% of the desired product’s price out of pocket. You also pay shipping and handling and taxes. Rewards redemption is capped at 1,000 points per month, meaning you won’t be able to save up for anything too big.

Fees galore

And like any prepaid debit card, the MonGo comes with an extra-large side of fees. Their extensive fee chart is broken into two columns—Transcard Usage Fees and Cardflex Card Usage Fees. Nowhere on their website does MonGo explain the difference between the Transcard and the Cardflex. The only indication of these terms mean is when you select “Request a Card” under the Prepaid MasterCard window. Following that link vaguely identifies the prepaid card as the Cardflex. As for the Transcard, that’s still a bit of a mystery, though we’ll assume it refers to the regular Money On The Go membership card.

The MonGo Prepaid Debit Card (Cardflex) has one of the scariest fee charts we’ve ever seen. Here’s a breakdown of some of the money you can expect to lose:

  • $2.95 monthly service fee
  • $5.00 monthly paper statement fee
  • $1.00 to put money on your card online, through a bank or via VRU
  • $2.00 per ATM withdrawal
  • $4.00 per bank withdrawal
  • $1.00 per balance inquiry
  • $0.50 per PIN purchase or PIN decline
  • $0.78 per credit charge
  • $10.00 for every month you need to make a refund
  • $10.00 account liquidation fee

In short, you can’t do anything with the MonGo card without paying fees.

Dastardly dealings

If we still haven’t convinced you to steer clear of the MonGo Prepaid Debit Card, check out the Complaints Board. Dozens of posts condemn the card as a scam, and there are a terrifying number of reports of MonGo taking unauthorized money from cardholder accounts (usually in increments of $99.95). Many of the posts also attack MonGo’s customer service, which, if the accounts are accurate, is awful (and possibly deceptive).

A quick visit to the MonGo website is enough to fill you with unease. It looks like a scam. The site bombards you with flashy benefits and gaudy rewards and confusing graphics—like Crash Bandicoot giving you two thumbs up with a wily wink—making it’s difficult to sift through the clutter and figure out what the card actually does. If you can locate the terms and conditions, you’ll find a long, convoluted mess of underlined paragraphs, unnecessary capitalization and broken hyperlinks. On multiple occasions, it directs you to another page for more details, but the links provided aren’t really links at all—just bright blue underlined text. Clicking on them won’t take you anywhere, making those details impossible to locate. One has to wonder if this was an intentional oversight.

There is another way

No matter how bad your credit, stay away from prepaid debit cards, especially the MonGo. If you’re desperate, check out some of the credit cards for bad credit. Some of them, like the Orchard Bank card, offer very reasonable rates and are ideal for folks looking to rebuild credit. Local credit unions often offer credit cards for people with low or no credit and are an excellent place to start. Don’t be fooled by the bright colors and lurid graphics and empty promises of cheap electronics and kitschy jewelry. Crash Bandicoot might have been one of your best childhood friends, but tough economic times have compromised his morals.