NetSpend Preapid debit card

NetSpend Prepaid Debit Card: Are the Fees Worth It?

If you’re looking for a prepaid debit card, you might be overwhelmed with the selection. The NetSpend Prepaid Card can be a good option if you use it right, but watch out for the fees.

Read on to learn more about the NetSpend Prepaid Card and whether it’s right for you.

NetSpend Prepaid Card: The basics

In an effort to appeal to a wider audience, the NetSpend card has three different plans from which you can choose:

  1. Pay-As-You-Go Plan
  2. FeeAdvantage Plan
  3. NetSpend Premier FeeAdvantage Plan

Depending on how you use the card, one plan may be better than the others. Here’s how the monthly and transaction fees break down for each plan:

And these are just the beginning. The card has a slew of other fees, which we’ll further discuss below.

To get upgraded from the FeeAdvantage Plan to the NetSpend Premier FeeAdvantage Plan and get the lower monthly fee, all you have to do is receive $500 worth of direct deposits each month onto the card.

In addition to a prepaid debit card, NetSpend also offers a high-yield savings account. You’ll get a 5% APY on balances up to $1,000. If your savings balance exceeds that amount, the portion above the $1,000 threshold will earn only 0.49% APY.

You can load money onto your card for free using direct deposit, PayPal, a bank transfer, or mobile check deposit. Cash reloads, however, can cost you up to $3.95 per reload.

What we like about the NetSpend Prepaid Card

Probably the biggest star of the NetSpend program is the card’s savings account. It can be a huge opportunity for someone who is just starting out with savings, especially if you can’t qualify for a traditional savings account.

The card also has other features that could help make up for the fees a little, including:

  • Get your paycheck up to two days faster with direct deposit.
  • Free transfers to and from other NetSpend Prepaid Card users.
  • NetSpend may cover you up to $10 if you overdraft your account.
  • Temporary card numbers to use online to avoid fraud.
  • Get cash rewards offers based on your typical spending.
  • Get a $20 bonus for referring friends to NetSpend.

“Additionally, prepaid cards are a safe alternative to carrying cash as they can be protected by Visa or Mastercard’s zero-liability policy and with PIN technology,” says Mike Olafson, vice president of Capital Prepaid Services, which issues the BlazePays Visa prepaid card.

What we don’t like about the NetSpend Prepaid Card

While the NetSpend card comes with a lot of great features, you have to work hard to get them to make up for the card’s fees. For example, NetSpend has no free network of ATMs, so you’ll pay at least $2.50 every time you withdraw cash.

The card’s cash reload fee also limits how you can add money to your card without a charge. And don’t think that you can get the card just to take advantage of the high-yield savings account. The card has an inactivity fee of $5.95 per month if you don’t use it at least once every 90 days.

Also, while NetSpend does offer a feature that may cover you up to $10 if you overdraft their account, you probably don’t want to test it. According to their website, it’s fully up to their discretion. The regular overdraft fee is $15 per occurrence, up to three fees per month.

Some customers have had other issues with NetSpend. In March 2017, Netspend settled a lawsuit with the Federal Trade Commission. Customers had claimed that, while the company had advertised that they would have immediate access to money loaded on cards, many of them were blocked from accessing their funds. NetSpend will pay $53 million to satisfy the settlement.

Other prepaid debit cards to consider

If you’re not sure about the NetSpend Prepaid Card, here are a couple of others to look at:

American Express Serve Cash Back

One of the three Serve prepaid cards that American Express offers, the Serve Cash Back offers unlimited 1% cash back on every purchase you make.

The card does come with a $5.95 monthly fee, but you can easily make up for it if you spend at least $595 per month on the card. And if you spend even more than that, you can get even more value out of the card.

Other features you’ll get with this card include:

  • Subaccounts that allow you to add your partner or kids to your account. Each will get a card, and you can control their spending and get notifications when they use the card.
  • Purchase protection in case an item you purchase with the card gets stolen or damaged.
  • Free ATM withdrawals at more than 24,000 ATMs in the MoneyPass network.

Bluebird by American Express

If your goal is to pay as few fees as possible, the Bluebird is your best bet. The card has no monthly fee, no ATM fee at MoneyPass ATMs, and even no fee to do cash reloads at Walmart locations.

Like the Serve Cash Back, the Bluebird offers subaccounts and purchase protection. It also comes with Amex Offers, which includes discounts and cash-back offers at restaurants and retailers. You’ll also get special access to advance ticket sales for concerts, sports, and other events.

In other words, because this card has so few fees, it’s not hard to get a lot of value out of it.

How to apply for the NetSpend Prepaid Card

If you’re interested in applying for the NetSpend card, head on over to our review page to learn more and apply. From there, the process of applying is simple:

1.) Fill out your personal information and direct deposit preferences.

Netspend prepaid review

2.) Choose which card design you want and agree to NetSpend’s terms and conditions, then submit your application.

Netspend prepaid review

As with other prepaid debit cards, NetSpend won’t run a credit check when you apply. You also don’t need a checking or savings account to get the card — they don’t even ask. You should get a response within seconds, then NetSpend will ship your card to you, and you’ll get it within 7-10 business days.

Should you get the NetSpend Prepaid Card?

Even with the high-yield savings account and other features, it can be hard to justify paying the fees on the NetSpend Prepaid Card. The only thing that would really make the card worth it is if you can manage to refer a lot of people. At $20 a pop and no limit, you could rack up some serious cash over time.

But if that doesn’t describe how you’d use the card, you may be better off checking out other top prepaid debit cards to see if there’s one that fits your needs a little better.

“Consumers should consider how they will use and load a prepaid card in order to select a prepaid card that is right for them,” concludes Olafson.