NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card Review

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The NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card is a convenient card for managing your expenses without a checking account. The number of Americans without bank accounts might surprise you. According to CNBC, 25% of American households are “unbanked or underbanked.” Card issuers like Netspend can help fill this void, offering people the convenience of a Visa insignia card and the ability to load money onto the card in a variety of ways.

The NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card isn’t free to use, but for Americans with no credit history, this prepaid debit card offers security and convenience that you can’t beat.

What we like about the NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card

  • There’s no credit check or banking history needed to get one.
  • You can open a high-yield (5% APR) savings account that is linked to NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card and transfer money back and forth between the two.
  • There is no activation fee and no minimum balance you need to keep on the card.
  • It’s easy to put funds on your NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card, either through direct deposit of check or by uploading an image of the check on your mobile phone. You can also add money in person at 130,000 locations nationwide.
  • You’ll receive texts when a transaction takes place.
  • You can check your account from a smartphone app.

Things to consider

  • NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card does not report to the credit bureaus, so it won’t help you to rebuild or establish credit.
  • You need to provide your name, address, date of birth and government ID number to activate the card.
  • You either pay a fee every time you use the card, or you pay a monthly service fee through one of Netspend’s monthly plans. Signing up for Netspend Premier will save you almost 50% on the regular $9.95 monthly fee, but you won’t qualify for this reduced cost plan unless you direct deposit at least $500 in payroll or government benefit checks each month.
  • There is an inactivity fee if you decide to stop using the card.
  • There is a charge for reloading cash on the card at participating Netspend locations.
  • You’ll pay to get cash from ATM machines.

NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Debit Card details

With careful planning, and a regular source of monthly income, you can make this card a viable option if you don’t have a bank account but you’ll have to stay on top of things. You can reduce the card’s fees to $5 a month with Netspend Premier, provided you direct deposit at least $500 in payroll or government benefit checks each month. You can also open a savings account that earns a healthy 5% APR to offset some of the monthly fees. Finally, you can avoid the ATM fees by getting cash when you check out from many retailers, a standard feature of Visa and Mastercard prepaid debit cards.

NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card offers a few good perks, such as a budgeting feature in the Online Account Center and the ability to deposit money anywhere with Mobile Check Load. The card also has an optional Payback Rewards program. Select the offers you want in the Online Account Center, and the savings are automatically credited to your account when you use the card to purchase them.

NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card fees

You’ll pay $1.50 every time you use the card unless you sign up for a monthly plan of $9.95 or $5 a month. Load fees vary by location; you’ll pay $0-$3.95 each time you put money on the card at one of Netspend’s 130,000 locations. You’ll pay $2.50 to withdraw money at an ATM, not including the lender’s charge. There is an inactivity fee of $5.95 if you don’t use the card for 90 days, and it costs $5.95 to close your account.

How does it compare to other prepaid debit cards?

Although it offers convenience, at the end of the day, NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card has a lot of fees. You can avoid many of those by choosing another prepaid debit card, such as Bluebird by American Express or Fifth Third Access 360°. Bluebird has a partnership with Walmart that makes loading cash on to the card free and simple, and Fifth Third gives you the chance to have a checking account linked directly to the prepaid debit card.

Card Ongoing Purchase APR Annual Fee Intro Bonus Credit Needed Key features
NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card N/A Monthly fee of $9.95 or $5, depending on the plan No intro bonus No credit check or banking history needed Link to a high yield savings account
Bluebird by American Express N/A $0 No intro bonus No credit check Upload cash three ways: direct deposit, through your mobile device or in person
Fifth Third Access 360° N/A Monthly fee of $4 is waived if you deposit at least $500 a month into a Fifth Third checking account No intro bonus No credit check, but Fifth Third will check your banking history Get budgeting features and cash back offers through the Online Account Center

The bottom line

The NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card is good for people with no credit or banking history who want to enjoy the convenience of using a card to make purchases. The card gives you many ways to load cash, including from your mobile device. If managed carefully, you can bring down fees associated with the card and take advantage of cash back on select purchases.

Editorial Note: Compensation does not influence our recommendations. However, we may earn a commission on sales from the companies featured in this post. To view a list of partners, click here. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by our advertisers. Reasonable efforts are made to present accurate info, however all information is presented without warranty. Consult our advertiser's page for terms & conditions.

Valerie Fulton
Valerie Fulton
Contributing Writer

Valerie Fulton is a freelance writer who specializes in personal finance, real estate, higher education, home improvement and business copy. Her work has been published at Veros Real Estate Solutions, Bluehost, Sears, UPS, Movoto, Peak Communications and the University of Tennessee. Every summer, she travels from Austin, Texas to the coast of Maine with her two standard poodles in order to manage the vacation property she bought for a steal several years ago.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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