In search of a decent prepaid card
October 12, 2012 12:38 PM   Subscribe

I need a card I can charge with money, online, for someone else's use in grocery stores, department stores, gas stations, etc. They don't need to be able to get cash with it. It shouldn't be possible for them to take out more money than I put in. This will be an ongoing thing, so I'd like to minimize fees. Has anyone had any experience with something like this that they liked?
posted by ubiquity to Work & Money (19 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Not a reccomenndation, but i just heard a story about a partnership between Wallmart and Amex to offer refillable prepaid debit cards.

There is a lot not to like about Wallmart, but their business is built on low prices for consumers (at the expense of suppliers, employees and competitors). In this case, their competitors are predatory banks and alternative financial institutions (like payday loan places), so I hope they do well.
posted by Good Brain at 12:46 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Paypal has a debit card that draws from your (their) Paypal account.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:48 PM on October 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Through my bank, I have my daughter's checking account "linked" to mine. It is a separate account, but I can move money from mine to hers online, as well as move money back into mine from hers. She can only spend what is in her account. She can use her Visa debit card for purchases or for cash.

So, maybe just check with your local bank for a similar solution. My bank does not charge any fees for this.
posted by The Deej at 12:56 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I use ING Direct for this - I have a linked account for my niece, and can move money from one ING Direct account to her account pretty much instantly. You can decline overdraft protection, and they will not let you remove more money than you have.

However, if I transfer money from Bank of America to ING Direct, not only does it take several days to get there, but since Capital One purchased ING Direct, the money cannot be withdrawn for 5 days after it's in the account.

I am charged no fees for the transfer or the accounts.
posted by needlegrrl at 1:07 PM on October 12, 2012

Response by poster: I should add that the person at the other end of this is not a relative and does not have any kind of banking relationship. That's part of the problem.
posted by ubiquity at 1:08 PM on October 12, 2012

Prepaid cards are unfortunately infamous for under-disclosed costs, such as transaction fees, reload fees and even inactivity fees. For lowest cost, have you considered opening a no-cost, no-minimum balance bank account with an associated Visa/MC debit card?

For example, Allied offers an interest-bearing checking account with no direct deposit requirement, no minimum balance and no monthly service charges. It can be linked to an account with another financial institution, enabling fee-free on-line transfers in or out. (They take about three days to complete IME). All ATM fees are reimbursed monthly. Decline any "overdraft protection" and you can ensure that it can't be overdrawn -- transactions will simply be declined.
posted by peakcomm at 1:09 PM on October 12, 2012

We use a prepaid Master Card from Capital One. It's $5 a month but that's waived if we put in at least $500 a month.

Works okay for us and keeps us from spending more than we intend in a month
posted by deanj at 1:14 PM on October 12, 2012

I believe that Wal-Mart (I don't know intimately, saw an ad for it once) sells a "linked" card (not the Amex partnership mentioned above, but a card only for use at WalMart) meant for one person to give to another and fill for the other to use. Advertised as a parent/child thing for when you send them away to college.
posted by tilde at 1:14 PM on October 12, 2012

The American Express/Walmart product is called Bluebird. Here's a good piece by Felix Salmon about it and prepaid cards in general. The big drawback is that AmEx cards are not as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard.

The other Walmart option is the MoneyCard, which is actually a Green Dot card.

Here's another Felix Salmon piece about the various options. The Simple card sounds good, but there's a waiting list and you need an iPhone (wtf?).
posted by mullacc at 1:29 PM on October 12, 2012

Search for college student reloadable cards. They're made specifically to be reloaded by parents living apart from their kids, so I know the kind of reload-from-a-distance thing you're looking for should be possible. (You'd also have the ability to blacklist certain stores or types of purchases, but that part is optional.)

A few years ago, the Visa one was the one everyone was using. I don't know if that's still the case.
posted by phunniemee at 1:33 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I was very, very poor ( a couple of years ago) I used the Walmart debit card because it had minimal fees and no hidden "gotcha" fees. After doing some very extensive research on loadable cards I choose that one and it worked for me very well for 3 years when I couldn't even get a bank account. I highly recommend it.

mullacc is unfortunately very right about the Walmart Amex card. Here is the Walmart Mastercard OR Visa Debit Card - the one that I used - trust me it works. Here is the fee schedule

Just tell the person that you are giving it to the following :

1. Use the ONLINE account manager (I linked to it above) to find out your card balance NOT an ATM ($1 fee)

2. Withdraw money by getting cash back at walmarts , supermarkets or any store that gives cash back - NOT an ATM ($2.00 fee for doing it at an ATM ).
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 1:40 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

One more thing - You can load the card remotely by Paypal, going into a Walmart and purchasing a moneypak or by purchasing a Greendot money pak at LOTS of stores. If you get the moneypak at Walmart it is 3 bucks it you get the moneypak elsewhere it is 5.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 1:42 PM on October 12, 2012

I use Serve. I load it from a Greendot MoneyPak, and people can also send me money online, too.
posted by batmonkey at 1:55 PM on October 12, 2012

Chase just came out with a really powerful pre-paid card called Liquid. It only has a single $4.95/month access fee and NOTHING ELSE. No load fee, no reload fee, and it works anywhere Visa's accepted.

For $60/year, it'll probably beat any other option, fees-wise, since they can add up insanely quickly. Plus, it acts as an actual bank account in the sense that you can track transaction history and such.
posted by disillusioned at 3:49 PM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

FYI - when you look at the actual fees - that Liquid card has a $2.00 fee for using any non-Chase ATM and $2 to deposit money in it at non-Chase ATMs. The say "no-fees" but when you actually look at the fee schedule there are a couple fees.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 3:53 PM on October 12, 2012

Wow, Chase Liquid...That's seriously cool.
posted by roboton666 at 6:36 PM on October 12, 2012

FYI - when you look at the actual fees - that Liquid card has a $2.00 fee for using any non-Chase ATM and $2 to deposit money in it at non-Chase ATMs. The say "no-fees" but when you actually look at the fee schedule there are a couple fees.

Yeah, but you can load the card from other bank accounts, both Chase and non-Chase, which is the primary use case. And Chase ATMs are otherwise relatively ubiquitous, though yeah, there are a couple other hanger-on fees for rare behaviors like that and a $12 bounced check fee. They're very upfront about it, though, and those all can be easily avoided.
posted by disillusioned at 10:53 PM on October 12, 2012

I did this for my daughter-person at one point and we also used the Walmart Visa card. using Podkayne of Pasadena's restrictions. It worked for us.
posted by patheral at 11:42 AM on October 13, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the good ideas. I wound up disabling automatic overdraft on my Ing Direct (now Capital One, I think) bankcard, and giving him that, while finding other resources that replaced my own use of that card.
posted by ubiquity at 12:24 PM on November 12, 2012

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