|Fee||Pay-As-You-Go Plan||Monthly Plan||Premier|
|ATM Withdrawal Fee||$2.50||$2.50||$2.50|
|ATM Balance Inquiry Fee||$0.50||$0.50||$0.50|
|Cash Reload Fee||$3.95||$3.95||$3.95|
|Direct Deposit Fee||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00|
|Daily ATM Limit||$940|
|Daily Cash Load Limit||$940|
How We Evaluate Prepaid Debit Cards
In evaluating any financial product, the first step is identifying the decision-making factors important to consumers. In the case of reloadable prepaid debit cards, we’ve identified the following key factors based on extensive research (see sources at the end of this review) and our review of more than 80 other prepaid debit cards:
- Fees: Nearly half of all prepaid debit card users cite avoiding overdraft fees and check-cashing fees as a major reason for using a prepaid card. We therefore evaluate the fees charged by a prepaid card, particularly those fees that cannot be avoided (e.g., a monthly fee that cannot be waived).
- Budgeting: A majority of consumers using prepaid cards want to avoid credit card debt, spend less than they make, and create budget categories to help control spending. As a result, we evaluate the features a prepaid card offers to help consumers better manage their money.
- Make Purchases: Consumers also use prepaid cards to make purchases online and other places that do not accept cash. While all prepaid debit cards by their very nature enable cardholders to make purchases, we evaluate specific characteristics that make using the card easier or harder for consumers.
- Banking Features: Many people want to use a prepaid card in place of a traditional checking account. For this reason, we evaluate important banking features of prepaid cards, such as ATM services, online bill pay, mobile check deposit and linked savings accounts.
We’ll first provide an overview of the Netspend card’s features, benefits and fees. Then will use the above factors to evaluate the Netspend prepaid card and assess who would be best serviced by this card and who should look for other options. Finally, we’ll outline alternatives to the Netspend card.
The Netspend Prepaid Visa Card is a low cost reloadable prepaid debit card. While it’s not the cheapest prepaid card available, it does offer one of the most extensive list of features and benefits of any card available today. And if used wisely, the monthly costs are reasonable.
Many use the card as an alternative to a checking account. Others use the reloadable prepaid card to avoid overspending and overdraft fees. We’ll cover the benefits, features and fees in this detailed review, along with who the the Netspend Prepaid Card is best for and who might do better an alternative to Netspend.
How Does Netspend Prepaid Work?
The Netspend card is a reloadable prepaid debit card. Add money to the card and it can be used anywhere Debit Mastercard and Visa debit cards are accepted, including online. There are several ways to add fund to the card:
- Direct deposit of paycheck or government benefits check (including tax refunds)
- Add cash at more than 130,000 Netspend reload locations
- Transfer money to the card from a bank account
- Transfer money to the card from your PayPal account
- Transfer money between Netspend cards
Direct Deposit: Get your paycheck or government benefits check deposited directly to your Netspend account. Direct deposit is free and can result in getting paid up to 2 days faster. You can also get your tax refund deposited to your card.
Mobile Check Load: Using the Netspend smartphone app, you can deposit checks by snapping a picture of the check.
Reload Locations: Load cash to the card at over 130,000 retailer locations nationwide. You can search for reload locations here.
Send Money: Send and receive money to other Netspend account holders.
Anytime Alerts: Receive text alerts for any of the following activity on your account:
- Individual transaction details
- Received deposits
- Declined transactions
- Budget notifications
You can setup alerts to be received daily, weekly or with each individual transaction. Netspend works with most major mobile phone carriers.
Purchase Cushion: With the Premier card plan, Netspend’s purchase cushion may cover you up to $10. Using the Purchase Cushion, which is optional, could open a user to overdraft fees.
Smartphone App: With the Netspend smartphone app you can see your balance and transactions any time. It allows you to send and receive money or find the nearest reload location. The app also enables you to deposit checks by snapping a picture of the check.
Online Account Center: With the Netspend website you can see all your transactions, set up direct deposit and activate Netspend Payback Rewards. The account center also offers budgeting tools and enables you to set up Anytime Alerts.
Rewards & Benefits
Most prepaid debit cards don’t offer cash back rewards. Netspend is an exception. It offers four types of rewards:
Payback Rewards: Netspend offers cash back rewards customized to your spending patterns. These offers can be specific to certain retailers. Rewards are credited to your account.
Refer a Friend: Refer a friend who loads at least $40 to their new card, and you both receive a $20 credit.
Savings Account: Netspend offers an FDIC-insured savings account that pays up to 5.00% APY. You can transfer funds between your Netspend card and the savings account. You can also set up automatic transfers to the savings account to automate your savings.
Prescription Savings: Netspend offers a free Pharmacy Savings Card that can save you up to 50% on prescriptions.
Custom Cards: You can upload your own photo to create a personalized card. Upload an image of you, your family or your pet, for example. A photo of yourself can help avoid fraudulent use of your card if it’s ever lost or stolen.
Virtual Card Numbers: You can create up to 6 virtual card number for online or over the phone shopping. Once the transaction is complete, you can log back into your Netspend account and cancel the virtual number. That way, if it’s stolen, it can be used.
How the Netspend Prepaid Card Measures Up
The Netspend Prepaid Visa Card offers more features and benefits than most other prepaid debit cards. This is most evident in its banking features, including online bill pay, mobile check deposit, and a high-yield savings account. Combined with fees that are lower than most checking accounts and an option to forego overdraft coverage, Netspend is one of the best options for a banking alternative or those looking to avoid overdraft fees.
It’s also well suited for those looking to better manage their money. The Netspend app includes budgeting tools that enable you to set spending limits by category. You can also set up to receive alerts when you are closing to reaching your spending limits.
As for overall fees, the Netspend prepaid card is one of the lower cost options. The monthly fee ranges from $0 to $9.95 depending on the fee plan you choose and whether you use Netspend’s free direct deposit feature. There are, however, lower cost options (see below). Specifically, ATM withdrawal fees cannot be waived, although cardholders can get cash back at retailers for free. In addition, while Netspend offers over 130,000 cash reload locations (placing it well above virtually every other prepaid card), there is a fee for the cash reload.
Depending on your needs, there may be better options than Netspend.
Fees: For those looking for a virtually free prepaid debit card, Bluebird by American Express comes the closest. It does charge some fees (e.g., out-of-network ATM withdrawal), but these can generally be avoided. It does not, however, charge a monthly maintenance fee or transaction fee, and cash reloads at Walmart are free. The downside is that it is an American Express card, which isn’t as widely accepted as a Netspend Visa.
Teen Prepaid Cards: If you are looking for a prepaid card for your child, including teenagers, there are much better options. My personal favorite is the Greenlight card, but there are other good teen prepaid options as well.
Finally, you could consider a Chime Checking account. Chime is not a prepaid card, but as a practical matter functions the same way. Chime doesn’t do a credit check or use ChexSystems. It includes a Checking Account and an optional Savings Account, which pays interest. A Chime Checking Account is required to be eligible for a Savings Account. It charges no monthly fee and offers fee-free overdraft protection up to $200.* And it has a Secured Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card to help you build credit with no interest or annual fee. Eligibility requirements apply.1
Banking services provided by The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A., Members FDIC. The Chime Visa® Debit Card is issued by The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. The Chime Visa® Credit Builder Card is issued by Stride Bank pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. Debit card and Credit card may be used everywhere Visa debit and credit cards are accepted.
1To apply for Credit Builder, you must have received a single qualifying direct deposit of $200 or more to your Checking Account. The qualifying direct deposit must be from your employer, payroll provider, gig economy payer, or benefits payer by Automated Clearing House (ACH) deposit OR Original Credit Transaction (OCT). Bank ACH transfers, Pay Anyone transfers, verification or trial deposits from financial institutions, peer to peer transfers from services such as PayPal, Cash App, or Venmo, mobile check deposits, cash loads or deposits, one-time direct deposits, such as tax refunds and other similar transactions, and any deposit to which Chime deems to not be a qualifying direct deposit are not qualifying direct deposits
*Chime SpotMe is an optional, no fee service that requires a single deposit of $200 or more in qualifying direct deposits to the Chime Checking Account each month. All qualifying members will be allowed to overdraw their account up to $20 on debit card purchases and cash withdrawals initially, but may be later eligible for a higher limit of up to $200 or more based on member’s Chime Account history, direct deposit frequency and amount, spending activity and other risk-based factors. Your limit will be displayed to you within the Chime mobile app. You will receive notice of any changes to your limit. Your limit may change at any time, at Chime’s discretion. Although there are no overdraft fees, there may be out-of-network or third party fees associated with ATM transactions. SpotMe won’t cover non-debit card transactions, including ACH transfers, Pay Anyone transfers, or Chime Checkbook transactions. See Terms and Conditions.
Yes. Netspend offers a Zero Liability protection. And money transferred to the high-yield savings account is FDIC insured.
Yes. Because Netspend is not a credit card, they do not check your credit when you apply for the card.
No. The Netspend card is not a credit card.
Yes. Founded in 1999, it’s served more than 10 million customers and counting.
Still haven’t found what you want? Check out are complete list of the best prepaid debit cards.
We consulted the following sources in preparing this review:
- Netspend Prepaid Visa Card website.
- Netspend’s Overdraft Protection Service.
- Bourke, N., Horowitz, A. and Lake, W. (2014). Why Americans Use Prepaid Cards. The Pew Charitable Trusts.
- Greene C. and Shy O. (2015). How Are U.S. Consumers Using General Purpose Reloadable Prepaid Cards? Are They Being Used as Substitutes for Checking Accounts? Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
- Foster, K., Green, C. and Stavins J. (2019). The 2018 Survey of Consumer Payment Choice: Summary Results.