NetSpend Prepaid debit cards are reloadable magnetic stripe cards that can be used just like debit and credit cards to purchase goods and services. Unlike traditional payment cards, however, NetSpend cards are not linked to a line of credit or a bank account. Instead, they must be loaded with funds before they can be used, meaning that NetSpend users can only spend or withdraw amounts up to the totals that they have already loaded onto their cards.
NetSpend Prepaid cards can be activated under two basic plans: the “Pay-As-You-Go” plan and the “FeeAdvantage” plan. There is also a “NetSpend Premier FeeAdvantage” plan that can be activated by adding direct deposit to a FeeAdvantage plan and then loading the card with $500 via direct deposit in a given month. The Pay-As-You-Go Plan charges users per transaction, while the FeeAdvantage plan charges users a monthly fee.
NetSpend Prepaid Debit Fee Breakdown
NetSpend cardholders can either pay a fee each time they make a purchase or pay a flat monthly fee with no transaction fees, so either option could potentially be cheaper depend on the cardholder’s purchasing behavior. If a cardholder expects to make more than ten signature card purchases or more than five PIN card purchases per month, then the FeeAdvantage plan will be the more affordable plan. If the cardholder expects to make fewer than five signature card purchases per month or fewer than three PIN card purchases per month, then the Pay-As-You-Go plan will be more cost-effective. There is some wiggle room here depending on whether the cardholder uses direct deposit to load a FeeAdvantage card; this would lower the monthly fee to $5.00 and make this monthly fee more competitive with the Pay-As-You-Go plan. There are also numerous other NetSpend Prepaid fees to take into account, including load fees, withdrawal fees, balance inquiry fees, and lost card fees. A full list of fees for all NetSpend Prepaid debit card types is available below:
NetSpend Prepaid Card Fees
At a glance
Location: Austin, Texas
Phone number: 1-866-387-7363
E-mail: [email protected]
Featured User Reviews
This card proves to be anything but convenient. If you want to use your card at a grocery store, you need to swipe your card then press cancel when it asks for your pin, and then choose credit, and then hop on one leg, and then bake a cake…Okay, those last couple may not be true, but it feels like there’s always another hoop to jump through with this card.
-Angie Picardo, NerdWallet
When I first opened my acct. a couple years back, it started out great. Gradually, as time went on, I noticed the fees were increasing astronomically each time I used my card. The ATM fees are ridiculously high. Then each time you charge with your card, you get another big fee. Those $1.00 and $2.00 fees accumulate quickly. Last month I spent over $30.00 just in fees using the card. Dumping this card immediately. The only good thing about this card is that your money does come a few days quicker, and the customer service has been great each issue I’ve called them on. But, unfortunately that’s not enough to make me want to pay all those fees. It’s just throwing away hard earned money away….
Dean, Consumer Affairs
What other reviewers are saying
There are currently 378 negative NetSpend reviews on Ripoff Report. These complaints mention various problems with the NetSpend card and the company itself, including poor explanation of fees, fund holds, account freezes, unreachable customer service, excessive requests for personal documentation, and unreasonable responses to suspected fraud. These complaints have been posted in relatively equal proportion to one another, which indicates that NetSpend users can generally expect to encounter one or more of these issues. NetSpend does not appear to have publicly responded to most of these complaints.
The Better Business Bureau
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) currently awards NetSpend an “A” rating and accreditation despite the fact that the company has had over 2,400 complaints filed against it in the past three years. Most of these complaints are related to product/service issues, with billing and collection disputes taking a distant second place. NetSpend has successfully resolved 92% of these complaints. The company has also received 28 informal reviews on its BBB profile, 25 of which were negative in tone.
NetSpend Prepaid cards have received a wide range of ratings on other consumer forums, including a five-star average rating on CardHub, a four-star average rating on Consumer Affairs, a two-star average rating on Credit Karma, and 331 complaints on Pissed Consumer.
Judging by the card’s fees alone, NetSpend Prepaid debit cards do not appear to be a preferable alternative to traditional banking accounts, cash, or even other prepaid cards. The $1.00 or $2.00 per-transaction fee charged by the Pay-As-You-Go plan will meet or exceed the monthly fee of the FeeAdvantage plan within just 5-10 transactions, and the $9.95 monthly fee charged by the FeeAdvantage plan is remarkably high for a card that charges users for each reload, has a limited rewards program, and is technically competing with free or low-cost checking accounts. The NetSpend Premier FeeAdvantage plan is slightly preferable to the other two options thanks to its $5 monthly fee and free balance inquiry, but this option requires users to wait for each direct deposit to process before they can access their paychecks or tax refunds.
If you consider additional factors such as the reports of poor customer service and unexplained account freezes, the NetSpend prepaid card loses even more appeal. The company’s complaint totals on Ripoff Report and the BBB are high for a business of any size, and there is generally very little positive feedback from NetSpend users. Overall, after taking into account the NetSpend Prepaid card’s fee structure and user reviews across multiple consumer protection websites, we do not recommend it at this time.
Have you used a NetSpend prepaid debit card? Tell us about your experience in the comment section below: