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Verdict: The Green Dot Prepaid Card is a convenient way to make online purchases or to avoid carrying cash for transactions if you don’t have a bank account or a credit card. However, the card’s limitations, along with the $5.95 monthly fee whether or not you use the card, makes it an expensive choice. Other options, such as a Paypal debit card or simply opening a checking account at a bank or credit union and getting a debit card, make more financial sense.
Let’s define the Green Dot Prepaid card, first, by what it is NOT. It is not:
- A debit card
- A credit card
- A gift card
Instead, the Green Dot card is simply a pre-paid MasterCard or Visa card. You load it up with cash, and then can use it to make purchases anywhere MasterCard or Visa is accepted, and to withdraw money from an ATM. You’ll pay $2.50 for out-of-network ATM withdrawals, plus any fees the ATM owners may charge, as well.
Note: If you use the card to rent a car, the rental agency may still put a hold on funds beyond the cost of the rental car; it is treated as a debit card by rental car agencies.
You can order a Green Dot card online or purchase one at Pharmacy, Rite Aid, Kroger, Radio Shack, or Walgreens. The temporary card that comes with your in-store purchase will not have your name on it and cannot be used for ATM withdrawals. Within 7 to 10 business days, you will receive your official, full-featured Green Dot prepaid card, which you must then activate. You can transfer the funds you loaded on your temporary card onto your permanent card. Once you receive and activate your permanent card, your temporary card will no longer work.
Like most pre-paid cards, Green Dot offers several options to load money onto the card.
- Direct deposit
- Purchasing a MoneyPak from a participating retailer
- Reloading online directly from your bank
Service fees apply if you reload using a MoneyPak or online without using direct deposit. When you sign up for Direct Deposit, you can choose to upload any amount from a paycheck, state government check, pension check or other forms of payment. However, if you are direct depositing federal benefit checks, including Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Veterans Benefits or Federal Civil Service, you must deposit the entire amount of the check. You can always cancel direct deposit at any time.
- Purchase Fee: $4.95 at most retailers and online
- Monthly Charge: $5.95 unless you maintain a $1,000 balance (the balance limit is $2,500) or make 30 transactions in the month
- Non-network ATM withdrawal: $2.50
- Teller cash advance: $2.50
- Non-network ATM balance inquiry: $0.50
- Replacement Card: $4.95
- Overnight FedEx Delivery of Card or Replacement Card: $19.95
- Non-direct deposit re-load: up to $4.95
- Second card: $4.95
- No credit check or bank account required means virtually anyone can get a card
- Card is as safe as a credit card for online shopping
- Card is more secure than cash, since it cannot be used by anyone but you
- No charge to load money onto card via direct deposit
- No overdraft fees
- 18,000 ATMs nationwide let you withdraw money for free
- Card does not build your credit score or credit history
- $5.95 monthly service charge unless you keep $1,000 on the card or make 30 transactions in a month
- No perks or rewards such as you might get with a credit card
- $4.95 charge to load card if not using direct deposit
- Difficult to cancel direct deposit — must do it through the issuer, not Green Dot