Netspend is a versatile prepaid debit card with the highest maximum balance of the cards we reviewed. This card has multiple options for loading funds and high withdrawal limits, but there are high fees, and as a result it falls just short of the very best prepaid card options. We have given this card our Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award.
Netspend is available in three different plans: the default Pay-As-You-Go-Plan, the FeeAdvantage Plan and the Netspend Premier FeeAdvantage Plan. You can adjust your plan through Netspend's website. To upgrade to the Premier plan, you need to have a qualifying monthly direct deposit. Netspend cards are available as both MasterCard and VISA cards and can be used anywhere those cards are accepted. Netspend doesn't require a credit check to sign up for the card. This isn't a credit card and won't impair or improve your credit.
Netspend cards have higher fees than other cards we reviewed. The Pay-As-You-Go Plan doesn't have a monthly fee but charges a fee for each transaction you make. The FeeAdvantage Plan does away with the transaction fees for each use, but it requires a high monthly fee. The Premier FeeAdvantage Plan has fewer fees and lowers the monthly cost of using the card, but it requires a monthly direct deposit.
There is also a high fee for ATM withdrawals. Netspend is not part of any ATM network, so you must pay fees anytime you use an ATM. The international withdrawal fee and conversion fees are also high. You are also charged a fee for closing your account, replacing a card or getting paper statements in the mail. To see the current fee amounts, consult the Netspend website. While Netspend advertises that it has locations that do offer free card reloading, a multi-city search in our test area did not reveal any locations that offered free reloading. Most reloading fees in our test area varied between $2 and $4.
Netspend offers an optional overdraft protection program. If you’re enrolled in the program, it charges $15 per transaction that exceeds your account balance. Cardholders who pay for the protection service are allowed three overdrafts, with fees, per month.
Netspend FeeAdvantage Plan
While a basic Pay-As-You-Go Netspend account doesn’t charge a monthly fee, each purchase will cost you a set amount depending on whether you sign for the purchase or use a PIN. You can bypass these fees by enrolling in one of Netspend’s monthly plans. The FeeAdvantage Plan eliminates the per-purchase fees, but you’ll be changed a monthly fee for use of the card. All the other Netspend fees for using ATMs and withdrawing money still apply, but this plan is a good option for cardholders who make more than five or six purchases with the card per month.
Netspend Premier FeeAdvantage Plan
Netspend’s most feature-filled service is called the Netspend Premier FeeAdvantage Plan. This level of service offers similar advantages to the Netspend FeeAdvantage Plan, but the monthly fee is half the cost. However, to qualify for the Netspend Premier level you must have a direct deposit of at least $500 per month that automatically goes into your Netspend card account. Deposited funds can be a regular paycheck or funds from a government benefit program.
The Premier service also offers a $10 cushion where Netspend will potentially cover a lapse in your funds. This doesn’t mean they’re giving you free money, however. Netspend will simply take the $10 out of your next payment to the card; essentially, you’re going into the red but Netspend won’t charge you extra for the overdraft. This service is separate from the overdraft protection service offered by Netspend.
Also included with the Premier plan is the option to upload a picture and create your own custom debit card for no additional fee.
Netspend Reload Options
We rated Netspend high for the funding options it offers. This reloadable debit card allows one of the highest maximum balances of any of the cards we reviewed. It also offers higher withdrawal and deposit limits than other cards. You can add funds to your Netspend card through direct deposit, bank transfers, Western Union and MoneyPak.
In addition to these options, Netspend also has a network of over 100,000 reload centers across the country. Netspend’s network of reload locations lets you bring your prepaid card along with any funds you want to deposit to many pharmacies, convenience stores and other locations. Funds are usually available after 30 minutes.
Reload locations can be found on Netspend’s website or via the app. The locations can be filtered by state, city or zip code, and the app also lists the location’s reload charge.
Different locations charge different fees to load funds on a Netspend card. Fees usually fall between $2 and $4. Depending on the location, you may need to use a kiosk or speak to a clerk or associate to reload your card. Specific reload instructions for each location can be found on Netspend’s website. Because the fees vary, we recommend you take the time to find a reload location that is convenient and offers the lowest fee possible.
Activating Your Netspend Card
To activate your Netspend prepaid debit card, you can visit the Netspend website. From there you’ll be asked to enter your card information, and then you will need to provide your name, address, date of birth and Social Security Number.
Additionally, you can activate your card over the phone if you prefer. You will be required to give the same information you’d provide for activating your card online.
Checking Your Netspend Balance
Netspend offers several ways to check your balance. You can log on to your online account to check your balance for free. Cardholders can also sign up for a free service that Netspend calls Anytime Alerts. This is a text messaging-based system that allows you to receive text messages containing information about your Netspend account. To check the balance of your account, you text “BAL” to the Netspend SMS number and receive your account balance in a reply. Cardholders can also find their balance by calling Netspend’s customer service number. However, calling Netspend to retrieve your balance costs $0.50 per call, so it makes sense to use the SMS service or to check the balance online, if possible.
In addition to checking the balance, the Netspend SMS service can also provide information about the closest reload location to you, information about your last transaction, your account routing and card numbers to help in setting up a direct deposit, details about your last seven deposits and other information. Standard messaging and data rates apply to these alerts, but they offer a quick and easy way to obtain information about your account while on the go.
One of the benefits of Netspend’s prepaid cards is the corresponding Netspend app. The app can be used to cash checks directly to a Netspend card account, to check card balance information, to view a history of card transactions and to send payments directly to other Netspend cardholders. The app can also help you find reload locations where funds can be loaded to a Netspend card. Locations appear on a map, and you can view specific information about each location, including the name of the store or reload location, the phone number and the amount that you will be charged to reload your card. Additionally, you can access and manage your profile and account information through the app. The mobile app is available for both Android and iOS devices on the Google Play Store and on the Apple App Store, respectively.
Mobile Check Deposit
The option to deposit checks using the Netspend app is an important feature. Not only can checks be cashed quickly, right from your phone, but if you use the app, you no longer need to visit a traditional bank to retrieve funds.
To make a mobile deposit, you will need to be in a well-lit area to take quality pictures of the front and back of the check, then you’ll verify the amount of the check in the app. You then choose whether you want to pay a fee to have your funds available within a few minutes. Without the fee, you’ll wait up to 10 days for the deposit to be available on your card. After submitting the deposit request, you will receive an email letting you know that the check has been approved and that the check amount is either on its way to your account or that it will be available within 10 days.
Additionally, tax refunds can be directly deposited into your account by using your Netspend routing number and account number during tax preparation. This information is available in the Netspend app or online in your account information. Directly depositing your tax refund is a simple way to obtain tax refunds without having to wait to receive a paper check in the mail.
Transferring from One Account to Another
One of the benefits of having a Netspend account is the ability to quickly transfer funds to other Netspend card users. Netspend calls this FlashPay. For instance, if you and a group of friends went out for lunch and you want to send some money to a friend who picked up the bill, you could open the Netspend app and easily choose to send your friend money from your available balance, provided your friend had a Netspend account, as well. Funds can be transferred by using the app or by logging on to your Netspend Online Account Center.
FlashPay also promises the ability to transfer money between accounts at different financial institutions. This means you could transfer money from your bank to your Netspend prepaid card. With FlashPay you can also accept payments from others with Netspend accounts and have those funds transferred to your prepaid debit card.
Netspend offers customer service through email and phone, as well as through a detailed FAQs section on its webpage. The customer service phone number isn’t available 24/7, but it does have Saturday and Sunday hours if you need help during the weekend. The FAQs section on the Netspend website walks through common questions about getting started and setting up your account, adding money to your account and using your card. The questions also walk through topics such as direct deposit, federal tax deposits and sending money between Netspend accounts. For the most part, these FAQs are short and to the point, and they direct you to helpful pages elsewhere on Netspend’s website where you can get further information.
Netspend is a prepaid debit card that offers several different plans. The best of these is the Premier FeeAdvantage Plan, which requires you to direct deposit a certain amount of money in the account each month. Netspend stands out from the other cards we reviewed with its high maximum balance and withdrawal limits. It has strong features but high fees, particularly when using ATMs.