The Green Dot® Gold Prepaid Visa® or MasterCard® is arguably the most widely used prepaid card today. You’ve likely seen the Green Dot card for sale at pharmacies, grocery stores, and even Walmart. The Green Dot® Prepaid MasterCard® is offered by Green Dot, a publicly traded company (NYSE:GDOT), and it sells about 1.5 million new prepaid cards every quarter. So it’s big. But is its prepaid card good?
To evaluate any prepaid debit card, there are two key factors to consider: (1) Features, and (2) fees. These aren’t the only factors. Customer service can be important if you tend to call your card company a lot. But features and fees are what set most cards apart, for better or worse.
Green Dot Features
Green Dot’s features are pretty basic. You can use the card anywhere that accepts MasterCard or Visa debit. The card can be used to make purchases online and to pay bills that accept debit cards (e.g., cell phone bill). And because of its large network of ATM machines, you can withdrawal money from your account at many ATMs without paying a fee. Free ATM withdrawals are arguably the most important reason to consider the Green Dot card.
You can also load the card with direct deposit. With direct deposit you get access to your paycheck faster and don’t have to pay check cashing fees (a reality for many unbanked). You can also use direct deposit for government benefits checks or tax refunds.
There are, however, a few features Green Dot doesn’t offer. First, it doesn’t offer any type of cash back rewards. While rewards are rare among prepaid cards, there are some cash back prepaid cards available. Second, Green Dot doesn’t offer a linked high interest savings account. While most prepaid card users don’t want a savings account, a few do. If you fall into this category, you may want to consider the ACE EliteTM Visa® Prepaid Card.
Green Dot Fees
The fees associated with Green Dot prepaid credit cards depend in part on how the card is used. For example, as noted above, withdrawals from ATMs within the Green Dot network are free, while a small fee applies to use an out of network ATM. In addition, the cost to buy a Green Dot card at a store is $4.95, but there is no fee if you get the card online. Also, if you make 30 purchases or more in any month or load at least $1,000 onto the card each month, the $5.95 monthly fee is waived.
Green Dot also offers what it calls a MoneyPak. A MoneyPak gives you the ability to load cash onto a Green Dot card (or any prepaid card for that matter). There is a lot of confusion over how MoneyPak works, so here are the details:
- You buy a MoneyPak card at a retailer. The cost of the card typicall is $4.95 + the amount of money you want to load onto a prepaid card. So if you wanted to put $50 on a prepaid card, the MoneyPak would cost $54.95.
- The MoneyPak has a unique code on the back. With this code, you can then go to https://www.moneypak.com/ and use the unique code to add the money you placed on the MoneyPak to your prepaid card.
As you can tell, there is a cost to add cash to your card. If you think you’ll be adding a lot of cash to your card, you may want to consider the Walmart MoneyCard(SM) MasterCard® Prepaid Card. It is actually a branded Green Dot card with one big advantage–you can load cash on the card at any Walmart store.
Green Dot Complaints
The Green Dot card has been the subject of numerous consumer complaints. If you search for complaints, you’ll find dozens of websites with people complaining about every company or product on earth. I generally ignore these sites. But one site I don’t ignore is the Better Business Bureau (BBB). While the BBB isn’t perfect in its ratings, it’s probably as good as you’ll find. While Green Dot has an ‘A+’ rating with the BBB, it also has a lot of complaints.
Here’s what the BBB has to say about these complaints:
Complainants allege difficulty activating cards, or that reload amounts are not credited to their card as agreed. Some customers complain they are initially unable to activate their cards due to invalid activation numbers, or other complications. Other customers complain they experience problems or delays with having re-load amounts credited to their cards, complaining of excessive delays, or that amounts are lost or miss-posted. In some cases, complainants report the company asks for proof of the re-load amount paid, before the amount can be credited or refunded, causing financial hardships for the cardholder. In some cases, complainants report they are unable to speak with anyone who is capable of resolving a problem, or that the company fails to return calls. The company responds to most complaints by offering apologies for delays, activating cards, or posting re-load amounts. In some cases, the company offered additional credits or refund amounts to compensate customers for inconveniences, delays or problems.
With those complaints, one has to wonder how Green Dot has an ‘A+’ rating. Here’s the BBB explanation of the factors that have raised the rating:
- Length of time business has been operating
- Complaint volume filed with BBB for business of this size
- Response to complaint(s) filed against business
- Resolution of complaint(s) filed against business
- BBB has sufficient background information on this business
I’ve actually used the Green Dot card and had no problems. But it’s always important to consider the good and the bad before picking a card.
The Greed Dot Prepaid Reloadable MasterCard is one of the best prepaid credit cards available to consumers today in terms of cost and features. To sign-up or get more details, visit the secure application page for the Green Dot® Prepaid MasterCard® .
Published or updated November 5, 2012.