I‘ve reviewed a lot of prepaid cards here on the Dough Roller. I’ve done that for two main reasons: (1) prepaid cards are a growing market as people look for alternatives to traditional banks and credit cards, and (2) there is still a lot of confusion concerning how these cards work, particularly when it comes to fees. Normally, I give prepaid cards a good or bad review based on fees alone. In the case of the READYdebit prepaid card, however, there’s a lot more to consider.
The READYdebit Card is a prepaid Visa card that offers direct deposit of paychecks and benefits checks, online bill pay, and ATM withdraws. While these features are nice, most prepaid cards offer the same features. What sets READYdebit apart, however, is that it also provides account holders with their credit score and gives them the opportunity to apply for a traditional credit card. At the same time, the READYdebit card is not the cheapest prepaid credit card available. Let’s take a look at each of these features and fees.
There are a variety of ways to load funds to the card, some are free and some charge a fee. You can use direct deposit, add cash or make a transfer. For the most part, these options and fees are consistent with just about any prepaid card.
Direct Deposit: Using direct deposit is free and the best way to add money to the card. You can have your pay check or government funded check automatically deposited to the account each pay day. This allows you to get access to your money immediately, and you avoid costly check cashing fees. You can also use this card to receive your income tax return. To sign up for direct deposit, you fill out the direct deposit form and give it to your employer or benefits provider.
Add Cash: You have two options when it comes to adding cash – you can use a MoneyPak or use Visa Ready Link. You have to buy a MoneyPak from a store that carries it, such as Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Rite Aid or RadioShack. The MoneyPak typically costs $4.95 plus the amount you want to add to the card. You can then transfer the funds from the MoneyPak to your READYdebit card online. To use Visa Ready Link, you have to locate a store that displays the Visa Ready Link symbol and pay the cashier the amount you want loaded. Both are easy ways to add cash to your prepaid account, but both have fees associated with them.
Transfers: You can transfer money to your READYdebit card from an existing bank account of from another READYdebit card. These are both free services.
Now let’s turn to some of the unique features of the READYdebit card. Score Tracker is available to all READYdebit customers who are signed up for direct deposit. It provides your credit score for you and helps you determine how to improve your score. As you can see from the screenshot, below, Score Tracker does provide helpful information to better understand your credit score and how to raise it.
Score Tracker is free, but only for those who use direct deposit. If you don’t use direct deposit, there are other ways to get the same information for free, such as from Credit Karma or Credit Sesame.
Prepaid cards often get a bad wrap for having high fees (and rightly so). The best thing to do when considering a prepaid card is to take a look at the fees and see how they will affect you. Many fees can be avoided based on how you use the card, but some cannot. That’s why it’s important to compare the fees, along with the other perks of the cards to determine if it’s a right fit for you.
You can see the READYdebit fee table in the screen shot below. There are a few things to note regarding their fee structure. First, there are three different cards you can choose from and each card works differently when it comes to the fees. Second, you want to consider how you plan on using the card because that can determine which is the best card for you.
In the end, READYdebit’s fees are reasonable, but as I mentioned above, not the cheapest.
How To Apply
You can apply for the READYdebit card by completing an online application. Since there are no credit requirements, the application form is pretty simple and doesn’t require much information. The only real criteria for obtaining a card is that you have to be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen. Your credit history is not a factor in getting approved. You can visit the READYdebit website if you are interested in applying for or learning more about the card.
Published or updated January 29, 2012.