UPside Prepaid Visa Card Review

Update: The UPside Prepaid Visa is no longer available. However, the no fee American Express Serve® is an excellent alternative.
UPside Prepaid Visa Card BigWhile I’m guessing you don’t spend your free time evaluating the prepaid credit card industry, there is one organization that does. Called PayBefore.com (you pay before you use the card), it hands out annual awards to the best prepaid paid offers in various categories. In 2011, the winner of the best consumer-friendly prepaid card went to the UPside Prepaid Visa card.

While some prepaid cards hit you with tons of fees, the folks behind the UPside card have taken a different approach. In fact, the UPside card has some of the lowest fees available among all prepaid card offers. While it’s not a completely free prepaid credit card, it comes very close. And because it offers a ton of features, I thought it was worth reviewing. Here are the card’s pros and cons in a nutshell:

Pros: Low cost, no credit check, free direct deposit, write personal checks online, earn cash back points, no activation fee.

Cons: Monthly maintenance fee of $2.99 (but only $0.99 each month you load at least $500 on the card).

The Basics

The UPside Visa is a reloadable prepaid credit card (sometimes called a prepaid debit card). As with all reloadable cards, you first load money onto the card. Once loaded, you can use the card anywhere that accepts Visa.

There are several ways to load money onto the card:

  • Direct Deposit: You can have your paycheck or benefits check deposited directly on to the UPside card for free. This is the easiest and cheapest way to load the card, and it avoids expensive checking cashing fees you may be paying now.
  • Load Cash: You can load cash onto the card by using a Green Dot MoneyPak. MoneyPaks can be purchased at many retailers, but there is a fee that is typically about $4.95.
  • Bank Transfer: The UPside Visa can be loaded through a transfer from a bank checking or savings account.
  • Load from Another UPside Card: If a friend or family member also has an UPside card, you can easily transfer funds between the two cards.
  • From a Credit Card: You can also load the card with a credit card. This option, however, is only available to cardholders who have used the card for at least three months and receive direct deposit of $1,000 or more each month.

The maximum balance you can have on the card at any one time is $10,000.

Earn Cash Back Points

UPside also offers cash back points that can be used to add additional funds to your card. There are several ways to earn cash back points:

  • Earn 500 points when activating your card online
  • Earn 1000 points when you sign-up for direct deposit
  • Earn points worth up to 15% in cash back when shopping online at leading online retailers through the UPside mall
  • Earn 3 points per dollar spent on prepaid cell phone service purchases

You can redeem 2,000 points and receive $20 credited directly to your card.

Student UPside Visa Card

UPside offers a special version of its card designed specifically for students. The card is a great option for college students who don’t want to risk going into debt with a credit card. The features are similar to the standard UPside card, but also include options such as parental controls. Here are the features of the student version of the card:

  • Full parental control. Safer than cash.
  • Parents can load the card online from their own credit card or checking account.
  • Instant online funding, great for emergencies when your child is away from home.
  • If your child is in high school, you can set allowances and monitor his/her spending online. Also perfect if he/she is traveling without you.
  • If your child is already in college, he/she can receive free direct deposits from an employer, write checks and most importantly stay out of debt.
  • Only $4.95 a month or $0.99 if a minimum amount of $500 is loaded to the card each month.

For more details, check out the UPside Student Card website.

Getting the UPside Card

To get the UPside card, it takes just a few minutes to fill out a secure online form. You can find the form and get more information about the card at the UPside Visa website.

Published or Updated: April 2, 2013
About Rob Berger

Rob founded the Dough Roller in 2007. A litigation attorney in the securities industry, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, their two teenagers, and the family mascot, a shih tzu named Sophie.

Comments

  1. Bob says:

    Stay far away from this one.

    No free ATM transactions as the better cards have, $1.95 plus whatever the surcharge is from the ATM owner. 99 cents to use the IVR and $3 to speak to a live person. 99 cents a month no matter how much you use or load on the card.

    I can’t make heads or tails of what this means from their fee schedule. Is there a fee for transactions over $60? or after 15 transactions per month?

    POS Free. Up to $60/transaction; 15 transactions/month.

    www. ibankup.com/Terms-Conditions/iBank-UPside-Card-Cardholder-Agreement.aspx#feeTable

    • DR says:

      Bob, it looks like you’ve linked to the iBankUP card, not the UPside card. They are related, but I’m not sure the terms are identical. Also, you can always get cash back for free at stores when you make a purchase, rather than using an ATM.

      • Bob says:

        The terms and conditions are exactly the same but good try.

        http://www.upsidecard.com/TC.aspx?skin=life

        I read them – Have you?

        No comment on what this means below? It certainly looks like a transaction over $60 is accompanied by a mystery fee as would the 16th monthly transaction. If that’s wrong please inform us what that means. It’s in the terms and conditions under fees so it means something.

        POS Free. Up to $60/transaction; 15 transactions/month.

        Yeah, I know you can get cash back at a POS but that’s limited usually to $100 less the purchase which is required by the store. So you have to go to four or five stores and buy things to avoid the fees and get the cash that they allow from an ATM for $4 or $5 (their fee plus the ATM surcharge).

        Why should anyone that needs to use a prepaid card be a second class citizen when there are several cards with completely free ATM transactions? Some also allow unlimited access to your funds at the ATM for no fee at all. Plastyc users are limited to $500 a day.

        Are you really defending a $3 fee to speak to a customer service rep? or 99 cents to use the IVR? Come on.

        One last nail in the coffin for this is that it is issued by MetaBank which prepaid providers are dumping like a load of trash left and right. NetSpend dumped them, BankFreedom dumped them after Federal Banking regulators began an investigation into their crooked practices.

        It does not have some of the lowest fees among prepaid cards. That’s a hollow statement with no research behind it.

        I can name several much better cards. Why would anyone consider a card with higher fees and more restrictions plus mystery terms? This is not like shopping for a car here. Given a person’s situation certain cards are better but this is not on the short list.

        • DR says:

          Bob, first you are correct that the fees are the same. My mistake. Turning now to the points you’ve raised:

          1. “POS Free. Up to $60/transaction; 15 transactions/month” refers to limits on getting cash back at retailers. You’ll notice that this limitation comes under the heading of ATM in the fee schedule.

          2. Limitations on cash back at POS is common. If ATM usage is important to you, I agree that there are better options. Green Dot comes to mind which offers free ATM usage at select ATMs nationwide.

          3. “unlimited access to your funds at the ATM” Can you let us know what cards you are referring to here. Many cards can be loaded up to $10,000. I’m sure readers would like to know which ones actually allow you to withdraw up to $10,000 a day from an ATM, even if that’s a feature virtually nobody would ever use.

          4. “Are you really defending a $3 fee to speak to a customer service rep? or 99 cents to use the IVR? Come on.” I’m not defending the card one way or another. I would note that email support is free. Also, the question isn’t just fees, but whether you’ll use the card in a way that will generate the fee. I’ve had a prepaid card for over a year and never called customer service or incurred an IVR fee.

          5. Metabank–this has nothing to do with a consumer’s like or dislike of the card. It’s totally irrelevant. The funds are FDIC insured. There certainly are good reasons for prepaid cards to use a different bank, but it doesn’t affect consumers.

          6. “It does not have some of the lowest fees among prepaid cards. That’s a hollow statement with no research behind it.” Not true. I’ve researched dozens of cards and followed them for about three years now. You can get the card for free, it costs just $0.99 a month with direct deposit, and purchase transactions are free. Is it the lowest cost card out there? No. Mango MasterCard takes that honor. But it certainly falls on the low cost end of the spectrum. In the end, however, the actual cost depends on how somebody will use the card.

          7. “I can name several much better cards.” Bob, you’ve obviously spent a lot of time researching prepaid cards. So tell us which ones you think are the best.

  2. Hi,

    I am the CEO of the company that manages the UPside Visa prepaid card and the iBankUP portal.
    Evidently, we are not doing the best job at clarifying what the fees are.

    We are indeed encouraging people to avoid cash withdrawal fees by asking for cash back at stores that do this. Most stores will not give more than $60 back; not our policy, but theirs.

    We do charge an ATM fee. The ATM networks themselves are also charging their own fees, with a few hard-to-find exceptions. We are currently working on identifying surcharge-free ATM networks that we can direct our cardholders to; this will take a few more months.

    We stand behind our assertion that our fees are among the lowest. We charge no activation fee and $2.99 / month that we discount down to $0.99 /month when the card is used for more than $500 (which is typically the case with direct deposits).
    Compare this to $3 activation and $3 monthly for the Walmart MoneyCard. Or $4.95 per month for most other prepaid cards.

    We have just put up an interactive fee calculator on our http://www.iBankUP.com website (click below the savings counter) where you can enter your typical usage patterns and see how much you will be charged during a whole year, and can compare this with our direct competition and average checking accounts. Try it and less us know what you think. The math behind the calculator are explained in details as well for all to see.

    Finally, you can probably find some credit unions that will give you free prepaid cards (or free checking accounts). These are non-for-profit organization that get funded differently than a normal business. If you are in the neighborhood of such a credit union, you should definitely try them out.
    Let us know how their features compare to ours and whether our fees are justified or not.

    Patrice Peyret

  3. Willie Smith says:

    im tryin to get started

Speak Your Mind

*