Update: The UPside Prepaid Visa is no longer available. However, the no fee American Express® Serve is an excellent alternative.
While 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 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.