As prepaid credit cards become a realistic banking alternative, more consumer-friendly cards become available. And by consumer-friendly I mean prepaid cards with little or no fees. As prepaid cards eliminate fees, they become a better alternative to high fee bank accounts. And that brings me to the Western Union MoneyWise prepaid card.
When I think of Western Union, I don’t think of a prepaid card. Instead, I think of a service that allows you to send money to friends and family. But somewhere along the way, Western Union decided to get into the prepaid credit card business. And its MoneyWise prepaid card is extremely-consumer friendly, starting with fees.
Western Union MoneyWise Fees
MoneyWise is about as free a prepaid card as you can find. There are no fees to get the card, no monthly maintenance fees, and no fees to use the card. In fact, the only fees the card charges relate to ATM usage, an inactivity fee, and when you load cash (more about that in a moment). Here’s a list of fees from the MoneyWise website:
One of the benefits of using a prepaid card is that it automatically tracks your spending. We do the same thing with a rewards credit card. In the case of the MoneyWise card, you can track your balance and spending online. Using a smartphone, you can also track card activity via email or text messages. While I don’t normally keep track to that level of detail, text messages are ideal if you are letting your teenager use the card.
Reloading the Western Union Card
Almost every prepaid card can be loaded either with direct deposit or bank transfer. The Western Union card is no exception. Because of Western Union’s physical locations, however, it also offers two other loading options that most cards don’t have.
First, you can load the card with a Western Union money transfer. In this way, friends or family can wire money directly to your card in an emergency. Second, you can load cash onto the card at any Western Union location. Loading cash onto any prepaid card comes with a fee ($4.95 in this case), so it’s not the ideal way to reload a card. But in an emergency, it’s good to know that the option is available.
Is Your Money Safe?
The other day a reader emailed me to ask if money on a prepaid card is safe. I’ll publish a more detailed post on this question later. But with the MoneyWise card, it comes with MasterCard’s Zero Liability Policy. Here are the details:
MasterCard’s Zero Liability Policy covers U.S.-issued cards only and does not apply to the cost of replacing the card, ATM transactions, PIN transactions not processed by MasterCard, or certain commercial card transactions. Cardholder must notify issuer promptly of any unauthorized use. Consult issuer for additional details or visit www.mastercard.com/general/zero_liability.html. Refer to Cardholder Agreement for fees on card use, replacement and card account closure. Certain conditions and exceptions apply.
What Not to Like
The MoneyWise card is not perfect. While I love its low fees, it lacks some of the banking features that say the UPside card has. So, for example, if you want to use a prepaid card to pay bills online or even write checks, the MoneyWise card is not for you.
Published or updated November 24, 2012.