In today’s age of modern technology where online shopping abounds and even in-store transactions are done with the swipe of a card one can feel left out if you don’t have a debit or credit card to use.
While credit cards have their advantages, they also have their pitfalls and for that reason many people wish to avoid them. Debit cards are typically attached to a checking account, but there are quite a few people who are unable to open a checking account either due to bad credit history, living paycheck-to-paycheck with nothing left to deposit or other reasons.
For those of you who choose to bypass credit cards and do not have a debit card, there are the Reloadable Debit Cards, sometimes called Prepaid Debit Cards. There are plenty of these cards to choose from. You need to find the one that is most convenient to your location.
For instance, Wal-Mart offers a reloadable debit card which you can purchase for about $9 at the Customer Service Counter. The card itself is a Visa Debit Card issued by GE Money Bank but is administered by Green Dot. Once you activate the card you will be sent a personalized card that looks exactly like any other Debit Card. Personally I have been using Wal-Mart’s card for almost a year and a half and find it very handy.
To load money onto the card all you have to do is take it to the Wal-Mart Customer Service desk and give the clerk the card and the cash amount you want placed on the card. There is a $3 fee for each time you load a balance onto the card. You can avoid that fee by cashing your paycheck at the Wal-Mart counter and having it loaded directly onto the card. This is very beneficial if you already use Wal-Mart’s paycheck cashing service which also costs $3 per transaction. Note that you can have a specific amount kept off the card and given to you in cash. It’s almost as good as taking your check to a bank.
After placing a load transaction it only takes a matter of minutes for the cash to be available on your card. Once you have a balance, you can use the card anywhere debit or credit cards are accepted, including online stores, retail stores, bill payments and ATMs. The only place it cannot be used is at the gas pump. You can, however, use it to pay for your gas inside at the counter.
The Wal-Mart Money Card offers convenient account access online as well as the ability to receive balance updates via text message (SMS).
Another available card is the Emerald Card from H&R Block. If you have your taxes prepared by H&R Block, they will give you the option to place your refund on an Emerald Debit Card. If you opt for an Emerald Advance, (advance refund) that will be placed on and Emerald Debit Card.
The Emerald Card works much like the Wal-Mart card but it is a MasterCard Debit Card and is not quite as convenient to load. In order to place funds on the card you have to go to a MoneyGram counter (which, incidentally, Wal-Mart is one), and fill out one of the Quick Collect (blue) forms. Give this form and the cash to the clerk and they will have to process it just like a regular MoneyGram transaction, which can take a few minutes. The fees are the same, $3 to load.
There are a couple of advantages that the Emerald MasterCard Debit has over the Wal-Mart Visa Debit card. One is that you can process larger cash advance transactions. While these type are rare (most debit transactions are not considered cash advances) it can cause problems. For example, if you need to pay a large bill via Western Union online and you attempt to use the Wal-Mart card it will not work for any amount over $500 because Western Union transactions are processed as cash advances. The Emerald Card works just fine with Western Union online.
Another advantage is that the Emerald Card is attached to a savings account that you can deposit money into by simply calling the Emerald Customer Service number. Over a year ago the interest percentage being paid on that savings account was the highest I had seen in comparison to my other accounts.
You can access your Emerald Card account online, but as of yet, it does not offer SMS or Text message alerts.
It has been a while since I’ve used my Emerald card, but if I remember correctly, you could not use this one at the gas pump either. Everywhere else though, it works just like a credit or debit card.
One of the nicest things about using a reloadable debit card is that it will not allow you to spend more than you have. Unlike debit cards attached to checking accounts which often have some leeway where they allow you to overdraft up to a specific amount, the reloadable debits only allow you to spend what balance you have on the card. Once that money is gone, your card will be refused until you put more money on it.
I highly recommend using a reloadable debit card to anyone who has wanted a card for fast retail transactions, online shopping or bill payments. They are easy to use, more fail-safe than checking accounts, and can be used anywhere normal debit card or credit cards are accepted.