One of my 2014 resolutions is to get my finances in order. I’m not in debt, not by a long stretch, but I do know that I spend a lot of my disposable income on unnecessary and silly things. Last year, I made over $30,000 in credit card charges (mostly gas, car insurance, etc). This year, I want to better manage it, and keep more of my disposable income, and only use the credit cards for absolutely-last-minute needs.
One issue is that I rarely, if ever, carry cash – or at least enough to last me a few weeks before hitting up the ATM machine. So I decided that the best way to handle this is to get a prepaid debit card and load money on there. I do not, under no circumstances, use my debit card for any purchases except at bank-branded ATM machines. If the ATM machine is not physically attached to the bank, I wont use it. I’m very caution of using my debit card at ATM machines (even asked my bank if I could have a regular ATM card and not a debit card, but they said no – oh well).
Prepaid debit cards, for the most part, offer a great convenience in controlling your spending, but if you are not careful, you might end up getting billed for maintenance and “unnecessary” fees by the provider. The first card I looked into, was the American Express Serve. It offers a lot of great features, such as mobile check deposits, great online portal, great app to manage balances and expenses, and of course, it’s through American Express. The problem? The fees. $1 a month fee, unless you have direct deposit setup, add $500 or more to your account, or have their Isis Mobile Wallet app (Androids only). Sure, I’d be looking at $12 or less a year in fees, but still, who wants to pay fees?
I looked at Visa, Master Card, even the “Green Dot” prepaid debit card. Fees, fees and more fees. It’s ridiculous.
Then I remembered that Google launched their Prepaid Debit Card in November, called the Google Wallet Card. I’ll say it now: This is the best prepaid debit card on the market. Why? No fees. No ATM fee (except where the ATM owner charges a fee), no monthly fees, no minimums, nothing. If you fund your card through a credit card, then you are subject to transaction charges, but funding through a bank account carries no fees. For most users who are verified, the amount they transfer will show up immediately in their Google Wallet account to be used.
I know that PayPal offers their own Prepaid Mastercard, with additional benefits like a saving account and also no fees. But I’m not really that trustworthy of PayPal (not that I trust Google any more…).
If you’re looking for a prepaid debit card, I encourage you to consider the Google Wallet card. Since there are no fees, you have nothing to lose. Plus, it’s easy to transfer the money back to your bank account if you aren’t satisfied.
Here’s a nice chart comparing prepaid debit cards, including fees and features:
Edit – 2/8/2014:
Friend just told me about Bluebird by American Express. It’s fee-less as well. Might be a good option for those who are not comfortable with Google.