If you’ve been paying attention the last 5 years, you will notice that there is a growing proliferation of prepaid debit cards in the country. It used to be dominated by prepaid brands like the Rush Card, Vanilla Visa Card, Netspend and the Walmart Moneycard. However, lately, banks are also entering the space, with Chase, Citibank and Wells Fargo all offering their own branded reloadable debit cards. Other new entrants include the Bluebird Card by American Express, which they launched in partnership with Walmart. Another popular one is the Green Dot card. Here are three things you should know about these prepaids.
The first thing you should know about these bank issued cards is that they can either be reloadable or non-reloadable. With the non-reloadable ones, after you add money to it the first time, you cannot top it or reload it even if you wanted to. Once the funds you added when you purchased the prepaid card are used up, the card is worthless. These types of cards are great for short term needs, like travel expenses, holiday shopping to help you stay on budget or as a surprise allowance for your high school or college student to use. It may also be given as gifts for any occasion, including birthdays, house warming parties and anytime you want to give someone money but don’t want to give them cash because you may think it is insensitive.
The reloadable prepaid come in may forms. Most are issued by banks and aimed at the general public, especially people in unbanked communities. That is why prepaid cards like the Walmart American Express Bluebird Card have been very successful because they are aimed at people without traditional checking accounts or debit cards. However, reloadable prepaid debit cards are also issued by the government to pay benefits. States use them to pay unemployment benefits and child support payments under the Eppicard prepaid debit card program. They are also used to pay snap benefits, under what is called the EBT program. Most of these EBT Debit cards are issued by banks on behalf of the states that run the programs. Eligible beneficiaries apply for the programs through their appropriate state agencies, then once they are approved for food assistance, then they are issued prepaid debit cards called EBT cards. Then their monthly benefit payments are automatically deposited on the card at the due date for their convenience and they can use the card anywhere the card issuer’s cards are accepted, just like a regular debit card is used.