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GoBank Checking Fee: Pay What You Want

GoBank logoHow much would you pay for your bank account if it was left up to you?

Green Dot, the big prepaid card issuer, is about to find out, following the launch of its new mobile bank account, called GoBank.

There is no monthly fee, unless you choose to pay one.

That’s right, GoBank asks for a voluntary “monthly membership fee” ranging from nothing to $9, based on what you think is fair.

There are no ATM fees if you use one of the bank’s more than 40,000 in-network machines, which the company says is twice as many as those at Chase and Bank of America.

There’s a built-in application at www.gobank.com to help you locate nearby in-network ATMs.

In fact, there are just a few potential fees:

  • If you use an out-of-network ATM, there is a $2.50 charge for withdrawals and a $1 balance inquiry fee.
  • If you use the card in a foreign country, there is a 3% foreign currency transaction fee. But if you only use it in the U.S., there are no transaction fees.
  • If you want a customized debit card with your photo, GoBank will charge you $9.

That’s basically it.

Indeed, there are no overdraft fees, no penalty fees and no minimum balance requirements. That really sets it apart from traditional bank accounts.

Regarding overdraft, GoBank’s deposit agreement says the bank could reject a transaction if you don’t have enough money in your account or create a negative balance, which would be covered by subsequent deposits.

Unlike American Express’ new Bluebird card, which it most closely approximates, GoBank isn’t a prepaid card but an actual bank account operated by the company’s own FDIC-insured bank, Green Dot Bank.

Instead of a prepaid card, you get a Visa-branded debit card at no charge. It deducts money from your checking account when you make a purchase.

Sending money to other people or paying bills is simple and also free.

Members can pay any company or person online or on their phone through email, text message or a private Facebook notification, even if the recipient isn’t a member. If the person or company doesn’t accept electronic payments, GoBank mails a paper check to the recipient.

Here’s a look at the details of Green Dot’s GoBank account:

Monthly fee Free; you may voluntarily pay up to $9 a month to show your satisfaction.
ATM fees Free at more than 40,000 ATMs; $2.50 for withdrawals and $1 for balance inquiries at out-of-network machines.
Other features Includes both a debit and savings account. Customized prepaid card costs $9; free for a standard card. 3% foreign transaction fee; no fees if used in U.S. Ability to send money and pay bills, even to nonmembers and those unable to accept electronic payments.
Verdict If you have a smartphone and don’t need a brick-and-mortar bank, you can hardly go wrong with GoBank.

To deposit money into the account, you can direct-deposit paychecks, federal benefits or tax returns, transfer money from an existing bank account or deposit checks electronically by taking a photo of the check with your phone’s camera.

You can also deposit cash at select Green Dot retail partner locations nationwide, including Walmart, for a fee.

There aren’t any fees for moving money between the debit account and the Money Vault, which is the pseudo-savings account portion of GoBank. Other banks, by contrast, charge a fee if you make too many transfers between your savings and checking account.

GoBank was launched in mid-January in limited release; general availability is scheduled for later this year.

GoBank isn’t for everybody.

As Green Dot says, GoBank is “designed from the ground up to be the bank account for the smartphone generation.”

So, if you don’t have a smartphone or feel more comfortable dealing with a brick-and-mortar bank rather than one existing only in cyberspace, plus you want to have the ability to write paper checks, GoBank is probably not for you.

If you use your bank account as a safe investment, this isn’t for you either. GoBank accounts are not interest-bearing.

For all others, however, GoBank seems to cover all the basics you would want in a bank account, including a debit card, the ability to pay bills and send money, save and budget your money, all for free — unless you think it’s worth more than that.

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