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Government Gets It Right With Debit Card

We have a possible new champion of pre-paid debit cards — if it eventually becomes available to everyone.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury has partnered with Green Dot Corp. to offer the MyAccountCard Visa Prepaid Debit Card.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury has partnered with Green Dot Corp. to offer the MyAccountCard Visa Prepaid Debit Card

For now, this card is available only to the 600,000 families — who may not have a bank account — invited to participate in the pilot tax refund program. The government will examine the feasibility of offering the card to more people.

Instead of a refund check, the government will place the money on the pre-paid debit card, putting the cash in the taxpayer’s hands quicker than if the refund came by mail.

This is a good option for people who might otherwise seek a refund anticipation loan, which can carry up to 400% in fees and interest.

Once the money is used, the cardholder can re-load, and continue using the card — with lower fees than we’ve seen on similar products.

Here’s what’s free:

  • The card itself
  • ATM withdrawals from 15,000 participating locations
  • Transactions with U.S. merchants
  • Cash back on purchases
  • Online bill pay
  • Balance inquires online, by phone, text and at in-network ATMs
  • Deposits via direct deposit

You even get 0.25% yield on your savings. That’s more than I’m getting on the money in my checking account.

Here’s what you pay for:

  • Replacing the card costs $4.95, as does getting a second card and adding money in person at a retail location (Walgreens, Walmart, CVS, 7-Eleven, Kmart and Rite Aid are among the 50,000 locations.).
  • If you hit an out-of-network ATM or make a withdrawal from a teller, it will cost $2.50 plus whatever the owner of the ATM charges. Balance inquiries at out-of-network ATMs will cost you $0.50.
  • If you use the card outside the U.S., you’ll pay 3% of the transaction as a fee. Depending on what kind of pilot program you were offered, the card comes with a monthly fee of up to $4.95, though some cards have no fee.

The card is issued by Bonneville Bank, so deposits are FDIC insured.

This card is simply a good deal.

But it also has the endorsement of the National Consumer Law Center – not an easy thing to get.

Compare MyAccountCard to this debacle of a pre-paid debit card that was so bad, it was pulled off the market.

And if this card were available to everyone, we’d rank it above the Walmart Money Card, our top pick for pre-paid debit cards because of the low fees.

Despite the similar name, MyAccountCard is not the same as the AccountNow card, which carries higher fees (including $2.50 to use any ATM) and is not part of the government program.

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Comments (3)
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3 Existing Comments
  1. Greg Patrick said:
    on January 27th at 04:48 pm

    It is a trial debit card. Don’t recall how many types they are testing. I don’t think the one with the savings will work. The reason, you are limited to four or six trasactions a month because that type is considered a savings account. The one with the montlhy fee will also be frowned on. When it is cheaper to cash the check or use direct deposit. I think the one that might be the best. Is the one that has no monthly fees and no savings feature. You can use the card as often as you want.

  2. Akkdio said:
    on January 28th at 06:56 am

    I have to admit the card looks pretty good. However, the the money manager card offers more free ATMs on the alpoint network- the catch is you have to get it through your employer – i contacted them and set me up with my employer – it beats the walmart card and this future gov card – in my opinion it should be you best card…

  3. Bob said:
    on January 28th at 05:53 pm

    Can’t imagine why anyone would want one of these things. Give me a check any day.