Everyone knows the prepaid debit card industry is full of scams and rip-offs. Many of these cards are infamous for bilking consumers with a laundry list of excessive fees.
So is the new prepaid card from Chase any different?
The answer is yes. Unlike the other guys who disguise a card’s true cost with a complex fee structure, what Chase does is something very transparent – they charge a single fee which covers just about everything you can think of. It’s not quite as good of a deal as the AmEx Serve prepaid card, but it probably deserves the title of being 2nd best.
Here’s a quick rundown of what the prepaid Chase Liquid card will cost…
So as you see, the $4.95 monthly fee isn’t always going to be cheaper. However, when you consider the fact that you can avoid paying reload fees, ATM fees, etc… the amount you pay at the end of the month will likely be cheaper. That being said, it may (or may not) be the best prepaid card, depending on your specific circumstances.Here’s a more detailed review of the pros and cons for Liquid:
- You can load cash for free – With most prepaid debit cards (incl. the AmEx Prepaid) in order to reload with cash, you have to buy a GreenDot MoneyPak. Those cost up to $4.95 each and can only be used once, to load up to $500 (so basically, you’re forking over 1% or more in fees). The nice thing about the Chase prepaid card is that you can load it up with cash for free at Chase ATMs and bank branches.
- Chase has tons of locations – A lot of people say being “too big to fail” is a bad thing. Well I beg to differ. If you have a prepaid card, you actually want a national bank with a bazillion locations. There are more than 17,500 Chase ATMs and 5,000 branches. Translation? Plenty of places to load your card or withdraw cash.
- Use for purchases anywhere Visa is accepted – As much as I love American Express, it is true that Visa is accepted at more places.
- No charge for customer service – The fact that I even have to mention this as a noteworthy benefit doesn’t even feel right, because it’s something everyone should offer. But unfortunately they don’t, at least when it comes to prepaid. However the Chase Liquid card provides unlimited calls to customer service for free.
- $59 per year is less, but not cheap – It’s like having the best house in a bad neighborhood. Sure, $59 is good on a relative basis, but when you consider that there are secured cards for bad credit that cost about half that amount, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to go the prepaid route.
- It’s worthless for building credit – Another reason that secured cards are a better idea is because they can help you build credit. I mean let’s be honest here… do you want to continue paying $59/year for the rest of your life just to have a Chase prepaid debit card? Or would you rather build your history and get a no annual fee Chase credit card?
- A few cards are close competitors – Going back to the prepaid Serve card from American Express, it offers free valuable benefits like purchase protection (qualifying purchases are protected for 90 days from theft or accidental damage). Another competitor is the US Bank Convenient Cash Card – if their banks are in your area, that card will be about $20 cheaper per year than Liquid from Chase. Last but not least, PNC and Regions both offer prepaid Visa cards for around $60/year, but since they’re regionally focused, they’re not always a viable alternative.
At the end of the day, Chase has created a very good product here. Even though it may not always be the cheapest, at least it’s one of the most transparent… that’s a word you rarely hear associated with these types of cards! However the one from AmEx is obviously still a cut above…
But if you want to build credit…
…you will have to get a credit card. Don’t think you qualify for any? Well, try out the form below to find out in 60 seconds.
Written or last updated November 13, 2013