American Express Prepaid Card improves with new benefits

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When American Express launched its prepaid card last year, we wrote that it rivaled Walmart’s Money Card but couldn't quite match it because it lacked access to direct deposit.

Now it’s a different story.

American Express recently announced some new prepaid card features, including:

* Direct deposit of up to $5,000 monthly from your paycheck to the prepaid card.
* A huge increase of the ATM maximum withdrawal, from $200 per week to $400 per day.
* The option of loading your cards with cash at Office Depot stores via the Vanilla Reload Network, which charges $3.95 per load to Green Dot’s $4.95.
* Extra benefits that AmEx cardholders typically get, such as purchase protection, roadside assistance and trip planning services.
* Online management tools like email and text alerts, tracking and monitoring your spending, and automatic fund reloading.

These changes draw the American Express Prepaid Card even with Walmart’s Money Card when it comes to a prepaid card with the direct-deposit option. That’s an ideal way to avoid the cash reload fees.

Where you’ll still have to pay up in fees is when it comes to ATM withdrawals.

While the first withdrawal every month is free, the rest will cost you $2 each, payable to AmEx, and then the ATM owner’s surcharge, which can range from $2 upward.

Still, if you’re looking to skip a banking account and link your paycheck to your prepaid card, these new changes make the AmEx offering much more attractive.

(Note that these new changes don’t apply to the AmEx Bluebird card ( It has low fees and can be reloaded for just $1 at a time, but you can only load $100 at a time, and you still have the old ATM maximum withdrawal of $200 per week.)

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