Walmart has the best prepaid debit card

Hand inserting card in ATM machine

The Walmart MoneyCard has always been one of the best, most affordable prepaid debit card we've seen.

And it's gotten better since its introduction.

The fee for:

Opening an account was reduced from $8.94 to $3.

Loading cash onto the card was cut from $4.64 at a Walmart store to $3.

Monthly maintenance was lowered from $4.94 to $3.

That's really cheap compared with most other prepaid debit cards, many of which charge so much, we don't think they're worth considering.

MoneyCard even waives the fee for opening an account, loading cash and monthly maintenance if you have all or a portion of your paycheck direct-deposited onto your MoneyCard.

Otherwise, it waives the reloading fee when you deposit a paycheck in your account after cashing your paycheck at Walmart. (Although you still must pay a check-cashing fee.)

It also waives the monthly maintenance fee if you load at least $1,000 a month on the card.

Most important, there's no transaction fee when you buy something. Other prepaid debit cards charge $1 to $2 every time you purchase something, which we think is just outrageous.

Cash withdrawals at ATMs cost $2, but there's no charge to get cash back at a store.

Walmart also is trying to treat its debit card customers right, with bank-like MoneyCenters open in at least 1,000 of its stores and more in the works.

These bank look-alikes provide a better place than the customer service desk for MoneyCard transactions, paying bills, cashing checks and purchasing money orders.

Indeed, Walmart is aiming its prepaid debit card at customers who don't have bank accounts. It hopes they'll use the MoneyCard much like they'd use a checking account -- without the checks, of course.

It's not any easier to apply for than a regular bank account. Federal law requires an address, phone number, date of birth and some form of government identification, such as Social Security number if you're a U.S. citizen or passport number, personal tax ID or driver's license number if you're not.

Even if you take advantage of direct deposit to avoid all of the fees, a MoneyCard account isn't quite as good as a free checking account at a credit union or consumer-friendly bank.

You can't write checks on a MoneyCard account, for example. And that can still come in handy, even in the high-tech 21st Century.

But at least the fees are reasonable enough that MoneyCard isn't taking inexcusable advantage of low-income families.

That makes Walmart the undisputed leader in prepaid debit cards.

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