Published on August 18th, 2014 | by Chuck54
For a while, GoBank wasn’t taking new members, but they recently did some revamping and it seems to be reappearing.
GoBank is a pre-paid card simlar to Bluebird/Serve. You can load the card at Walmart with cash/debit, and it thus can be loaded with a Visa gift card. Many pre-paid cards can be loaded at Walmart, but Bluebird/Serve/GoBank are unique in that they have no monthly fee, and – more importantly – they have a Bill Pay feature, which lets you simply pay off credit card bills and thus complete the MS cycle.
The reason why people don’t talk much about GoBank is because they’re notorious about shutting down accounts of those who engage in “abusive practices” (read: all of us), and thus most of us got shut down. But my understanding is that many of those who use the card moderately were not shut down, despite using the card exclusively for loading in Walmart and unloading via BillPay.
For the past few months, if you tried to sign up for the GoBank card, the system said that it’s currently unavailable for new sign-ups, and that you should wait for a new, better GoBank soon. It appears that the time may be coming.
Is GoBank Accepting New Members?
It appears that they are beginning to accept new members. One caveat: you first need to purchase an elusive starter-card (with a $2.95 fee). When you click the “Open Your Account” tab, the system asks you for your starter-card number, and indicates that you can’t open an account without a starter-card. As of a few week ago, it appears that this starter-kit is available in 20 Walmart stores in Texas, but presumably they’ll be rolling it out more extensively in the near future.
There may be one other method of getting a GoBank account without purchasing a starter-card, which is to have someone send you money from their GoBank account (minimum of $1), and the system should prompt the recepient to either transfer the money to a Paypal account or open a GoBank account. This definitely used to work, but it’s possible that they stopped this when the new starter-card system came into effect.
One big drawback about the newly-revamped GoBank card is that it has an $8.95 monthly fee, unless you receive Direct Deposit of at least $500 per month. It’s likely that an ACH transfer from a different bank account will also count as a direct deposit, but we don’t know that for sure. This fee is only for new members. As of now, any member from before July 23, 2014 is grandfathered in with no monthly fee.
Could it be that people who were shut down will now be able to re-apply for this “new product” and get approved? Doubtful, but hard to say for sure.
There are also new limits which GoBank rolled out. These limits are for new members and old members.
- In-store loads are limited to $3000 per rolling 30 days.
- BillPay can only be made up to $5000 a day.
Obviously, the important one here is the limit of $3000 per rolling 30 days, which makes this card inferior to Bluebird/Serve even for Walmart loads. Previously, there was no official limit to how much could be loaded per month, which led many to do excessive loads and get shut down. (As an aside, I hate rolling-30-day limits. They confuse me. I wish it were a calendar month limit, the way Bluebird/Serve is.)
Interesing Facts and Figures
Green Dot Corporation released some interesting data on GoBank in its Earnings Call report (sign-in required).
- The most popular method of depositing money into GoBank is direct deposit. Next is cellphone check deposit, then ACH transfer, then cash deposit.
- “Nearly 60% of active account holders say that GoBank is their primary checking account.”
- “GoBank active customers deposit an average of $1,000 per month to their account.”
- “23% of these customers use GoBank to electronically pay bills.”
- “GoBank customers are heavy users of the GoBank debit card racking up approximately 19 transactions per month and around $600 of monthly debit card spend.”
I find these figures very interesting. Apparently, we MSers are a marginal demographic in the GoBank system. I’d love to see figures of this sort on Bluebird/Serve.
New limits always sound constricting, but I wonder if the new limits will make the card more sustainable and will stop the shutdown-syndrom that GoBank had. I’ve had the GoBank card for almost a year and I’ve used it moderately as a backup to my Serve card. I’m very careful not to do weird things, like doing five loads of $100 in one day. I try finding a cashier who knows how to do split-tender, then I do one load of three Visa gift cards (this shows up as one load on GoBank’s end), and then I shelve the card for a few days. I’ve unloaded exclusively using the BillPay feature, but – I guess – since I use it moderately they haven’t shut me down. I love having a backup to my Serve card for the months when I have lots of gift cards to unload. I don’t think I’ve ever done more than $3000 in one month, so the new limit isn’t so terrible for me.
I’m just hoping that they won’t start pushing the monthly fee onto old members. Admittedly, with the monthly fee, I hear a serious question of whether it would be worth keeping the card. For someone who will really use it at a full $3000 a month it may be worth it, but since I just use it as a backup it may not be. I’m nervous to load too much on my GoBank card in one shot because I’ve had problems in the past with their BillPay system being down (though there’s always money orders), and I don’t want too much money tied up there.
What do you think about GoBank? Have you been shut down?