Published on August 18th, 2015 | by Chuck180
Guide to 5% Interest Prepaid-Savings Accounts
- 1 List of Available Options
- 2 Card Brands and Administration
- 3 Multiple Accounts
- 4 Netspend Referral Program
- 5 Opening an Account
- 6 Loading Funds
- 7 What Counts as Direct Deposit?
- 8 Withdrawing Funds
- 9 Miscellaneous
- 10 Options in Brief
- 11 Final Thoughts
- 12 Other High-Interest Checking/Savings Accounts
List of Available Options
We’ve written numerous posts about various high-interest checking or savings accounts. Many of these are actually prepaid cards which come with the benefit of an attached savings account with high-yield interest. Typically, you get an interest rate of 5% on balances of up to $5000.
There are currently nine accounts available which offer 5+% interest on balances of $5000:
Other options, not as rosy:
- Union Plus (no longer available)
- Momentum (must obtain card in store – select areas, Locator) (must buy the black version to be eligible for the linked savings account)
- Purpose (must obtain card in store – select areas, Locator)
- Vision (max $1000 high-interest savings account, not worth the hassle)
Card Brands and Administration
There are actually two or three separate entities involved in each of these cards:
- There’s the front end of the card which is run by the names mentioned above (Brinks, Paypal, Control, etc.).
- There’s the back end of the account which is the bank who is holding the FDIC-insured accounts.
- Most of the above cards have a third party – confusingly Netspend – administering all of the details of the card, including customer service, programs, etc.
Let’s go through the cards and break them down as follows:
- Netspend administers their own card and has MetaBank as the backer of the card.
- Ace, Control, Purpose, and Western Union have Netspend as the administer of the card and Metabank as the backer of the card.
- Brinks and H-E-B have Netspend as their administer and BofI Federal as the backer of the card. (H-E-B actually appears as part of the Netspend website itself.)
- Paypal, Vision, and Momentum have Netspend as their administer and Bancorp as their backer.
- Mango administers their own card and has Sunrise Banks as the backer on the accounts. (This card is unrelated to Netspend.)
- Insightcards is part of the GreenDot system and is backed by Axiom Bank of Florida. (This card is unrelated to Netspend.)
In order to maximize the high-interest savings, one would have to open multiple accounts since each of these accounts only gets the 5% rate on a maximum of $5,000.
Although many of these cards are issued by the same companies/backers, it’s possible to get multiples of these cards and maintain a 5+% interest rate on multiple sums of $5000.
You can use the same email address for all accounts, but each one needs a unique username.
How many can you have?
First we need to break down this issue by card issuer; most of these cards are part of the Netspend system while Mango and Insight Card are entirely separate.
You can obviously have one Mango, one Insight, and one Netspend card.
Mango: you may even be able to have multiples of those cards.
Netspend: It’s possible to have multiples of these cards. Some mention that it may even be possible to have multiples of the same card (e.g. two Brinks cards) while others suggest getting one of each type (e.g. one Netspend, one Brinks, one Paypal, etc.)
Total Number of Netspend Cards
There’s a hard rule that you can only have a total of three Netspend cards backed by each unique bank. So you won’t be able to get Netspend, Ace, Control, and Western Union, since that would be four cards all backed by Metabank. But you can get Netspend, Ace, and Control.
Many report a limit of five Netspend accounts total; you can get, for example, three cards backed by Metabank, and another two backed by Bancorp. While numerous people had success with five Netspend accounts total, some people start having problems with activation on card #4 & 5. On the flip-side, some even had success getting 6 total, within the confines of the 3-per-bank rule.
The system will not allow you to open two cards within 24-hours (clearing cookies won’t help). You’ll have to wait 24-hours between applications even when applying for distinct cards, e.g. Netspend and Brinks. This limit is apparently an address limit and even separate people at the same address can not order more than one card within 24-hours.
Other than the 24-hour wait, each unique individual should be able to open up numerous Netspend accounts, even multiple people from the same address.
If we’ll assume the 3/5 rule mentioned above (three per bank, five total), we’ll give the following illustration. You can have:
- One Netspend, one Ace Elite, and one Western Union card. These three are all issued by Metabank and this maxes you out on the three-per-bank limit mentioned above.
- One Brinks and one H-E-B. While these are also Netspend cards, they are backed by a different bank (BofI). This will now max you out on the five-Netspend-total limit.
- One Mango and one Insight. These accounts are completely unrelated to Netspend so you can have these accounts in addition to the Netspend accounts. (Possibly, you can even get multiples of these, as noted above.)
Total of at least seven 5+% savings accounts which will get you an APY of around 5% on $35,000.
Netspend Referral Program
Most of these cards have a referral program which allows us to refer new members to the prepaid card get a bonus.
- Refer-a-friend and each of you will get a $20 bonus after the new member adds $40 to their account.
Only the Netspend-family cards have the referral program, not the Mango and Union Plus which are unassociated with Netspend.
Some people have been opening these prepaid accounts just for the sake of the $20 bonus. That may not be worth it for many, but it is an added little perk to go along with the 5% Savings Account. You’ll only get the $20 bonus if you use a referral link, not if you open an account directly.
The following cards are part of the Netspend referral bonus program: Netspend, Brinks, Western Union, Ace Elite, Control, and Paypal. H-E-B probably has the referral program as well.
Exceptions: Paypal Prepaid offers just a $5 bonus and Ace Elite offers just a $10 bonus.
There is a limit of one referral bonus for the recipient across all Netspend-family cards within 180-days. This means that if you sign up for two of these cards on the same day (for example, Brinks and Netspend), you’ll only get the bonus for the first one. After 180-days, it resets and you can get another bonus.
There is no limit as to how many people you can refer, you can refer as many people you want and get the referrer bonus for each one. So long as the referred member is eligible for the bonus, you’ll get the bonus as well.
Please do not leave any referrals in the comments of this post. Instead, please visit our dedicated page for referrals on all Netspend-family products. You can pick up a referral there (to net the $20) and you can leave your referrals there. We also wrote more details there on the rules of the referral program.
Opening an Account
All of these prepaid cards don’t have any kind of credit check done and there is no hard pull or Chex inquiry done. You will have to verify your identity and give them your SSN/DOB, same as opening any bank account.
With regards to some of the Netspend cards, the process of opening an account is to signup with your name and address, without giving your SSN and other personal info. After getting the card, you’ll give in this info at the time of activating the card. Other cards (Paypal, Ace, and Mango) will require the SSN initially at the time of signup.
Do not try to ACH funds into your account before receiving and activating the card. It needs to be activated first.
These prepaid accounts have a routing number and an account number, same as any checking account, and you can transfer funds to it the same way you would transfer funds between any two checking accounts.
All funds initially come into the prepaid account (via ACH or any other method such as cash loading) and are transferred to the attached Savings Account. There is no way to fund the Savings Account directly.
Things to keep in mind:
- Since these are prepaid cards and not ordinary checking accounts, some banks may not allow transfers to it. My experience so far is that my banks are treating the prepaid account as an ordinary checking account.
- We don’t recommend trying to transfer from a CapitalOne360 account since they’ve been known to have problems with people making transfers to prepaid accounts. Some mention not to use Chase or Discover either.
- Bluebird/Serve/REDbird works for me with Mango, although one report mentions that it doesn’t work for Netspend.
What Counts as Direct Deposit?
Some of these cards need some form of direct deposit: the Brinks card needs a one-time $500 direct deposit to trigger the upgraded status which allows us to open the 5% savings account, and the Mango needs a $500 monthly direct deposit to make us eligible for the 6% interest rate.
In the past, any standard ACH transfer from another checking account has worked to satisfy these requirements. For the Mango account, ACH has been working to trigger the higher interest rate. As for Netspend, they used to allow any ACH transfer, but as of 1/22/16, a real payroll or government payment is required. This change does not affect those who were already upgraded.
Note that most Netspend cards don’t need any direct deposit at all to be able to open the savings account, but the Brinks car does need a one-time $500 direct deposit to enable you to then open the savings account.
‘How will I get the money out when I need it?’
People are often nervous about putting money in these prepaid accounts since they want to know that it’s easy to get the money out when necessary. Obviously, you could spend the money down on the prepaid card, but most of us don’t want to do that.
All the Netspend accounts come with an account/routing numbers and are ACH-enabled. Using the account/routing numbers, you can pull the money out into your linked bank account or you can pay your credit card bill on the card issuer’s website. (Be sure to first transfer the money from the savings account into the prepaid.)
Geographic Limitation: The Netspend accounts are not available for residents of Vermont. I have not found that restriction with regards to the Mango account.
Tax Implications: As with all bank accounts, you will receive a 1099INT form for all interest received.
ITIN User: You can open the account with an ITIN in place of a SSN, BUT you can’t get the upgraded account. Basically, the only reason you’d want to do this is if you actually want the prepaid account or if you want the $20 referral bonus; you won’t be able to get the 5% savings account. (This is the case with regards to Netspend accounts. Unclear what the Mango rules are.)
Mint.com Users: Most of these accounts can be added to Mint, but not all. Netspend, Brinks, Ace, and Mango show up in their system. HEB and Western Union can be added by choosing the Netspend option and using the HEB or Western Union credentials (HT: Kevin). Insight shows up but doesn’t add properly.
Options in Brief
We’ve written about each of these 5% savings options in dedicated posts. Here, we’ll try to round up the main details of each and we’ll include a link to the main post where you can read more.
This is the easiest with no direct deposit requirement. Downside is that it pays out quarterly as opposed to monthly.
Beware of the 90-day inactivity fee. Automate a monthly or by-monthly $1 ACH transfer from your regular checking account to the card to avoid that.
- 6% interest rate, paid monthly
- No inactivity fee to worry about
- $3 monthly fee
- Needs monthly direct deposit of $500
- Needs a $1 balance on the card in order to be eligible for the high-interest rate
Netspend, Brinks, Western Union, Ace Elite
These cards are great options since all you need to do is one initial direct-deposit/ACH-transfer and after that you’ll be eligible for the 5% interest rate. You can just leave the card as the default pay-as-you-go plan and it will end up completely fee-free.
Note, there is a stated 90-day inactivity fee. We wrote more about this in the original post on these cards.
This account is identical in every respect to regular Netspend cards (Netspend, Brinks, etc.), with the single exception that it comes with an initial $2.95 signup fee.
This card closely resembles the regular Netspend cards and it’s also part of the regular Netspend referral program.
The key difference is that the Control card has a non-waivable $5 monthly fee, whereas with most of the other Netspend cards you can opt for the pay-as-you-go plan which leaves you completely fee-free.
This card is also part of the Netspend family. Two key differences between the Paypal Prepaid and the other Netspend cards:
- The Paypal Prepaid has a non-waivable $4.95 monthly fee, whereas with most of the other Netspend cards you can opt for the pay-as-you-go plan which leaves you completely fee-free.
- For the Paypal Prepaid you need a Paypal account and that account can be used to transfer money to and from the prepaid card account.
This card is currently unavailable for signup. It’s issued by the same company as the Mango card and most of the details mirror that of Mango. The interest rate is slightly lower at just 5.1% but without the $3 monthly fee, making the two cards a pretty comparable value overall.
The idea of juggling multiple accounts with $5,000 in each one is surely not fun, but many of us find it worthwhile. If we’d assume a standard APY of around 1%, you’ll get an extra ~4% utilizing these options, or around $200 annually per account.
Whether or not the $200 makes it worth the hassle is an individual decision. Personally, I wouldn’t do it for a single year, but since I hope that these will last for a while I decided it’s worthwhile to do the initial setup and hopefully reap the 5% rate for an extended period of time.
If you manage to max out seven cards with $5,000 each at ~5% rate, you’ll end up with ~$1750 annually, or $1400 more than you would have gotten at 1% interest rate.
For most people, I’d think that the best options would be as follows:
- Netspend, Brinks, Western Union, and Ace Elite would probably be the best options to start with.
- The H-E-B is just as good as the others, with the single downside of the one-time $2.95 card ordering fee.
- Mango is a great option if you’re willing to manage the $500 direct deposit requirement.
- Paypal and Control are also something to think about, but they do come with a ~$5 monthly fee which really brings down the overall value of the account. At the very least, it would make sense to max out the other options first.
Other High-Interest Checking/Savings Accounts
The focus of this post is prepaid cards which come with 5+% interest rates. For the sake of having all info on one place, we’ll try to keep a list here of other reward and high-interest accounts.
- Consumer’s Credit Union 4.59% APY On Up To $20,000 Rewards Checking
- Lake Michigan Credit Union: 3% Reward Checking Account On Up To $15,000
- Great Lakes Credit Union (GLCU) – 3% Rewards Checking Account Review, up to $10k
- Destinations Credit Union: 3% Reward Checking Account, Up to $10,000
- Northpointe 5% Interest Checking Account, Up to $5k
- In Missouri Legacy Bank & Trust i-Profit 4% APY on Up To $10,000
- In Michigan AAA High-Yield Checking – 2.85% On Balances Up To $10,000
See also An Introduction To Rewards Checking Accounts for more.