Saturday, January 24, 2009

HR Block Emerald Card – The Fee Machine

After watching many ads touting HR Block's Emerald Card, I decided to check it out. Originally, I thought this prepaid Mastercard was just a way for them to tack on an enormous fee for a refund anticipation loan. Reviewing their website, I learned it has some value, but it is an enormous fee machine for HR Block. They even charge a $2.50 per month monthly maintenance fee on inactive cards. I expect the managers at HR Block will be happy to take your money.

The Benefits: for people who cannot get traditional bank accounts, it does have some value. Rather than carrying around cash (and risking getting robbed), they do provide "somewhere" to deposit funds. Nevertheless, I suspect anyone who qualifies for this card will qualify for a low-cost checking account.

  • Payroll Service - Payroll can be deposited directly by employers to the card.
  • Cash Access: The fee is $1.95 per transaction when using certain ATMs in the U.S. and $2.50 per transaction when traveling abroad.
  • Cash Back with Purchase: By using it as a traditional debit card, users can withdraw cash from your prepaid card when shopping, with no need to make a special trip to the ATM. Usually, this will be a no cost transaction.

The Enormous Costs:

  • ATM: Cash Withdrawal Fee $1.95
  • Domestic ATM Balance Inquiry Fee $1
  • International ATM Cash Withdrawal Fee $2.50
  • International ATM Balance Inquiry Fee $1.50
  • ATM Denial $0.50
  • Over Limit Fee No fee
  • Additional Card Fee $10
  • Replacement Card Fee $10
  • Express Delivery Fee for Replacement Card $35
  • Check Request or Outgoing ACH Fee $20
  • Paper Statement Fee $1
  • Duplicate Paper Statement Fee $2.50

Monthly Maintenance Fees Monthly Maintenance Fee $2.50 (per month — begins the fourth month following 3 months of no activity on the card account)

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