Walmart’s MoneyCard: Still nothing to celebrate

By Felix Salmon
December 2, 2011
Maria Aspan has a love letter to Jane Thompson today, giving her the "banking innovator of the year award" for her achievements at Walmart:

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American Banker’s Maria Aspan has sent a love letter to Jane Thompson today, giving her the “banking innovator of the year award” for her achievements at Walmart:

Jane Thompson is not a banker. But during her nine years running Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s financial services unit she did more than any single bank or banker in the country to develop and sell affordable financial products to low-income customers.

Annoyingly, Aspan doesn’t go into much detail about what exactly these “affordable financial products” are, or how they compare in price to the alternatives. But there’s one product in particular which she singles out for praise.

In 2007, Wal-Mart introduced the MoneyCard, a prepaid card that customers can fund with their paychecks or cash and use like a traditional debit card, without having an existing checking account. Thompson calls it her favorite product.

This comes as a surprise to me. When the MoneyCard was launched, in 2007, I called it a rip-off. And I’m sad that technical glitches have caused all the comments to be deleted from that post, because there were a lot of them, and they tended towards the very angry. As Stephen Vanderpool writes,

A quick perusal of relevant message boards will yield thousands of Green Dot and WalMart MoneyCard customer complaints. A good chunk of these complaints involve the complete loss of deposited money. People usually don’t respond well when their funds go missing. Another big complaint category is refunds gone wrong. With startling frequency, attempts to return merchandise seem to result in no refunds issued.

Contrast this the scarcity of complaints surrounding the Western Union MoneyWise card. Granted, there are a lot more MoneyCards and Green Dot cards floating around out there, but the difference is disproportionate. This may be due to the apparent absence of Green Dot customer service. People aren’t getting their questions answered or their issues resolved.

It’s worth noting that although Walmart is getting the credit from American Banker, the MoneyCard is actually operated by Green Dot, which was sued in May by Florida AG Pam Bondi for possible deceptive and unfair practices, including failure to disclose fees. And I can’t find much in the way of independent praise for the product. Vanderpool, for one, finds the MoneyWise card to be clearly superior to the MoneyCard, and writes:

The WalMart MoneyCard, developed by Green Dot, charges an activation fee, a monthly fee, and a deposit/reload fee that stand at $3 apiece (direct deposit is free). The ATM fee is $2, and it’s another $1 for a simple balance inquiry. Those are some pretty hefty charges, just for the privilege of carrying the card around.

These fees are also far from transparent: on the web page describing the MoneyCard, for instance, there’s no mention of fees at all. And finding the page with the fees is basically impossible, because there isn’t one. In order to find the fees, you have to bring up the 12,000-word cardholder agreement, which starts off not by listing the fees, but rather by entering into legalese defining the word “Agreement” to refer to “This Cardholder Agreement”.

My opinion hasn’t changed since 2007: I don’t like this card, even though I do like the idea of Walmart banking America’s poor. The company does a good job of banking in Mexico, and it’s sad that it can’t do the same here. But the MoneyCard is not a good alternative to a bank account, or even to other prepaid cards. (It’s significantly worse than, say, the prepaid cards which California uses to distribute its unemployment and disability benefits.) So I find this American Banker article rather odd.


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Yes, this money card is not so comfortable to use!
Although it performs a good job in mexico, it seems like not here in America!!!

Bring it back to Mexico then!

Hoping for the best!

Visit Crumblrr

Posted by crumblrr | Report as abusive

I was with you until you mentioned Pam Bondi – and then I wondered if the complaints had any basis.

Posted by rootless_e | Report as abusive

Show me where a bank clearly shows the $35 overdraft fee or what they charge to use a foreign atm? They also have pages long agreements to read.

BTW the WU Moneywise card has an ATM withdrawal fee of $1.95 and a balance inquiry fee of $0.45.

How much does the WU card cost to reload? $4.95 + the check cashing fee which is probably a percentage of the check.

WalMart cashes checks for $3 the same as Bank of America and less than Citizens Bank – $7.

There are several great prepaid accounts out there but rather than research them bloggers continue to shill for the banks and only write about bad cards.

Posted by OuterLimits | Report as abusive

I have had a Wal-Mart Money Card since January 2009 and I disagree with this post and the original post on the Wal-Mart Money Card. This card has been a life saver after my frustration with overdraft charges from big banks over the years. I have only ever paid a start up fee of $8.95 (which has since been lowered to $3 for new cards) and the initial fee of $3 to place a cash deposit on to the card, since then I have my paycheck sent direct deposit into my account and have not paid a single monthly fee or a deposit fee. The fees were plainly stated on the cards outer packaging and the Wal-Mart money center located at Customer Service. I even had my purse stolen and called customer service to prevent the thieves for charging my account and I received a new card with in less than 5 business days. I can receive an actual account balance (unlike my previous experience with big banks that don’t instantly update the account balance) via text, email, and website at no charge. I can pull money out during purchases at grocery stores, big box stores, and any other retailer that offers a cash back option. Yes, there is a little pre-planning the goes it to it, but it is usually no big deal. The card does have its drawbacks but for most with the right planning the card can be of great value to someone who does not want the outrageous charges and fees of a big bank.

Posted by singing09 | Report as abusive

Were I should begin? Walmart money card is practically begging you to get direct deposit. Well I did request direct deposit for my tax refund. They(Walmart) had my last name wrong on there computer(my card is spelled correctly) so the refund was rejected. The IRS is now telling me 3 weeks to get the refund to them and then another 3 weeks before they can send it out to me. Walmart Reps were unable to help me. You can bearly understand them. They gave me the run around and basically said theres nothing we can do. This was there mistake and there is nothing they can do? There customer service sucks! Bottom line. Stay away from this card or you will never see your money or have anyone on your side to help you!They don’t own up to their mistakes!

Posted by dinnim316 | Report as abusive

The Customer Service is the worst possible … customer no-service. I had a refund BACK to the card, they put a “security” hold on the card until Loss Prevention “verified” the refund. I sent ALL receipts, refund receipts, verification from the merchant to them. Customer No-Service says 24hours, 24 hours, DAY AFTER DAY. I tried to speak to Loss Prevention management, they refuse to give me to anyone in a supervisory capacity. The money is there, it is MINE, but they will NOT give it to me. The telephone operators are unintelligible and ignorant.

Posted by carol1231 | Report as abusive

I was double charged on a transaction and when I called Walmart MoneyCard to dispute they asked me to contact the processing company that made the mistake , so I did.. the processing company acknowledged they double charged me and they reversed the charges back into my account , I called MoneyCard customer service and dispute department more than 11 times after that and they never released my money that was refunded back from the processing company, they asked me to provide proof, so I called the processing company and they faxed the refund letter to Walmart along with the case number, transaction number and trace number , I called Walmart and they said the case has been closed and they can’t refund the money, even after I supplied them with multiple proofs that the company had refunded the money back to me , I am $310 poorer and Walmart never cared , and it looks like their support and customer service is outsourced somewhere because they all seem to have the same foreign accent , I lost $310 and no one at Walmart MoneyCard is willing to help , they even told me they cannot make any outside calls to investigate the matter.

Posted by SDMAR11 | Report as abusive

I like many am a victim. I am looking to resolve this matter today because quite frankly, I have been a loyal customer for some time now. I refuse to accept the information I have been told by the “customer care” line. These people are not helpful in resolving my issue. I am owed a substantial amount of money that was deposited by the IRS. I do not understand how your company can offer such a service as direct deposit for tax returns…and then put a hold on my account. THIS MONEY WAS DEPOSITED BY THE IRS. I hope that someone can resolve my issue immediately otherwise I will have no choice but to alert the appropriate personel:

Legal Counsel
Local Police
Local News Station
Anyone who I feel is going to hear my voice

I do not want to go to these lengths to get the money that is owed to me by law. I would like for someone to call my at my direct line to resolve this issue. I do not appreciate the blatant disregard for my situation. I am not comfortable with the responses I have received from the “customer care”.

Posted by bashley | Report as abusive

Hi, My name is Kennedy Im from Colorado. I just retired from the army. I enlisted young and retired young. Im seeking a new career path in this field. Hope you professionals can advise me how can i start please