Not The Best Bank - Prepaid Credit Card

The purpose of this blog is to write about issues which will help you answer the question: what is the best bank for me? However, today, I'm going to leave that aside and look at something that is not associated with one particular bank at all - the NetSpend Prepaid Credit Card.

What Is A Prepaid Credit Card?

In particular, what is a NetSpend Prepaid Credit Card - it is a pay as you go credit card. It's created by a stand-alone company, not one of the traditional banks. So it's not going to help you decide which is the best bank for you - in fact using one means you're not using a bank at all!

It basically works like a normal credit card (or debit card), except that it's not associated with a bank. You have to add credit at a reload center, which are located at retailers, check cashing locations and supermarkets (such as Safeway), then you use it as you would a normal credit card.

So to sum that up again, it's just like a normal credit card (or debit card), but it's not tied to a bank account, you have to load money onto the card.

Personally, I like to think of the NetSpend card as a prepaid debit card, not credit card, but because it's a Visa debit card (or MasterCard debit card) you can use it in the same manner you would use a credit card - except that you can only use the prepaid amount, you can't actually use credit. So it's not really a credit card!

So Why Use A Prepaid Credit Card?

Well for me, the best reason is for buying things online. There are many things you can buy on the Internet, using a credit card, but there's always the (admittedly small) danger of having your details stolen by a computer virus, then finding your money disappearing from your account (although you should be covered by Visa if this happens).

Anyway, there's no problem if it's a prepaid credit card! Buying something worth $500? Put $500 on the card and buy it. If someone gets the details and tries to use it, the balance will be $0, so they won't be able to use it!

Of course there are many people who have trouble getting approved for a credit card. Often, these people are only blocked because of a problem long ago in their past, for which they are still being penalised. If you're unfortunately in this situation, a prepaid credit card may be the solution for you. It's not really credit, but at least you be able to get a card that you can use whenever purchases are most conveniently made via credit card.

Is NetSpend Trustworthy?

Well, don't ask me for an answer, go Google it! I've seen some very positive reviews, but I've also quite a few negative ones too. Be careful, do some research! It's a great idea in principle, but don't get caught out.

Are There Fees For NetSpend?

Sure, there are fees for everything these days! Don't take these numbers as gospel, but it costs about $4.95 to reload the card and about $1 to $1.50 per use (for most transaction). But then again, most banks will hit you with bank fees, so there may not be that much difference.

Anyway, that's all for today. Next time, I'll revert to something that's more closely tied with deciding which is the best bank for you.

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Which Is The Best Bank For Me - Considering Location

Location, location, location. That’s the mantra for real estate, but it’s also something that needs to be considered when deciding which is the best bank for you

It’s all very well to look which banks have the best loans and which banks have the lowest fees, etc. Sure that’s important, and I’ll discuss each of those in more detail later, but choosing a great bank is no good if you can’t access it easily!

In the city where I live, there is one small bank that has a very strong reputation as having the best deals on interest rates, home loans, fees,  etc. When you compare it to other banks, it wins hands downs. Great right? So everyone must use it? Nope.

The problem is that it only has a couple of offices and they’re all in the city center. If I want to go into the branch to pick up a new card, make a transaction, or even just ask a question or sort out a problem, I have to face a 40 minute train ride into the city. I personally chose a worse home loan than I could have got at this bank, because it was just too far away.

Of course, a lot of things can be done over the phone, or through the post, but being able to walk into the bank on those occasions when it’s necessary is extremely important.

A related issue is ATM location. How many ATMs do they have and where are the ATMs located? 

I may have been tempted by the bank with a great home loan, despite the fact that I couldn’t get into the branch easily, but what really killed the deal was that the bank had no ATMs near where I lived. If they did, then it may have been worth considering them as the best bank for me. However, without being able to withdraw cash from an ATM near me, I just couldn’t consider them.

One other thing to consider with ATM location, is that some banks are part of ATM networks. You can use any ATM in the network, even if it belongs to another bank. Be careful of this, because many banks will let you use another bank’s ATM, but then charge a fee for doing so!

Of course, location is not important if you’re considering using an online bank, with internet banking only and no physical locations. But that’s a topic for another time. If you’re not after an online bank, then when deciding which is the best bank for you, make sure you find a bank with a convenient location. 

Personally I find the convenience worth paying a little extra on fees etc. Think of all the other things in your life that you spend money on purely for convenience. Choosing a bank with a convenient location is surely worth it.

Choosing The Best Account

There are many features you need to consider when working out how to find the best bank for you. These include things such as the bank location, customer service, etc. We'll look at each of these in turn, but we'll start with account type.

If you want a certain account type, you need to make sure that the banks you are looking at offer the account type you want. They may be the best bank in every other respect, but if they don't have the account type you want, you better forget them and keep looking at other banks.

There are many different types of account. It's not possible to cover all types of accounts, offered by all banks, in all parts of the world, but we'll look at the most common account types and their advantages and disadvantages.

Note that some banks may use different names for these account types.

1. Savings Accounts

Banks may offer several types of savings accounts, but they generally have the following features in common:

  • They allow you to make deposits and withdrawals, although they sometime place limits on the number of transactions allowed in a month.

  • They often do NOT give you the ability to write checks. If writing checks is important to you, make sure you check whether the banks you are considering offer this.

  • They are normally intended to give you an incentive to save money, resulting in higher interest rates than some other types of accounts (such as a checking account).

  • You sometimes have a choice between: a) a passbook, where you can record all your transactions; and b) a statement, which is mailed to you periodically, showing all your transactions. While a passbook gives you greater control, a statement is more convenient.

  • Be careful about fees: there are many types of fees, sometimes hidden, such as a fee applied when your balance falls below a specified minimum or you pass your monthly transaction limits.

2. Regular Checking Accounts

Checking accounts offered by banks will obviously vary, but they have generally have the following:

  • They normally have lower fees, but as a result, provide just the basic set of features.

  • By definition, they give you the ability to write checks.

  • They often do not pay any interest at all.

  • As with savings accounts, be careful with fees. There are sometimes fees related to limits on the number of checks you can write within a month or to minimum balances.

  • Some banks offer the facility to link checking accounts with saving accounts, to offset the minimum balances.

3. Interest Bearing Checking Accounts

As well as the regular checking accounts discussed above, most banks offer a checking account which has more features. Here are some of the features normally offered:

  • They usually allow you to write as many checks as you like (ie unlimited checks)

  • They normally higher fees than a regular checking account.

  • By definition, they pay interest.

  • The higher your balance, the higher the interest you earn.

  • They often require a minimum balance to open an account.

  • There are normally fees related to to a minimum balance.

Note: If you can keep your balance high, consider a Interest Bearing Checking Account. If you can’t keep the balance high, then go with the Regular Checking Account. Otherwise, the interest earned may not cover the fees!

4. Express Checking Accounts

In addition to the checking accounts mentioned above, there are also Express Checking Accounts, which are aimed at people who don't normally go into the branch.

  • They usually offer unlimited check writing.

  • They usually don't have a high minimum balance requirements.

  • They have no (or low) monthly fees.

  • However, visits to a teller will incur a high fee.

4. Money Market Deposit Accounts

A combination savings / checking / investment account, which usually has the following features:

  • They require a high minimum balance to open an account.

  • You need to maintain a higher balance to avoid fees.

  • Your balance is invested in short-term debt such as Treasury Bills.

  • They offer a higher interest rate than checking or savings accounts, but interest rates can vary (based on market conditions).

  • There are often limits on how many checks you are to write and how many transactions you can perform.

  • There will almost certainly be a fee if your balance falls below a specified amount.

5. Certificates of Deposit

Also known as time deposits, certificates of deposits are accounts where your money is ‘locked away’ for a certain amount of time (anywhere from several months to several years). Common features include:

  • They offer high interest rates (the longer your money is ‘locked away’, the higher the interest rates).

  • They have a substantial penalty if you decide to withdraw your money early (ie before the CD matures).

  • Some banks allow you withdraw the interest before the CD matures.

6. Other Account Types

There are of course many other types of accounts, but we cannot cover them all. One type account that is becoming more common is the internet bank accounts (not just internet access to your normal account - actually a separate type of account). We'll cover these types of account as a separate topic sometime in future.

Finding The Best Bank

If you’re expecting a quick answer to the question: “which is the best bank for me”, be warned – there is no quick answer. Every bank has positives and negatives. If you really want to find the best bank for you, you will need to do your research and compare the features of each bank.

The Best Bank - What To Look For

Future articles will cover these issues in detail, but when choosing the best bank, you need to consider the following:

  • Account Type

  • Services Offered

  • Loans and Mortgages

  • Fees

  • Convenience / Location

  • Customer Service options

  • ATMs

  • Internet Banking

  • Account Aggregation

  • Types of financial institutions

  • Security / Stability.

There are many more things to consider. This is just a quick list so you can start thinking about it now.

How To Look For The Best Bank

First, use the Internet to compare the services offered by different banks. This will allow you to narrow down the list of banks that may be best for you.

If you have questions not answered on the bank's website, give them a call and try out their Customer service.

When you’ve narrowed down your choice to only a few banks, visit the branch you’d normally use and talk to someone in person. Ask any remaining questions you have. Check their customer service. Get a feel for the place. Ask yourself, is this the best bank for me?

Don’t forget, if you know someone who uses the bank, ask their opinion. At some banks, the service levels drop once you open your account.

Choosing the best bank is not easy and will take some work, but the end result will be worth it. Stay tuned for more details on what to look for, presented by The Best Bank.

Welcome To The Best Bank

Everyone needs a bank. The problem is there are so many to choose from. How can you find the best bank for you or for your business?

Each bank has so many different features, that it can be difficult to choose which is the best bank for you. There are so many factors to take into consideration. Types of accounts, fees, location, ATMs, service, opening hours, home loans, interest rates, etc.

It’s not just a choice of which is the best bank – there are many types of financial institutions – the best bank for you may not even be a bank!

The Best Bank has been established to help give you the information you need to make this very important decision: deciding which is the best bank for you.

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