Walmart's Debit Card Has Lots Of Hidden Fees

El banco del Walmart is issuing pre-paid debit cards, and like everything else at Walmart, they suck. Here’s some of the hidden fees:

  • Card issue fee: $8.94
  • Reload the card with more money: $4.64
  • ATM transaction fee: $1.95
  • ATM balance inquiry: $0.75
  • Monthly maintenance fee: $4.94
  • Statement fee: $2.00
  • Great idea, tap into the “unbanked,” and then rip them off. Here’s an even better idea for potential Walmart Debit Card users: cash! No fees!

    Wal-Mart MoneyCard Cardholder Agreement [via J-walk blog]


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    1. darkened says:

      That is rather absurd. It makes me think of those credit cards that have a credit limit of $300, have a one time fee of $70, a monthly maintenance fee of like $84 billed upfront for the year and that your initial credit line out of the like $300 is like $130 and to activate the card it requires sending the first min. monthly payment.

    2. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

      I got a Simon $10 gift card Visa a couple of years back when I subscribed to the local paper. I pretty much forgot about it. One day, I took it to a store and it was declined. After further research, after a year, they deducted $2.50 per month for some kind of BS fee. Four months later, the card was worthless.

    3. Zimorodok says:

      I can’t wait to see the rollback signs for these cards.

      “Card issue fee: $8.94 – Previously $10.80 – YOU SAVE $1.86!”

    4. plaincorgi says:

      Now the question is. When you get a balance inquiry, does it give you the what the balance was before or After the 75c charge is applied?

    5. johnva says:

      Why on earth would someone choose this over opening a simple bank account? Are they targeting people who can’t get bank accounts for some reason (illegal immigrants, deadbeat dads, people running from creditors, etc)?

    6. loganmo says:

      I understand the point of some fees when issuing unsecured CREDIT cards to people with poor credit history-it’s to some degree a risk management tool. But in the case of the debit card, there is no risk of debtor default, so what gives?

    7. mac-phisto says:

      there are a lot of fees with this option, but when you consider the alternatives (such as green dot), they aren’t out of line with their fee schedule.

      i’m troubled by this recent practice of prepaid debit cards charging for a balance inquiry. i think it’s a fee that may soon bleed over to general banking.

      & don’t even get me started on payroll debit cards…the fees on those are often much worse.

    8. ratnerstar says:

      @plaincorgi: Before, plus the fee varies. The idea is to teach Walmart customers about Heisenberg.

    9. ekthesy says:


      You call it targeting, I call it exploiting.

      I would love to see a Consumerist article on how, despite all indications of a recession, American corporations continue to attempt to extract every last dime out of the pockets of American consumers.

      This sort of corporate greed is why people end up having to choose milk over medicine. Absolutely disgusting.

    10. The Great Aussie Evil says:

      Wal-Mart is nothing but naked pasty flabby greed incarnate.

    11. Solly says:

      The answer to your question will cost you another 75c.

    12. Javert says:

      First, no one forces anyone to get the Walmart debit card. Yes, it forces stupid people to choose milk over medicine but so long as Walmart accepts checks and cash…what is your point?

      Second, the fees are not hidden. I’ll bet they are in the cardholder agreement. IF you don’t read it then HA. It economic darwinism. There is a fee schedule at which you may look. I am not sure what the bid deal here is.

    13. snoop-blog says:

      these ARE actually slightly cheaper than pre-paid visa’s and m/c’s. i never saw an article about those on here so.

      and anyone else notice the 24/7 national banks popping up in wal-marts?……no credit check, second chance banking, unbeatable hours. makes me want one and i have good credit.

      and you’ll notice alot of pre-paid visa’s and such with a slightly higher fee at almost any gas station in a questionable neighborhood. i frequent the mexican tienda a lot and their wall is full of cards identical to this one fee wise.

    14. arthurat says:

      Welcome to Wal-Mart… mecca for the illegal immigrant

    15. Mr_Human says:

      And yet industries cry holy murder when the govt wants to regulate them. It’s as if — with their collective disregard for safety, with disgusting exploitation — they’re just begging to be regulated.

    16. wring says:

      lol this reminds me of the horribly insulting credit card offers I get. “open an account with us and you’ll owe $300 before you even use the card! but it will help rebuild your credit!” oy vey.

    17. MercuryPDX says:

      @johnva: Check kiters…. :)

      @ekthesy: Looks like you have the “Why?”

    18. wring says:

      @Javert: and what’s YOUR point?

    19. johnva says:

      @ekthesy: I’m not disagreeing. I’m just wondering how this sort of scheme actually gets any customers at all given the existence of much lower-cost alternatives (I know I don’t pay any fees to my bank, ever).

    20. Rectilinear Propagation says:

      …what is your point?

      @Javert: The card sucks because it has a lot of fees.

    21. johnva says:

      @mercurypdx: Yeah, I know you can get blacklisted from having a bank account (for example, if you run up overdrafts and don’t pay them off). I just find it amazing that there are enough people completely locked out of the banking system to support a product like this.

      If it’s just people who distrust banks, I still don’t get it. How is trusting Wal-mart’s bank any different from trusting a regular bank with your money?

    22. mac-phisto says:

      @ekthesy: in reality, it’s somewhere in between (as always).

      johnva is spot on. if you owe a bank money & they’ve reported you to chexsystems (or a similar crb), you likely won’t be able to get a debit card anywhere. if you are undocumented, the patriot act took away your ability to open a bank account (by undocumented, they mean anyone who can’t prove their identity with proper paperwork…not just “illegals”). banks can also use a credit report from one of the big 3 to deny you a checking account/debit card.

      BUT, something more sinister abounds. banks are notorious for exploiting those of lesser means, or denying services altogether (redlining). prepaid programs are an emerging answer for banks to offer needed services to this group with little to no risk & maintain a steady stream of fee income. it stands to reason that as this group becomes larger & more profitable, their access to traditional banking methods will become more restricted & more costly.

    23. snoop-blog says:

      the same people on here bashing these cards are probably the same people who claim they never shop there. they are just ‘haters’. why would you give a crap about these cards when they still accept checks, and cash. if you don’t want the card, don’t sign up for one. its that simple.

    24. snoop-blog says:

      @johnva: and i work in bad credit financing, and i can tell you there are more than enough people to support this market. you’d be surprised how many people are blacklisted from having a checking account because of mistakes they’ve made and never paid for. those people would prefer pay these bs fees associated with this card, than make good on the bad checks they’ve wrote.

    25. mac-phisto says:

      @snoop-blog: i thought you worked in record producing. ;)

    26. snoop-blog says:

      @mac-phisto: i got plenty of ‘joint ventures’ lol.

    27. Terek Kincaid says:

      There are some bad fees here, and the 4.94 Monthly fee is a bit bad. However, for people with bad/no credit, most banks charge a $5-15 fee a month if you go below a minimum balance (which most people living hand-to-mouth do). So, Wal-Mart is actually cheaper.

      And, here’s a cut and paste of a few fees Consumerist left out:

      POS Cash Back $0.00
      Wal-Mart POS Balance Inquiry $0.00
      IVR (Automatic Telephone System) Balance Inquiry $0.00
      PIN Debit Purchase $0.00
      Signature Debit Purchase $0.00
      Negative Balance Fee $0.00

      No fee for cash back. Buy a pack of gum at Wal-mart for 20 cents and cash out. Seriously, I never use ATMs anymore anyway. If you use this card right, you won’t need to worry about it. Also, notice the 0 dollar negative balance fee? Don’t most banks charge $30-40 for an overdraft? That’s mighty generous of Wal-mart. My guess is the card just gets declined, like all debit cards should.

      And here’s one more little bonus:

      Foreign Transactions (see section 19)/td> 2%

      Only a 2% fee for foreign transactions. Every card I know of has a 3% fee. So, if you plan on making a major foreign purchase, this card might be the way to go.

      Seriously, this isn’t a horrible deal for folks without a bank. The folks using this go to Wal-mart to cash their paychecks anyway, and it’s free to load a paycheck onto this. I hate Wal-mart as much as the next guy, but this card isn’t a reason to dogpile on them.

    28. johnva says:

      @snoop-blog: I certainly believe you, but I’m amazed so many people are writing bad checks. I have a lot less sympathy if that’s why most of them are getting locked out of the system. Being poor is one thing, but committing fraud is another in my opinion.

    29. HRHKingFriday says:

      What are the advantages of this over a Walmart gift card? I guess card security, if you have a lot of money on it. But then again, if you’re banking at walmart, you probably won’t have a large balance at any given time.

    30. savvy999 says:

      I’m confused by this ‘debit card’ idea. Does the customers’ money exist only ON the card (in the ferrous bits in the magnetic stripe– like a gift card, that has no integration with a computer system), or is the money in a regular FDIC-backed bank account, and is simply accessed by the card?

      I guess a better way to phrase it is, if one loses the card, does one also lose the money?

    31. ekthesy says:


      Scams like this (calling a spade a spade here) will inevitably trap those. Javert said above that people just don’t read the fine print…or even the medium print in some cases…and that is a form of “economic Darwinism.” And that is true, on its face, but Darwinism, like Socialism, works far better in theory than it does in practice.

      It does not behoove those of us who are relatively financially responsible to have people exploited by this type of debit card, since consumers are all in the same economic boat. Corporations, on the other hand, have many large warships to swamp us. Avast, mateys.

    32. Murph1908 says:

      Privacy could be another reason people buy these cards. Imagine someone having an affair, or otherwise doing something they don’t want a paper trail for.

      Doesn’t have to be illegal or scummy, though, to want to protect your privacy. Perhaps someone wants to buy an expensive item online, but doesn’t want to send their CC through the interwebs. This could be an option, if the purchase fee is a small enough percentage of the total.

      I won’t be paying their ridiculous fees for this item, but I guess someone will. If they don’t sell, why do they exist?

    33. snoop-blog says:

      @johnva: i see the bureaus, and i can tell you the people who truely don’t believe in banks are all about dead. people tell me that, then i see on their bureau where they must have trusted them at one point in time.

      and cash advance places are the number one reason……they get a checking account, get in a bind, go to a pay day advance place that has you write a check that they hold and cash on a specific date. if the money isn’t there, boom bad check, and bye bye banks. whats worse is when i see they’ve done this to 3-5 different cash advance places. they knew what they were doing, and never had any intention of paying them back.

    34. johnva says:

      @snoop-blog: That makes a lot of sense as to how people get blacklisted. Thanks for the explanation.

    35. snoop-blog says:

      a service like this is great for those who can’t get a checking account, but don’t like to carry a lot of cash on them. and also helps these people reserve hotes rooms and rental cars and purchase things online.

    36. misteral says:

      In order to have your wares on sale at Wallymart, you have to agree to lower your prices every year (or something like that). This had had a huge factor in the demise of many businesses that can’t afford not to be in Wallymart (as after a while they can’t afford TO be in them).

      I wonder if they will then practice what they preach/force and lower these rates every year. Somehow, I think I already know the answer

    37. HRHKingFriday says:

      @snoop-blog: Aha- I didn’t even think of that in the gift card comparison. That makes sense.

    38. snoop-blog says:

      you have to remember these people pay all kinds of fees. need to cash your pay check and don’t have a bank, go to a wal-mart and pay a small fee (or large one at a bank). need to pay your electric bill?… go to wal-mart and buy a money order (pay a fee).

      if its going to cost you $2-$5 to cash your check and say another $2-$5 worth of fees for money orders, might as well pay the $4.95 reload fee and put it on your debit card. saves time and money.

    39. BobCoyote says:

      Coming on the heels of the Polly Pocket Hidden Shank story, I read this headline as “Debit Card has lots of hidden feces”.

      I guess depending on your POV that’s a fair headline as well…

    40. mac-phisto says:

      @johnva: it’s not always about people writing bad checks. with overdraft fees hovering around $30-$35 at most major banks, one small screwup can leave a person in the hole $500 or more.

      consider for a moment, a less financially savvy friend of mine: he bought something online & was offered a $10 coupon off his next purchase for taking a short survey. he didn’t read the fine print well enough to realize that participation in the survey triggered the merchant to relay his debit card info to the marketer & set him up for a membership in each of their dozen or so “coupon savings programs” for ~$12/mo. when the membership charges hit his account, he was out $120, plus $340 in overdraft fees. at the time he was making ~$400/week. his first deposit didn’t cover his balance (& he was charged an “insufficient balance fee” ON THE DIRECT DEPOSIT for $34). plus, they levied a $5/day fee for being overdrawn (10 days for $50). in the end, that $10 coupon cost him $510 (& guess what…he never even got a coupon). he worked an entire week just to pay back the bank charges.

      @savvy999: well, the cardholder agreement refers to “GE money bank” which is a member of fdic, so your money is insured in the traditional sense.

    41. j-damn says:

      Most banks rip you off just as badly as this, so what’s the point of this post?

    42. ColoradoShark says:

      Since no on else has said it yet, here is the obligatory:
      Use a credit union!

    43. UpsetPanda says:

      @ColoradoShark: There’s also the “credit cards are bad, bad, bad!”

    44. gingerCE says:

      It is definitely a rip off. My question is, how many people have these cards? Are they popular? I think they are definitely aiming this at people who cannot get a regular checking account for whatever reason (no ID, bad check history etc. . .) I was once in line to return an item in Wal-mart and the line was incredibly long–the reason, everybody was cashing their checks there –(costs $3?). Wal-mart makes quite a bit of money acting as a bank.

      As for no ID, illegals should bypass this card because they can open bank accounts at regular banks no problem–I believe BofA and Wells Fargo openly do it, maybe Wamu. I was at Wamu one day and a person (whose English was not that good) was trying to withdraw several hundred. She had no ID, no debit card, only the checkbook. To my amazement, after hesitating because of no ID, the teller gave her the money. Another time at my Wamu, another couple tried this except they gave the teller a business card in lieu of ID. In that case, the teller called over the manager to ask–at least.

    45. Aut0mat1c says:

      These are not hidden fees!

      I have had this pre paid card for almost six months ever since WaMu fucked me over.

      You also can check your balance any time via text for free!

      The mantiance fee is dropped if you deposit more than 1000.00 a month into your account. They also allow direct deposit. The fee of 4.95 to deposit money onto your account is also waved if your cashing your check.

      Of course there is a card issue fee, thats what you pay when you first BUY the card from Wal-Mart.

      I am usually up for wal-mart bashing as the next guy but this post is just misleading. All these fees are disclosed when you first sign up for the card, and not even in small print.

    46. johnva says:

      @j-damn: No they do not.

    47. snoop-blog says:

      @Aut0mat1c: thank you for your valuble information. that right their tells you that you don’t always get the FULL STORY and it is possible that yes even the consumerist, knows how controversial wal-mart topics are, and or, have a biased agenda.

    48. gingerCE says:

      @Aut0mat1c: I have noticed (not on this post) but in others that some articles on this site do report misleading info.

      However, in this case I think the card on a whole does feel like a rip off–though I’m glad to know Walmart is allowing ways to avoid most of these fees. However, some people cannot get a regular credit card and a prepaid car will actually help people stay out of debt vs. a credit card–and I agree Wamu has some nasty overdraft fees/policies. I know someone who pad $1600 to Wamu simply in overdraft fees over the course of a year. Was the last figure 17 billion paid to banks in overdraft fees alone over a year?

      I will say that Walmart is filling a need. I was amazed at how many people use Walmart as a place to cash their checks. It’s regular people doing it–and it’s cheaper than any other cash checking place.

    49. bohemian says:

      It is a retention system for Walmart. They need to keep poor people poor so they will continue to shop at Walmart. Ta-da!

      Seriously, the number of banks in our town that don’t have some huge minimum balance checking account is three. All of the other ones have a big minimum balance or they are free but so riddled with downplayed fees that they are not free.

      Banks have really cracked down on check and account security around where I live in the last six months.
      Then held our teenager’s paycheck hostage for 4 days to make sure it was good before he could take money out. I figured that was because he used a branch we don’t usually go to. We ended up getting a paper paycheck from an employer that usually does direct deposit and we have been depositing from for over a year. The locked that one up for three days. They never used to do this kind of thing. The only thing I can guess is bank fraud and stealing out of other people’s accounts is on the rise.

    50. mac-phisto says:

      @gingerCE: banks are violating multiple laws if they are opening accounts without the proper identification. if you so desire, you can report suspicious activity at a national bank to the occ (office of the comptroller of currency) at 1-800-613-6743. state banks should be reported to the appropriate state regulator (commonly state department of banking). banks used to be able to skirt id requirements, but no longer. the patriot act defines what id is acceptable & dictates that a copy must be retained by the bank when the account is opened.

      @bohemian: hold times on paper instruments have gone up largely because of a sharp rise in check fraud. the prevalence of home printers (& MICR toner products) makes it cheap & easy for scammers to print fake checks from the comfort of their home. business accounts & official bank checks are the largest targets for this type of fraud, hence your trouble with the payroll check.

    51. Mr. Gunn says:

      I can’t believe anyone would use a card with a monthly fee, period. I mean, some AMEX cards have yearly fees, but there’s a significant amount of service associated with it. $5/month just so you don’t have to carry your wad around with you is ridiculous.

    52. morganlh85 says:

      Walmart certainly isn’t the first company to take advantage of those without bank accounts. These prepaid debit cards have been around for ages.

    53. Timewalker says:

      @Mr. Gunn: How is the $5/month fee any different from a checking account w/ a debit card that has a $5 fee if your balance is under $1000?
      Comparing it to a credit card is disingenuous. This is basically a checking account w/o the checks, as far as I see it.

    54. sven.kirk says:

      @mac-phisto: GreenDot SUCKS. Their fee schedule is just about the same.
      But is worse about them, is that there is NO contact with a human. I finally figured out how to talk to somebody, but they were of no help.
      It costs YOU $2, even if it is their fault.

      I put $XX on a needy friends card. They never let me put the amount on there. Every time I call to try to get it fixed, I get a “That is a invalid card.” Thankfully the retailer gave me my money back.

    55. 5ekrit says:

      That’s just fucked up. Wal-Mart is WRONG.

    56. snoop-blog says:

      @Mr. Gunn: i can’t believe that you can’t believe that anyone would use a card with a monthly fee, ya know, seeing how people use them everyday.

    57. lovelygirl says:

      I saw this just the other day on a Walmart circular. I thought that it was probably a good idea for immigrants who are scared to put their money in the bank. So they leave money under their mattresses, which really isn’t safe in the event of a flood or fire. This seemed like it would be perfect for them, but I guess you have to take the good with the bad. If you’re buying a debit card from Walmart, you really can’t complain about the quality you’re getting.

    58. gingerCE says:

      @mac-phisto: I thought it was all over the news when BofA decided to allow those who were illegal (or undocumented) to get credit cards as long as they had a deposit equal to the amount on their credit card in their BofA account. They can obtain mortgages as well from I believe Wells Fargo and BofA.

      Wait–just checked online. Seems that option is only available here in California.

      Also one of my ex-roommates while I was in college was an illegal immigrant–she had a regular checking/bank account via Wamu and a credit union despite her immigration status. That was a few years ago.

    59. mac-phisto says:

      @gingerCE: undocumented simply means ANYONE (foreign or naturalized) that can’t prove their identity can’t open an account, not necessarily an illegal alien.

      you’d be surprised how many americans have no official identification, or unacceptable ID (such as an expired license).

    60. omyard says:

      I consider it a stupid tax. You’re stupid if you’re going to use one of these and you’re stupid if you’re in the situation where this is the only way you can obtain a debit card.

    61. gingerCE says:

      @gingerCE: I agree that is the true definition of undocumented–but in California, anyone illegal can open a bank account as long as they have a taxpayer ID and may be able to get home mortgages from certain banks. Not sure if the other states do this as well.

    62. Parting says:

      BS BS BS BS BS
      Did Walmart invested in mortage industry?
      Or they are very, very greedy?

    63. ihateauditions says:

      Fees paid by an upper-middle class fellow:

      $0 card issue fee.
      $0 reload fee.
      $0 ATM transaction fee. (Foreign ATM fees are refunded.)
      $0 ATM balance inquiry.
      $0 Monthly fee.
      $0 Statement fee.
      $0 minimum balance.

      Somehow that seems backwards to me.

    64. ChuckECheese says:

      @mac-phisto: I have one of these cards. I got it because WaMu kept holding my deposits for 2 weeks at a time, and I couldn’t find another low-cost checking account. WaMu was probably holding my deposits in order to make money floating my deposits, and/or on fees, hoping I’d bounce a check, even though I’d deposited money 8 days previously.

      Except for the $8 sign-up fee, the fees on this card aren’t so bad, or much different than a low/no-balance checking account . With direct deposit, and by making all withdrawals at the WM checkout counter, I pay just under $5 per month in fees. I have the convenience of ATMs if I need them.

      If I want to deposit a check directly into the card account (a rare thing for me), it costs $3. I can look up my balance or print a statement online for free, and I can get a balance statement at a checkout for free, and I can get the balance sent to my cellphone for free. It’s really not so bad.

      I can’t get these services cheaper at a local bank. Some of you may have less expensive banking options because of local competition, but there are many areas of the U.S. where there is no free lunch where banking services are concerned. Many people pay ATM fees and account maintenance fees. I have a friend who makes lots of money, but his bank charges him $14.95/mo maintenance fee and $2 for each ATM withdrawal.

      Other questions answered: The money is held by “GE Money Bank.” I believe this is GE as in General Electric. WM has been desperate to get into the banking industry for years, but the gummint won’t let them. A Walton does own a regional U.S. bank though; it’s called Arvest Bank, and operates in a few southeast states.

      Customer service is very limited. You can’t send an email to anybody, and you can’t talk to somebody on the phone for free. There is a mailing address, and you could always send a scathing letter to Wal-Mart if something goes wrong. WM probably won’t mess up its hopes of getting into banking by doing a bad job with these cards, so I expect no problems.

      It’s really cruel for people to call others stupid for using one of these cards. Quite a few people (and I suspect the number is increasing every day) have no access to credit cards or banks for any number of reasons, including bounced checks they cannot repay, extended unemployment, illegitimate collections activity, illness, poverty, being an immigrant or being unable to prove one’s identity.

      Cash is fine, but it’s not convenient. If it’s lost it’s gone forever; WM will refund your $$ if you report your card lost/stolen. You can’t shop online with cash. I despise going into the gas station to pay, waiting in line, paying, pumping my gas, and returning to get my change (if any).

    65. llhlpn says:

      If you all were more informed it would help. There are no monthly fees if you load $1,000 a month. Also if you go and deposit your paycheck all or part there is no load fee. Only load fee if you use cash. If you are a walmart employee, you can use your discount card on this item and if you sign up for direct deposit they give you the initial cost of $8.94 back. Your limit for no fee is to deposit $750. I use this card because my bank is a small credit union that doesn’t offer debit cards unless you keep $300 or more in the bank at all times. So it costs me nothing to use this card. Every morning I get a text on my cell phone as of to how much is on my card. If you use a register to keep track you never have to worry about how much is really there.

    66. Mari Walker says:

      I have a debit card from my bank that only cost me money when I lost it and had to pay $12 to replace it. Cash also comes without fees.