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Brink’s Prepaid Mastercard® review: Low-cost benefits and yields

The Brink’s Prepaid Mastercard can be helpful in a financial pinch for people who are unbanked or who can’t open a traditional checking account. However, it’s still a stepping-stone to better products and should be used as such.

 /  7 min
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Snapshot

Bottom line

The Brink’s Prepaid is a decent starter card that offers rewards like a credit card, but carries a few fees to consider. However, if used correctly, it can be handy in a bind and help people financially establish themselves before graduating to checking accounts and secured credit cards. It’s not a long-term option, but is a great short-term solution.

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Brink’s Prepaid Mastercard® overview

If you’ve decided a prepaid credit card is the perfect payment choice but you might not use it often enough to justify a monthly fee, then the Brink’s Prepaid Mastercard® and its pay-as-you-go plan could be a great fit.

The Brink’s prepaid card is issued by Netspend and carries a nearly identical structure to the Netspend® Visa® Prepaid Card — down to the rewards, fees and most benefits. However, Visa cards tend to offer more perks on base cards than Mastercard credit cards, and the Brinks Prepaid is also missing the Netspend’s virtual card number and additional savings account banking options.

While the Brink’s Prepaid Mastercard is a solid option, you can find better rewards and fewer fees with other prepaid credit cards or a debit card.

What are the advantages and disadvantages?

Pros

  • Checkmark

    Ongoing rewards program boosts its long-term value

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    130,000+ locations in the Netspend reload network

  • Checkmark

    Pay-as-you-go plan offers flexibility with individual purchase fees instead of monthly fees

  • Checkmark

    Shares valuable Netspend benefits, like a $10 courtesy cushion

Cons

  • Long list of fees make pay-as-you-go expensive

  • Nearly identical to the Netspend Visa Prepaid Card

  • Doesn’t build credit and no additional security measures with Brink’s

A deeper look into the current card offer

Quick highlights

  • Rewards rate: 1X points on signature purchase transactions; additional points on select limited-time merchant offers
  • Monthly fee: $0 to $9.95 (depending on plan option)
  • Card purchase fee: $0
  • Purchase transaction fee: $0 to $1.50 (signature and PIN)
  • Over-the-Counter cash withdrawal fee: $3 (At network reload locations: 2.75 percent with $4 minimum)
  • ATM cash withdrawal fee: $2.50 per transaction (50 cents for ATM balance inquiry)
  • Card reload fee: Up to $3.95
  • Early direct deposit? Yes (up to two days before payday)
  • Additional savings account included? Yes (5 percent APY on up to a $1,000 balance)

Rewards

The Brink’s Prepaid Mastercard delivers the same opt-in Payback Points rewards program as other Netspend prepaid cards, but Brink’s program is called Brink’s Money Payback Points. The redemption options can be valuable, but the point values and higher-yield reward opportunities are a bit foggy unless you already have an account.

How to earn

You’ll earn 1 Payback Point per dollar on signature purchase transactions (just select “credit” on the keypad at checkout), minus your purchase fees. However, you may be able to earn bonus points at a higher rate if you take advantage of additional limited-time, merchant-specific offers in your Online Account Center. Luckily, these reward opportunities can easily fit into your regular spending since they are personalized around your purchases.

These additional offers are similar to card-linked reward programs, like Amex Offers or Chase Offers.

Along with card spending, your most sizable reward opportunities are unlimited $20 referral bonuses if individuals you refer put at least $40 on their cards.

How to redeem

Points can be redeemed for cash back in the form of account credits, but you must log in to the Online Account Center or mobile app to see your other reward choices.

Fee waivers and merchant offers have also been available in the past, so be sure to check your account every now and then for valuable opportunities.

How much are points worth?

Because the Payback Points program’s terms are a bit vague, it’s difficult to tell the exact point value. When it comes to rewards cards centered around cash back on everyday purchases, you typically want your points to be worth at least 1 cent apiece for a 1 percent cash return.

It may be worth looking into another prepaid credit card with a more straightforward redemption option, such as cash back. For example, the American Express Serve® Cash Back prepaid card earns unlimited 1 percent cash back on all purchases in exchange for a $7.95 monthly fee.

Other cardholder perks

Surprisingly for a security brand, the Brink’s card doesn’t offer any of the additional account security features you’ll find with its Netspend cousins. In fact, it’s missing Netspend’s virtual card number benefit for safer online shopping. This caveat is worth considering since prepaid cards don’t enjoy as many federal protections as debit and credit cards do.

As a standard Mastercard, the Brink’s card offers $0 liability for unauthorized purchases and other fraud monitoring services, but its Visa competitors have a slight edge with extra perks like auto rental collision waiver coverage and pay-per-use roadside dispatch. Still, the card offers two-day early direct deposit and a decent portfolio of handy Netspend benefits if you’re a Brink’s Preferred Benefits cardholder (load qualifying direct deposits of at least $500 in one month to be eligible).

Purchase cushion

Prepaid cards operate like debit cards in that you can’t spend beyond your card’s balance. But if you’re a Brink’s Preferred Benefits cardholder, the issuer may give you up to a $10 negative balance as a courtesy, offering some wiggle room if you’re in a pinch.

Optional savings account

Brink’s Preferred Benefits members may choose to open an optional FDIC-insured savings account with Republic Bank & Trust Company. The account earns a whopping up to 5 percent APY, but only up to a tiny $1,000 balance (4.91 percent variable interest rate). Above that, the APY drops to 0.50 percent (0.49 percent variable interest rate), which isn’t a terrible rate considering the current average APY.

Personalized prescription discounts

You can receive up to 50 percent discounts on prescriptions with major pharmacies with a printable discount card if you choose to join the medical discount plan provider location service included with your card.

Rates and fees

As far as rates and fees go, the Brink’s Prepaid Mastercard is virtually identical to the Netspend Prepaid Visa. If you choose the pay-as-you-go plan, it’ll be hard to maneuver without tripping over a fee. Each purchase will cost $1.50, but the $9.95 monthly plan may save you money depending on how often you’ll use your card. The best move by far is to accept the reduced monthly plan as a Brink’s Preferred Benefit member, which requires $500 in qualifying direct deposits each month. This feature drops your monthly plan to $5 — a fee similar to other prepaid cards.

Unfortunately, your balance will be constantly nibbled into by the cast of fees that usually come with even the best prepaid cards. There’s no upfront card purchase fee, but you’ll have to pay up to $3.95 just to reload your card’s cash balance. You’ll also experience a $3 Over-the-Counter (OTC) cash withdrawal fee at financial institutions like banks or a 2.75 percent fee of the total withdrawal at in-network reload locations (or $4, whichever is greater). Domestic ATMs only charge a $2.50 withdrawal fee.

It’s hard to steer clear of these fees, especially considering the list of situational costs like a 4 percent foreign transaction fee, $5.95 90-day inactivity fee and even a $4.95 fee for a custom picture on your card. Unless you’re dedicated to a prepaid card, alternative options like one of the best checking accounts might be cheaper.

How the Brink’s Prepaid card compares to other starter cards

Besides its laundry list of fees, a few other key considerations deserve your attention before choosing the Brink’s Prepaid. Other prepaid cards like the Amex Serve Cash Back prepaid card may rake in more rewards and provide lower cost networks. For example, it provides free withdrawals at 30,000+ MoneyPass ATMs ($3.95 at others).

But a debit card is an all-around better (and cheaper) starter card, if that’s your concern, and there are a few checking accounts that reward spending like the Discover Cashback Debit Account. Furthermore, there are better prepaid cards that can truly help you establish financial security and provide avenues to graduate to products like the best secured credit cards.

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Brink’s Prepaid Mastercard vs. Discover it® Secured

Where the Discover it Secured really outshines compared to the Brink’s Prepaid is its reduced fees. There are no fees for purchases, and the first late fee is even waived (up to $41 after that). Meanwhile, the Brink’s Prepaid can (and will) charge you almost $6 a month after 90 days of inactivity, which further eats into your balance.

With the Discover it Secured, you do have to put down a security deposit of at least $200, but you can enjoy rewards on your purchases, just like with the Brink’s Prepaid, only without the purchase transaction fees if you opt for the pay-as-you-go plan. Even the rewards with the Discover it Secured are slightly higher than the Brink’s Prepaid — 2 percent back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 per quarter, then 1 percent, and 1 percent on everything else.

You need a bank account to open a Discover it Secured card, so if you choose it over the Brink’s Prepaid, it may be helpful to open a Discover banking account. For people without credit, the Discover it Secured is the superior option, and consumers should consider it over the Brink’s due to its lack of fees and credit-building features. However, if you need a checking account and have no access to a traditional one, the Brink’s can be helpful.

Brink’s Prepaid Mastercard vs. Self – Credit Builder Account with Secured Visa® Credit Card

The Self – Credit Builder Account marries the features of an installment loan, savings account and secured credit card to help people start their credit-building journey and establish positive financial habits. When you open a Self account, a loan is placed into a certificate of deposit, which you must pay back. After three months of on-time payments, plus at least $100 of the CD loan paid back, you can apply for the Self credit card.

Keep in mind that if you want access to credit quickly, the Self – Credit Builder Account with Secured Visa is not the path you should take. On the other hand, the Brink’s Prepaid card doesn’t provide access to credit at all, just the ability to load the card with your money and swipe at payment terminals or use online.

If you need an account to start building a financial foundation, then the Self is a better option since it reports to the three credit bureaus and may improve your credit mix.

Best cards to pair with the Brink’s Prepaid card

Prepaid cards aren’t the best rewards pairing material, but co-branded prepaid cards like the Walmart MoneyCard® Visa® with Cashback Rewards might supply you with a higher-grade source of rewards if you frequently shop at specific retailers.

Instead, you might want to focus on earning a higher credit score with your card if you have less-than-perfect credit.

Bankrate’s Take — Is the Brink’s Prepaid card worth it?

The Brink’s Prepaid is only worth it in very specific situations, like if you can’t open a traditional banking account. In those cases, the Brink’s Prepaid Mastercard is a solid prepaid credit card that offers a bit more flexibility than some competitors with its pay-as-you-go plan and $10 negative balance cushion. However, its rewards program is confusing, and, like most prepaid cards, it poses a few fee-harvesting traps. As such, your money may go a bit farther with a debit or credit card.

Written by
Garrett Yarbrough
Credit Card Reviews Writer

Bankrate expert Garrett Yarbrough strives to make navigating credit cards and credit building smooth sailing for his readers. After regularly featuring his credit card, credit monitoring and identity theft analysis on NextAdvisor.com, he joined the CreditCards.com and Bankrate.com teams as a staff writer to develop product reviews and comprehensive credit card guides focused on cash back, credit scores and card offers.

Edited by Credit Cards Editor
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