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Brink’s Armored™ Account review: Low-cost benefits and yields

The  Brink’s Armored™ Account 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 Armored™ Account 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.

Brink’s Armored™ Account

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Brink’s Armored™ Account overview

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

The Brink’s Armored prepaid card is issued by Netspend and carries Mastercard benefits. However, Visa cards tend to offer more perks on base cards than Mastercard credit cards, and the Brinks Armored Prepaid is also missing common perks, like virtual card numbers. However, there are a few solid perks that can make up for this, such as the optional overdraft protection and additional savings account option.

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

  • Credit Card Cash Back

    Rewards

    • 1X points on signature purchase transactions; additional points on select limited-time merchant offers

    Expert Appraisal: Unimpressive
    See our expert analysis

  • Credit Card Search

    Rates and fees

    • 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 ($0.50 for ATM balance inquiry)
    • Card reload fee: Up to $3.95

    Expert Appraisal: Weak
    See our expert analysis

  • Congrats

    Other cardholder perks

    • Early direct deposit
    • Additional savings account included with 5 percent APY on up to a $1,000 balance
    • ID Theft Protection & Purchase Assurance
    • No-cost ATM Withdrawal
    • Optional overdraft service

    Expert Appraisal: Good
    See our expert analysis

What are the pros and cons?

Pros

  • Checkmark

    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 and high-yielding savings account

Cons

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

  • Easy for the fees to eat into the rewards

  • Doesn’t build credit and offers no additional security measures

Why you would want the Brink’s Armored Account

The Brink’s Armored Account debit card may not be the best option for long-term use, but it’s good for setting up for the future. For people starting out with any cashless case and wondering what to do, the Brink’s Armored Account has a few perks worth taking a look at.

Benefits: A solid suite of perks

As a standard Mastercard, the Brink’s card offers $0 liability for unauthorized purchases and other fraud monitoring services. The card also offers two-day early direct deposit and a decent portfolio of handy Netspend benefits if you’re a Brink’s Preferred Benefits cardholder. 

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.

Monthly fees: Deposits work in your favor

With debit cards, one fee you need to be aware of is the monthly service fee, also known as a maintenance fee, that adds to the balance. There’s a growing trend of banks getting rid of them, but that’s not always the case. With the Brinks Armored Account, your monthly fee is waived when you deposit a minimum of $500 each month. If you plan to use this card as your main debit card, you may be able to reach this requirement easily. Plus, you can receive your money two days earlier when you sign up for the card’s direct deposit option.

Why you would not want the Brinks Armored Account

The Brink’s Armored Account 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.

Rewards: Too low to stand up to fees

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, similar to Amex Offers or Chase Offers.

Because the Payback Points program’s terms are a bit vague, it’s difficult to tell the exact point value. If you plan to redeem points you earn with your rewards card for cash back, you typically want your points to be worth at least 1 cent apiece. Considering the fees attached to this card, the cost of using this card can easily eat up the value of any rewards you earn.

Rates and fees: Costs pile up quickly

If you choose the pay-as-you-go plan, it’ll be hard to use this card without tripping over a fee. Each purchase costs $1.50, but the $9.95 monthly plan may save you money, depending on how often you use your card. The best move 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, the cast of fees that usually come with even the best prepaid cards will constantly nibble into your balance. 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), only waiving the first withdrawal fee every month.

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 Armored™ Account compares to other starter cards

Besides its laundry list of fees, a few other key considerations deserve your attention before choosing the Brink’s Armored Prepaid.

But a debit card is an all-around better (and cheaper) starter card 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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Who is the Brink’s Armored Account right for?

In general, the Brink’s Armored Account may not have the best long-term value. Still, there are a few instances where this card can come in handy.

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
India Davis
Editor, Credit Cards

India Davis is an editor specializing in credit cards and updates. She believes in putting the reader first and carrying out a brand’s voice to its fullest potential. She has lived and worked in three different countries and hopes to explore more of the world post-pandemic.

Edited by Senior Editor, Credit Cards

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