Advertiser Disclosure: This post includes references to offers from our partners. We receive compensation when you click on links to those products. However, the opinions expressed here are ours alone and at no time has the editorial content been provided, reviewed, or approved by any issuer.
For consumers who like to stay lean, ClearSpend Prepaid Visa a great alternative to a traditional bank account. Even for those with standard bank accounts and credit cards, BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Visa Card is an excellent, low-cost budgeting tool that helps manage and control spending from day to day. And you don’t have to submit to a credit check to get your hands on one.
It’s free to obtain and activate a BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Card. After a $4 initial load fee, there are no reload fees when you load via direct deposit or ACH, at a BBVA branch, or through a BBVA debit card. Visa ReadyLink merchants may charge for loads.
You can set up direct deposits or use various electronic funds transfer tools (such as Venmo and PayPal) to top up your account while on the go. It’s free to use the card at merchants and withdraw from in-network BBVA Bank ATMs too. Out-of-network ATM withdrawals do carry fees, but as BBVA belongs to the 50,000-strong Allpoint ATM network, you probably won’t have too much trouble finding an ATM near you.
Curious how BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Card stacks up to other prepaid debit cards? Here’s a closer look at its features, advantages, and drawbacks.
Load Options and Fees
Once you open your BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Card account and receive your card, you can activate it through your account portal on BBVA’s website. You can then load your card by linking it to an existing BBVA Bank debit card, add cash in person at any BBVA Bank branch or Visa ReadyLink location, set up direct deposit with an employer or benefits provider, or transfer funds via electronic funds transfer apps such as Venmo, Dwolla, PayPal, and Popmoney.
Any of these methods are appropriate for reloads as well, though the easiest and least intrusive option is probably recurring direct deposit. There is a $4 fee for your first load (Visa ReadyLink fees may be higher). Reloads made through BBVA bank accounts, BBVA debit cards, and direct deposit are free. Successive Visa ReadyLink loads may incur fees up to $4.50. The minimum load and reload amount is $25.
BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Card has no annual fee or monthly maintenance fee when you load at least $400 each month. Otherwise, a $4 monthly maintenance fee applies.
ClearSpend has no U.S. transaction fees or in-network (Allpoint and BBVA) ATM withdrawal fees. Your first out-of-network ATM withdrawal is free, but successive withdrawals cost $2, plus any fees charged by the ATM operator.
There are no fees for customer service calls, cash advances, additional authorized users (secondary cards), or balance inquiries at in-network and out-of-network ATMs. There is a 3% foreign transaction fee on all foreign transactions, and the out-of-country ATM withdrawal fee is $3.
Spending and Balance Limits
You can have no more than $6,500 on this card at once. That’s also the maximum direct deposit load amount. Other load options have lower limits: The maximum cash and debit card load amount is $2,500 per load ($6,500 within a 30-day period), and the maximum Visa ReadyLink load amount is $1,500 per load ($3,500 within a 15-day period). You can’t withdraw more than $600 from an ATM, nor spend more than $2,500, in a single day.
You can add a secondary cardholder to your account, just as you’d add an authorized user to a credit card account. The secondary cardholder gets his or her own card, but the account’s spending and balance limits remain the same, so this isn’t an appropriate workaround for people with larger budgets. Loading and reloading procedures are the same as for primary cardholders. There’s no additional fee for secondary cardholders, nor is there a second monthly maintenance fee charged if you don’t clear the $400 monthly load threshold.
Like deposit account balances held with FDIC member banks (pretty much any bank that operates in the U.S.), funds loaded onto your BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Card have FDIC insurance up to $250,000 per card. Since you can’t have more than $6,500 on your card at any time, this is more than enough protection in the unlikely event that BBVA Bank fails.
- Easy to Avoid Fees. BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Card has few one-time fees, and its ongoing monthly maintenance fees are relatively to avoid – just make at least $400 in load each month and you’re good to go. If you stick to direct deposit or BBVA branch or debit card reloads, you don’t have to worry about reloads either. If you stay within BBVA’s sprawling ATM network, load at least $400 per month, and use your card judiciously, you may well never pay a fee to use this card after your initial $4 load fee.
- Lots of Load Options. The BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Card has a slew of load and reload options for cardholders of every stripe. You can go the traditional route and load at a BBVA Bank branch, set up direct deposit with your employer, or use an electronic funds transfer system such as Venmo or PayPal to top up your account. Whatever you choose, there’s no excuse for a low balance – provided you have the funds somewhere, of course.
- No Credit Check Required for Sign-up. Like most reloadable prepaid debit cards, the BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Card doesn’t require a credit check. That’s great news for applicants with less-than-stellar credit, including those unlikely to qualify for non-secured credit cards. As a corollary, using this card can’t hurt your credit, even if you spend more than you should.
- Huge Fee-Free ATM Network. BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid users have access to more than 50,000 fee-free ATMs. Unless you venture far afield, you’re unlikely to find yourself too far from an Allpoint ATM. That’s great news if you anticipate patronizing merchants who don’t take Visa cards, or just want to keep some cash in your pocket for emergencies.
- Funds Are FDIC-Insured. Like funds held in a traditional bank account, funds loaded onto your BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Card are protected by the FDIC. In the unlikely event that BBVA fails or terminates the ClearSpend program, you won’t lose your money.
- Restrictive Load and Balance Limits. You can’t load more than $2,500 per day on to your BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Card, nor can your card hold more than $6,500 at any time. If you don’t have a bank account and use this card as your primary vehicle for day-to-day spending, this could present a major problem. Some competing cards have higher limits.
- Limited Membership Benefits. Though its low fees and transparent policies are worth celebrating, the BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Card’s lack of value-added perks definitely qualify as a drawback. Some fellow prepaid cards fare better in this department. For example, American Express’s Serve cards (which come in several forms) have some notable fringe benefits, including roadside assistance, exclusive discounts and deals on retail and restaurant purchases, and special access to big-ticket events (such as popular concerts and sporting events).
- Only 1 Secondary Cardholder Allowed. You can only add a single secondary cardholder to your BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Card account. If you live in a larger household with a spouse and multiple teenagers, or run a small business with lots of spending-authorized employees, that’s likely to be too restrictive for your needs.
- 3% Charge for Foreign Transactions. Though it’s nice that you can use your card abroad, you have to pay for the privilege. BBVA adds a 3% charge to all foreign transactions, substantially increasing the cost of spending in Mexico, Canada, and elsewhere. If you have a credit or debit card that doesn’t charge foreign transactions, bring it on international trips and leave the BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Card behind.
- Doesn’t Build Credit. Like all prepaid cards, BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Card doesn’t build credit. If you’re looking to build or rebuild your credit, look to a secured or entry-level credit card, which can improve your credit score with responsible use and timely payment.
You don’t have to use your BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Visa® Card as your primary day-to-day spending tool. One of the strongest use cases for prepaid debit cards involves budgeting – basically, assigning a discrete spending category to each reloadable card, in a modern twist on the age-old envelope budgeting method. If you have a complex budget that you’d like to manage exclusively with prepaid cards, this can quickly get unwieldy. But, in a world where bank account fees are tougher than ever to avoid altogether, it could still be the cheapest option.
Even if you don’t want to go full bore on prepaid card budgeting, it’s a snap to use your BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Card to save up for a large purchase or control spending in a specific, impulse-prone category – such as restaurant meals or fashionable clothing.