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Need a no-frills prepaid debit card that helps you manage your day-to-day spending? The Kaiku® Visa® Prepaid Card is definitely worth a closer look.
The Kaiku Visa Prepaid Card belongs to the Visa Clear Prepaid family of reloadable prepaid debit cards. Like its Visa Clear stablemates, the card has a clearly outlined and super-straightforward fee schedule that eliminates billing surprises and makes it easy to create a monthly budget. Its practical approach is matched by sleek, millennial-friendly branding, complete with six neon-ish card color options and a defiant slogan: “A New Way to Everyday.”
By the prepaid card segment’s standards, Kaiku has a very reasonable fee schedule and simple features that improve the cardholder experience, such as surcharge-free access to about 55,000 Allpoint ATMs in the U.S. It’s free to purchase and activate a card, and the process doesn’t require a credit check. The drawback of Kaiku’s simplicity, transparency, and low fees is a distinct lack of value-added benefits, such as roadside assistance, as well as somewhat restrictive limits on card value (balance) and transaction activity.
The Kaiku Visa Prepaid Card competes with other cards in the Visa Clear family, including the Green Dot Reloadable Prepaid Visa Card, the PNC Smart Access Prepaid Visa Card, the Walmart MoneyCard Preferred Card, and the Prepaid Visa RushCard. It’s also worth comparing to prepaid cards not included in the Visa Clear stable, including American Express Serve, Chase Liquid, and the Western Union NetSpend Prepaid MasterCard.
Load Options and Possible Fees
Before you can use your Kaiku card, you need to load it with cash using any of the following methods. When you run out of funds (i.e., your card value drops to zero), you can reload it using any of these methods as well:
- Direct deposit from an employer or benefits provider: available immediately
- Inbound transfers from other prepaid cards (you can also send funds to other prepaid cards, which is useful for settling personal debts): available immediately
- Mobile check deposit: available in up to 10 business days, depending on your bank
- Transfer from PayPal or Amazon: available in one to three business days
- In-store cash loads at participating retailers such as Walmart and Walgreens: available in one to three business days
Depending on the merchant, in-store cash loads cost $2.95 to $4.95 per load. All other load and reload methods are free in all cases.
Other potential fees include:
- Monthly Maintenance Fee: $3 per month, waived when you load at least $750 on your card in any given calendar month.
- Out-of-Network ATM Withdrawal Fee: $3, in addition to any surcharges levied by the ATM operator. Remember, Kaiku cards have surcharge-free access to 55,000 Allpoint ATMs in the U.S.
- Expedited Mobile Check Deposit: 1% to 4% of the deposited amount ($5 minimum).
Kaiku imposes some important limits on transactions and card balances. The most important include:
- A maximum card value of $10,000 at any time
- A maximum cumulative load of $25,000 in any 30-day period
- 45 total loads in any 30-day period
- A $1,500 single-transaction size limit
- A $3,000 daily spending limit
- A $500 maximum daily ATM withdrawal limit
- A $20 minimum load or reload.
Online Bill Pay
Kaiku has a free online bill pay system that works just like a traditional bank’s, though it’s subject to Kaiku’s transaction size and frequency limits.
You can have up to three additional users on your Kaiku account. Each one receives a unique card bearing his or her name and enjoys the same benefits (including the ability to load and spend funds in the account) as the primary cardholder.
Like bank account balances held with FDIC member banks (virtually any bank that does business in the U.S.), Kaiku card values come with FDIC insurance up to $250,000 per card. Of course, the $10,000 balance limit means you can only ever lose $10,000 on a Kaiku card.
- No Activation Fee. The Kaiku Visa Prepaid Card never charges an activation fee, regardless of how you purchase and activate it. This is a notable contrast with some competing reloadable prepaid cards, which charge anywhere from $3 to $5 upfront.
- Other Fees Are Very Reasonable. Kaiku’s biggest fee is the $3 monthly maintenance fee, which is pretty low compared to competing issues such as Green Dot ($5.95) and Chase Liquid ($4.95). Plus, it’s waived if you deposit loads equivalent to at least $750 per month. The only other fee charged by Kaiku itself is a $3 surcharge for each out-of-network ATM withdrawal – which, given Kaiku’s 55,000-strong network of fee-free ATMs, is relatively easy to avoid. Kaiku avoids fees for actions that often incur a fee elsewhere, such as replacement cards ($4.95 at Green Dot and $3.95 at Western Union) and online bill pay ($1 per transaction at Western Union).
- Inclusion in the Visa Clear Prepaid Family. Kaiku is part of the Visa Clear Prepaid card family, a prominent network of reputable prepaid card issuers. To qualify for the Visa Clear designation, issuers must clearly and transparently list their fees and avoid charging fees for such events as declined transactions, point-of-sale cash back, and in-network ATM withdrawals. Some other card issuers, such as NetSpend and Western Union, don’t belong to reputable card networks and thus don’t offer the same level of transparency and consumer-friendly protections.
- Expansive Network of Fee-Free ATMs. Kaiku belongs to the Allpoint ATM network, which has some 55,000 fee-free ATMs in the United States. Other issuers can’t match this level of coverage: American Express Serve belongs to Money Pass, which only has 24,000 fee-free ATMs, and the PNC Smart Access Prepaid Visa Card only has access to about 7,000 PNC-branded ATMs.
- No Foreign Currency Exchange Fee. Kaiku doesn’t charge a currency exchange fee for transactions made in a foreign country – a particularly nice advantage if you live close to Mexico or Canada and routinely cross the border for excursions, business, and short vacations. Green Dot charges 3% for all foreign transactions.
- Attractive, Semi-customizable Card Designs. While it’s not wise to make aesthetics the deciding factor in your prepaid card choice, Kaiku’s colorful and somewhat customizable designs definitely count as a fringe benefit. You can choose from six different color schemes, all with an upscale background pattern that resembles cut wood boards. It’s rare to find a prepaid card that permits this level of customization, not to mention one with a well-thought-out color and design scheme.
- Limited Membership Benefits. Kaiku is a pretty bare-bones card. Beyond its transparent policies and reasonable fee structure, it doesn’t come with many (if any) value-added perks – benefits that don’t necessarily have a hard monetary value, but nonetheless contribute to the overall customer experience. By contrast, American Express Serve comes with a host of value-added benefits, including roadside assistance, special deals on big-ticket events (such as popular concerts and sporting events), and AmEx-only discounts on retail and restaurant purchases.
- Can’t Build Credit. Since it’s not a credit card or loan, your Kaiku Visa Prepaid Card can’t help you improve your credit score or build your credit history. This is especially inconvenient if you have imperfect credit or are relatively new to the credit game and need access to financial products that can boost your credit profile. Visa’s lineup of secured credit cards, which share many characteristics with Visa-branded prepaid cards like the Kaiku card, can build your credit.
- Higher Direct Deposit Requirement to Avoid Monthly Maintenance Fee. You need to arrange loads equivalent to $750 per month to avoid Kaiku’s $3 monthly maintenance fee. That compares unfavorably to American Express Serve, which requires direct deposits totaling only $500 per month to achieve the same feat.
- Maximum Card Value Capped at $10,000. You can never carry more than $10,000 on your Kaiku card. If you have higher day-to-day spending needs or lots of bills to deal with on a monthly basis, that limit could be a problem. Chase Liquid doesn’t have any balance limits at all.
- Inconvenient Reload Limits. Kaiku imposes some limitations on reload size and frequency, such as a 45 total loads or a maximum cumulative load of $25,000 in any given 30-day period. As long as you load your card by direct deposit, check deposit, or bank transfer, Chase Liquid doesn’t impose any limits on reload amounts or frequencies.
- No Debit Card Load Option. Kaiku doesn’t let you reload your card with a debit or credit card. While the latter is understandable, the former can be inconvenient if you use your Kaiku card primarily as a day-to-day budgeting tool that’s tied to a traditional bank account. You can load and reload a Green Dot prepaid card using a debit card – in fact, that’s how I first got funds into my own Green Dot account.
The Kaiku® Visa® Prepaid Card is definitely an above-average reloadable prepaid debit card, and I personally think its benefits outweigh its drawbacks. But it’s still a reloadable prepaid debit card, meaning it comes with certain broad limitations and drawbacks that apply to the entire category.
For instance, balances held on prepaid cards don’t earn interest, so it’s not advisable to use your card for long-term savings or retirement planning. And using a prepaid card doesn’t help you build credit, no matter how responsible you are with it.
Then again, there’s no law against having a traditional bank account or credit card on top of your prepaid debit card. As long as you’re okay with their inherent limitations, why not try one out for yourself – even if it doesn’t end up being a Kaiku card?