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In summer of 2017, United Airlines launched the MileagePlus GO Visa Prepaid Card, which was the first prepaid card to offer the ability to earn frequent flyer miles – in this case United Airlines’ MileagePlus loyalty miles.
A lot of people use prepaid cards because they don’t have bank accounts or credit cards, or to protect their credit card info when they purchase things online. In fact, prepaid cards are so popular that the prepaid card market is expected to reach $112 billion by 2018.
Essentially, the MileagePlus GO Visa card works very similarly to how a normal credit card would work. You can use it wherever Visa cards are accepted, but it isn’t a credit card. You do not need a credit check in order to qualify for a prepaid card and your transaction activity is not reported to credit bureaus. You have to load money onto the card before you can use it.
Many people might want a card like the MileagePlus GO Visa Prepaid Card because they can’t access normal credit cards since they have bad or no credit and yet they still want the chance to earn frequent flyer miles.
But is the card worthwhile given its high cost? Here is our review of the card.
The Benefits of Using the MileagePlus GO Card
The biggest benefit of using the MileagePlus GO Prepaid Card is that you can earn up to 2,500 mileage points per month. You earn 1 mile for every dollar you spend. These points are deposited into your United MileagePlus account every month.
You can also use the card to cash checks and it sends you text messages and email alerts after each of your transaction so that you can stay on top of your finances. In addition, if you have a balance in your savings account on the card of up to $1000, you can earn 5% on that annually.
The Drawbacks of Using the MileagePlus GO Card
Despite the benefits of using a MileagePlus Go Visa Prepaid Card, there are some significant downsides to using the card. The biggest one is the $85 annual fee that is charged as soon as you load money onto the card.
Since many prepaid cards do not charge an annual fee, this is a significant expense. For that price, you do get some benefits like unlimited signature purchase transactions and PIN purchase transactions. But other than that, the other fees for this card are similar to other prepaid cards.
For example, there’s a 3.5% foreign transaction surcharge when you make a purchase in another currency. There are also fees related to things like ATM use. You’ll have to pay $2.50 per withdrawal at a financial institution, $2.50 to make withdrawals at out-of-network ATMs plus any ATM fees from the ATM owner, and $4.95 for withdrawals if you are using a foreign ATM. If you use a Moneypass ATM, there are no fees for your withdrawal.
While there is no direct deposit fee, if you load money at a Netspend network partner there may be a fee assessed depending on the location. Check deposit fees also depends on the service provider, but there is no fee for an account to account transfer via their website.
When it comes to checking your balance, there are no fees to check your balance online via the account center, email, text message, their telephone service, or at an ATM.
Be Careful Before Using the MileagePlus Go Card
Obviously, because of all of these fees and because of the high annual fee the card charges, it is important to shop around before deciding that you want to get a United MileagePlus GO Prepaid Card. If you can qualify for a travel credit card, you’re better off getting one of United’s credit cards to earn miles because you’ll get a bonus when applying for it, and you also get other benefits like free checked bags and priority boarding.
However, if you cannot qualify for a United Airlines credit card or you do not want a credit card, this prepaid card could be useful if you plan on using it frequently. For example, if you hold $1,000 in your savings account, the card’s 5% interest would allow you to offset $50 worth of the $85 fee after a year.
Also, make sure that you’ll spend enough to make it worthwhile to get the card. Before you get a card, do the math so you know how much you’re likely to earn in points by using the card.
Finally, pay close attention to the fees that are charged in order to find ways to avoid them. For example, make sure you don’t use the card to pay for foreign transactions and avoid making deposits or loading money on the card in ways where there are expensive fees involved.
Who is NetSpend?
NetSpend is the company that has partnered with United Airlines to offer the MileagePlus Go Visa Prepaid Card. They are one of the largest providers of prepaid cards. They have served over 10 million customers since 1999 and they have an extensive network with over 130,000 places where you can put money onto your card and over 100,000 places where you can purchase a NetSpend prepaid card. While United Airlines is a partner on the card, NetSpend handles all the day to day operations of the card.
Author: Jeff Gitlen