Univision MasterCard Prepaid Card: What You Need to Know (MGI, WU)

The Univision MasterCard prepaid card is a debit card issued by MetaBank, and branded and marketed by Univision Communications Inc. Customers load funds on to the card either through direct deposit of an employer- or government-issued check or at retail locations including sites operated by Moneygram International Inc. (NASDAQ: MGI), The Western Union Company (NYSE: WU), Reloadit and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) Rapid Reload. While the card provides consumers with a safe, affordable and convenient way to make purchases and pay bills, other competing cards may offer better value to consumers.

How Do Customers Enroll?

To enroll in the Univision MasterCard prepaid card program, customers must provide MetaBank their name, address, phone number and date of birth. MetaBank does not require a Social Security number, a credit check or an existing bank account. Customers must also confirm that they are over the age of 18 and that they live in one of the 50 states, or Puerto Rico. The bank may require a government-issued identification card to verify this information. Non-U.S. citizens may enroll if they verify that they have a permanent physical address in one of the 50 states, or Puerto Rico. After the bank verifies the information on the enrollment form, it mails the customer the card.

How Do Customers Activate the Card?

Customers call a 24-hour automated phone system toll-free to activate their cards. The system asks cardholders to choose a four-digit personal identification number (PIN), which allows them to withdraw cash at automated teller machines (ATMs) and make debit purchases.

What Fees Do Cardholders Pay?

Cardholders pay a monthly maintenance fee of $9.95, which covers almost all of the card's services. Cardholders receive unlimited use of the card at stores and online retailers worldwide. They can also make unlimited bill payments and obtain cash at any ATM in the company's Allpoint network. Cardholders also receive the protection of the MasterCard Zero Liability, which replaces funds in most cases if the card is lost or stolen. In addition, customers can receive free text alerts with balance notifications, and a free secondary card for family members.

The service also includes unlimited deposits of funds on to the card. Customers can use direct deposit for paychecks, government benefits and tax refunds. Customers who enroll in direct deposit receive a $10 bonus on the card once they directly deposit their first check. In addition, cardholders can deposit cash without bank charges at thousands of retail outlets, including MoneyGram, Western Union, Reloadit and Walmart. Some of those retailers may charge fees for this service.

The card offers several optional services that are not covered by the monthly maintenance fee. There is a $1.95 per transaction fee for withdrawals from non-Allpoint ATMs, international ATMs, and for cash withdrawals at domestic or international banks. There is also a $9.95 per transaction fee for card replacement, express shipment of cards and check refunds. In addition, there is a 2% foreign transaction fee for each transaction.

Are Cardholders' Funds Insured?

Cardholders of the Univision MasterCard prepaid card receive Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insurance up to $250,000 through either The Bancorp Bank or MetaBank, both of which are FDIC-member banks. If a cardholder's card is lost or stolen, MetaBank replaces the money and the card, though the $9.95 card replacement fee applies.

What Does the Competition Offer?

The Univision MasterCard prepaid card has many competitors, and some of them offer lower fees with the same convenient features. The Chase Liquid card offered by JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is a prepaid debit card with a $4.95 monthly maintenance fee. The card charges no fees to open the account, or to load or reload funds. In addition, the card's benefits include direct deposit, bill pay, account transfer features and access to a large network of ATMs. The Halogen reloadable prepaid card issued by Kmart charges a $5.95 monthly maintenance fee, which the issuer waives if the customer loads at least $1,000 on to the card during a billing cycle, or makes at least 30 qualifying purchases with the card. The Halogen card also offers direct deposit, automatic bill payment and access to a large network of ATMs. The Halogen card costs $3.95 for the initial card and for each replacement card.