The PayPower prepaid card is a Visa card that offers an alternative to credit cards and checking accounts. Blackhawk Network Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: HAWK), which is the card issuer, requires basic identifying information from customers, but it does not require credit checks. The card may offer advantages to some types of consumers, but most online reviewers are unhappy with the product.

What Is PayPower?

Enroll for the card online by providing your name, address, date of birth and Social Security number. You may also be required to provide a copy of your driver's license or other identifying information. The company then mails you a card. Load funds onto the card either through direct deposit enrollment with an employer or a government benefits provider, or by purchasing a Reloadit Pack at one of the company's participating retailers. The direct deposit option is free, while the Reloadit Packs charge load fees, which are typically $3.95 per load. Blackhawk Network also charges a monthly $5.95 maintenance fee. You also pay a $1.95 fee per transaction at automated teller machines (ATMs) and a 50-cent fee per balance inquiry. You can use your PayPower card to make purchases at any merchant that accepts Visa debit cards, as well as withdraw money at ATMs and pay bills.

Advantages of the PayPower Card

The Paypower prepaid card is an alternative if you lack the credit scores necessary to qualify for a credit card. Since the card only allows you to spend the funds you load onto it, you avoid the overdraft fees and minimum balance requirements of checking accounts. The card is safer and more convenient than cash. The Visa Zero Liability policy protects you from unauthorized use. Domestic cardholders who register their cards can rely on the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insurance provided by the company's partners, Bancorp Bank and MetaBank. The card lets you make single or recurring bill payments online or over the phone, so you avoid the cost and inconvenience of writing and mailing physical checks or using a money order. Schedule bill payments for the days you choose, for your budgeting convenience.

Disadvantages of the PayPower Card

If you qualify for a traditional credit card or have a bank account, you may find the PayPower prepaid card fees to be steep. The $5.95 monthly maintenance fee, which amounts to $71.40 annually, is more than 23% higher than the average annual fee of $58 that credit cards charged in 2015. Also, the $3.95 fee for loading money onto the card is excessive; banks don't charge customers any fees to deposit money. Banks often waive minimum balance requirements and fees if you enroll in direct deposit. You could open a bank account to avoid PayPower card fees. Unlike PayPower, bank-issued credit and debit cards do not charge fees if you use the bank's ATMs.

Customer Reviews

Online reviews of the PayPower card and its issuer Blackhawk are mostly negative. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) of San Francisco Bay Area and Coastal California website logged 718 closed complaints about the company, more than 400 of which concerned problems with the product or service. As of December 2016, the site lists 29 customer reviews of the business, all of which are negative. The reviews cite excessive costs, hidden charges to renew expired cards, poor customer service and problems with activating and using the card. Similarly,  sitejabber.com contains 18 reviews of the product, 16 of which give the product one star and two of which give it five stars (as of December 2016). The negative reviewers cite problems with activating the card, problems with the bill-paying features and excessive fees. One of the positive reviewers mentions good customer service, while the other five-star rating may be an error since it refers to the company as a "total rip-off."