United MileagePlus Lots of Fees Prepaid Debit Card

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A couple of months ago, Greg wrote about a rumored new prepaid debit card: The United MileagePlus GO Prepaid Visa Debit Card. We wondered whether this new card would provide a new avenue for MS via mileage-earning PIN transactions. The verdict is in: this card won’t earn miles on PIN-based transactions and isn’t worth the fee for the vast majority of people.

The Deal

  • United prepaid debit card that earns 1X per dollar spent with a monthly cap of 2,500 miles per month
  • Annual fee of $85
  • Find more information at https://www.mileageplusgo.com/

Key Details

  • $85 annual fee (double-emphasizing this)
  • No credit check
  • Earn 1X everywhere with a monthly cap of 2,500 miles per month
  • Only signature-based transactions earn miles
  • $0 direct deposit load fee, load fees at stores will vary
  • Mobile account management
  • Replacement card costs $9.95
  • Additional card costs $9.95
  • Bill payment fees vary
  • There are even more fees

Quick Thoughts

They should either rename this one the United MileagePlus Lots of Fees card or the United MileagePlus Go Far Away card. For most people, this card just won’t make sense. An annual fee for a prepaid debit card would only make sense if you do not have access to a rewards credit card. For those without sufficient credit to get approved for a rewards-earning credit card — whether due to age or financial history — perhaps this card could make sense. However, I might suggest that a secured credit card from an issuer that allows that card to graduate to an unsecured card might be more productive in building a credit history.

According to our Reasonable Redemption Values, United miles are worth about 1.4 cents per point. That means that in order to cover the annual fee, you would have to earn more than 6,071 miles per year — meaning that the better part of your first three months in earnings will be going to cover the fee. If you then also pay any of the rest of the myriad of fees, you would have to earn more miles to cover those fees as well. That said, if you don’t have access to a credit card and want to earn something for your purchases, this might be a way to do that. Just be sure to watch out for the fees – the full list of which can be seen here.

All that said, there is still a slight possibility of this turning out better-than-anticipated if PIN-less debit transactions work with the card (see the previous post for more detail). We won’t know the answer to this question for a while. Still, it would seem that fees for loading combined with the annual fee might make this avenue too expensive for buying and unloading prepaid cards.  See the full MileagePlus Go website for more detail.

H/T: Points Fitness

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