[Updated 4/15/13: Since writing this post I have tested and confirmed that Gobank, unlike Bluebird, allows ACH pulls. In other words, you don't need to initiate bill payments from Gobank, you can initiate the payment from your account with your bill payee. However, Gobank account numbers are several digits longer than traditional checking account numbers, and some of my credit card companies were not able to accept the entire account number. Nonetheless, this somewhat mitigates the shortcomings of Gobank's bill pay feature which I identified below.]
Yesterday I reported on the capabilities, fees, and limits of the new Gobank product from Greendot. I compared it to the similar, groundbreaking Bluebird card from American Express. Today I'll make that comparison in more detail, and in tomorrow's post I'll take a look at some of the opportunities created by this new product.
- Direct Deposit: Both Gobank and Bluebird allow direct deposit of paychecks, and accept incoming ACH transfers from other banks and payment services like Paypal.
- Prepaid Reloads: Gobank is reloadable using Greendot Moneypaks, which can be purchased using cash at many drug and grocery stores. Bluebird is reloadable using Vanilla Reload Networks prepaid reload cards, which can be purchased using rewards-earning credit cards at many, but far from all, drug stores, gas stations, and grocery stores.
- Walmart Register Reloads: Both Gobank and Bluebird can be reloaded at any Walmart register using cash or PIN-based debit cards. Gobank has a $2,500 daily reload limit, and it's unclear whether there is a monthly limit on these reloads. Bluebird has a $1,000 daily limit and $5,000 monthly limit, which is shared with reloads done with Vanilla Reload Network cards.
- Online Debit Card Loads: both products allow $1,000 in monthly debit card loads online. However, Bluebird charges $2 for online debit loads, with a daily $100 limit, while these loads are free using Gobank, with a daily load limit of $200.
Winner: the two products are very evenly matched on the load side, with Bluebird having the advantage of accepting more flexible Vanilla Reload Network cards, while Gobank has higher daily Walmart load limits and free online deposits, which can save you trips to Walmart. I call this a tie.
When it comes to ATM withdrawals, the two cards are very evenly matched since they both use the same third-party network of free MoneyPass ATMs. However, Bluebird technically requires you to have a monthly direct deposit in order to use these ATMs for free, while Gobank doesn't have that requirement.
Likewise, both products have a daily ATM withdrawal limit of $500, but Bluebird also imposes a monthly ATM withdrawal limit of $2,000, while Gobank doesn't have a published ATM withdrawal limit.
Winner: Gobank by a hair.
One of the most obvious advantages of Bluebird over Gobank is that Bluebird's bill pay interface is so effective, while Gobank has a handsome but comparatively clunky bill pay tool. Additionally, Bluebird allows multiple pay-to accounts per payee, while Gobank doesn't, a major limitation if you have multiple accounts with a single company: it essentially forces you to have a backup banking product with which you can pay your other accounts.
Most users will never pay a fee for using either of these cards. The exception is when using the cards abroad: Bluebird has no foreign transaction fee, while Gobank charges a 3% fee for foreign transactions (no matter what currency they're conducted in). Since I use my Bluebird card as a safe alternative to carrying my credit and debit cards while traveling abroad, this is a major shortcoming of Gobank.
As you can see, these products are very evenly matched. Since Gobank is still in its beta testing stage, it's certainly possible that some of its problems, like foreign transaction fees and a clunky bill pay interface, will be fixed by the time the product is ready for open enrollment. In the meantime, there's no reason not to have both, since the slightly different configuration of features allows them to be used in different ways to maximize your points and miles haul. Come back tomorrow, when I'll discuss precisely that.