Last weekend in Charlotte, a reader pulled me aside and asked, "Why haven't you written anything about the T-Mobile prepaid card?"
I tried to explain that here on the blog I report my own experiences, so that they can inform the efforts of my readers to achieve their travel goals. Since I don't have a T-Mobile prepaid card, I don't have any value to add to what my readers already know about the product.
The reader was not impressed with my explanation, so here we go.
Applying for the card
You can sign up for a T-Mobile Visa Prepaid Card online. It costs $4 to enroll, unless you're a current T-Mobile customer, in which case it's free.
Additionally, there's a $5 monthly maintenance fee each month in which you don't load at least $500 to the card.
Loading the card
If you load your T-Mobile Visa Prepaid Card with more than $300 using a Reloadit pack (so-called "retail" loads), the fee for purchasing the Reloadit pack is refunded to your card, making the card free to reload. If you can purchase Reloadit packs using credit cards, this means it's completely free to manufacture spend at any merchant that allows such purchases.
There are a number of other ways to load the card, none of with are particularly interesting: you can load cash at T-Mobile store locations or at Visa ReadyLink reload merchants.
Unloading the card
The T-Mobile Visa Prepaid Card has a built-in bill pay feature.
Don't use it.
The relevant FlyerTalk thread is full of reports of people having their accounts frozen or closed for exclusively using the built-in bill pay feature. Instead, use this card like you would any PIN-enabled debit card product: pay bills through Evolve Money or at Walmart, buy money orders, or pay off your Citi credit cards over the phone.
The T-Mobile Visa Prepaid card seems like a great tool, but only if you have access to Reloadit cards that can be consistently purchased with credit cards.
Additionally, the large number of reports of account freezes shutdowns would make me wary of scaling it up very fast, since if your account were closed you may lose access to the funds on the card for days or weeks.