Developing: Momentum prepaid Visa

I've long been curious about the Momentum Prepaid Visa, one of the many cards issued by The Bancorp Bank. There's virtually no information available about it online, and it has an unusually sparse and confusing Flyertalk thread.

Getting the Card

The first reason there's so little information about the Momentum card is that it has an extremely limited geographic availability. You can only apply for the card at one of a fairly small number of Money Mart and Loan Mart check-cashing locations. You'll need to visit their store locator tool to see if there's a location near you or somewhere you'll be visiting soon.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that back on February 15 I took an Amtrak Northeast Regional train down to Philadelphia to visit the Money Mart on Market Street there and apply for a card.

It cost $10 to purchase a temporary card, with an additional minimum deposit of $10, so a total of $20 in cash was required to walk away with a temporary card.

The "application form" is a trifold brochure that asks for some basic information, including your Social Security number, and asks you to choose between the "flat fee" and "pay as you go" plan. Here's a picture of a spare application I grabbed from the store:

momentum application.JPG

On the back of the brochure is information about the card's fees and limits:

momentum fees and limits.JPG

Selecting a Card

As you may be able to make out above, you can choose between two "plans:"

  • the "flat fee" plan has a $10 per month "maintenance fee," but no charge for signature and PIN transactions;
  • the "pay as you go" plan has no monthly fee, but charges $1 per signature and PIN transaction.

There are a few other irrelevant fee differences, but that's basically it: if you plan to make more than 10 transactions per month, select the "flat fee" plan, otherwise you're better off with the "pay as you go" plan.

Activating the Card

Once I had my temporary card, I just threw it in a drawer until my permanent card came about a week and a half later. Once that permanent card arrived, I naturally had to activate it.

The first thing to point out is that the application distinguishes between a blue, "flat fee," card and a green, "pay as you go" card. Since I applied for a "pay as you go" card, I was given a green temporary card. But when my permanent card arrived, it was blue!

Additionally, some folks on Flyertalk have reported receiving a permanent card, with their name printed, at the check-cashing store itself. So at the moment it doesn't appear that there's any rhyme or reason to the card's color scheme.

Finally, and this is just embarrassing, but I had completely forgotten that the clerk at Money Mart repeatedly told me that my default pin was the last four digits of my Social Security number.

So don't let this happen to you: your default pin is the last four digits of your Social Security number! You'll need to input that default pin to register your permanent card (you can then easily change it).

Loading Momentum

Momentum prepaid Visa cards are loadable using Vanilla Reload Network reload cards.

If you look at the "card fees and limits" above, you'll see the third line from the top reads:

"Maximum Daily Card Load – All others  $7,500"

I have no idea what that's supposed to refer to. However, in the terms and conditions that were sent along with the permanent card, there's a much clearer limit:

"The maximum number of times you can load your Card per day is five (5), so long as the Card balance does not exceed $10,000."

Once my permanent card had arrived and was activated, I was able to load $2,000 in Vanilla Reload Network reload cards without any issue in a period of about 5 minutes.

Unloading Momentum

Here's the part that I'm particularly excited about. According to the same terms and conditions included with the permanent card:

"The maximum cumulative amount that may be withdrawn through a participating bank (over-the-counter withdrawal) per day is the total available balance on the Card."

After loading my $2,000 to the card, I walked down to my trusty local bank and asked for a "cash advance" of $1,995. A "cash advance," as my readers know, is a very expensive method of taking cash out of a credit card. However, over-the-counter cash disbursements are processed identically by tellers, and I have yet to meet a bank teller who knows the phrase "cash disbursement," which is the term Visa uses for over-the-counter withdrawals from debit cards.

The "cash advance" processed successfully, and when it posted to my Momentum card a few hours later it incurred a fee of just $1.

Remaining Questions

I'm excited about my new toy, but there are a lot of questions I don't have the answers to yet:

  • Is the daily load limit really $2,500?
  • Is there a monthly load limit and, if so, is it a calendar month or rolling load limit?
  • Is there really no limit on over-the-counter withdrawals?
  • Does the "flat fee" plan waive the $1 over-the-counter withdrawal fee?

And of course, the biggest question of all: what is the shutdown risk of this card?

Bancorp issues a lot of prepaid debit cards, and they're all vulnerable to shutdown sooner or later. However, there's no question that some cards are more vulnerable than others, so it's not a foregone conclusion that the Momentum card isn't worth your time.

That's going to become clearer in the coming weeks and months. How will you find out? From your humble blogger, of course.

Have a great weekend.