H&R Block Emerald Prepaid Mastercard Review
The IRS recommends getting your tax refund through direct deposit. You can use the Emerald Prepaid Mastercard to get it. But is it the best option?
Emerald Prepaid Mastercard Overview
If you’re looking to put your tax refund on a prepaid card, H&R Block wants to provide the solution with its Emerald Prepaid Mastercard. The Emerald card is like a lot of prepaid cards. It’s Mastercard branded, and you can use it like a credit card for purchases. It can be reloaded with cash, checks, or transfers from your checking account.
But one key difference is that you can get the Emerald card only at H&R Block offices or through its tax preparation software. It’s not available online or in stores. Some of the other tax preparation software and service companies have taken the same approach. Turbotax offers its Turbo Prepaid Visa® Card only through its tax preparation software. More recently, TaxSlayer launched its prepaid card.
What’s true with prepaid cards offered by tax preparers is that they offer no particular advantages over other prepaid cards when looking to get your refund on your prepaid card. All prepaid cards can be used just like a bank account to receive a tax refund through direct deposit.
That’s not to say that the H&R Block Emerald card doesn’t have some other advantages. Its biggest benefit is that it charges no monthly fee. While there are other prepaid cards that don’t charge a monthly fee, they generally require you to meet some value load threshold each month. Take the Walmart MoneyCard® Visa®. It charges no monthly fee, but only if you load $1,000 or more each month to the card. The Emerald card doesn’t charge a monthly fee to any cardholder.
The Emerald card does have other charges, though. Like ATM fees and fees to use its bill pay service. Those fees are higher than other cards.
And its features are minimal. Yet, the Emerald Card is the only way to get H&R Block’s advance on your tax refund or its personal credit line–something that H&R Block calls an Emerald Advance.
Here are the details.
Emerald Mastercard Fees
The Emerald Prepaid Mastercard has no monthly fee or purchase fees. Like most other cards, it charges no fee to transfer money to the card from your checking account and no fee for direct deposit of your paycheck or tax refund.
However, it charges $3.00 per ATM withdrawal and $1.50 for ATM balance inquiries. Both are higher than most other prepaid cards. And those fees are in addition to what the ATM owner charges.
The Emerald card also charges for using its bill pay service–$.95 per bill. Compare that to free bill pay services offered by cards like Green Dot Prepaid Visa® and the Walmart MoneyCard.
There’s one other fee to note. The Emerald card inexplicably charges a massive $35 fee to withdraw cash at a teller. Most other prepaid cards charge a fee closer to an ATM withdrawal fee.
Emerald Card Features
Like nearly all prepaid cards, the Emerald card offers direct deposit. The card provides bill pay services, but it charges a fee to use them, as noted above. H&R Block also offers a mobile app called MyBlock for Apple and Android devices that can be used to check account balances and deposit checks.
But the card lacks any additional features, like a savings account, budgeting features, or other extras.
Emerald Card Limits
The Emerald card doesn’t have a fixed maximum balance. Instead, Emerald reserves the right to set that balance after you get a card. That’s not something we like to see at PrepaidCards123. We prefer cards that disclose all of the card limits and the fees upfront so consumers can make an informed choice.
The Emerald card offers a high daily ATM limit of $3,000. Most cards limit ATM withdrawals to $1,000 or less per day.
The Emerald’s cash load limit, at $1,000, is lower than average, though. The typical is around $2,500. Spending limits are close to average–$3,000 per day.
H&R Block Tax Advance Requires an Emerald Card
If you’re looking for a tax refund advance, H&R Block offers it, but they won’t be handing you a check.
Like many tax preparers, H&R Block offers an advance on your tax refund if you use H&R Block’s tax preparation service. A tax advance allows you to get quick access to some or all of your expected tax refund without waiting for the IRS to process your return. For H&R Block’s tax advance, the funds are paid directly to your Emerald Mastercard. If you don’t have an existing card, you’ll have to get one to get the advance.
The most significant advantage of the H&R Block Emerald Prepaid Mastercard is the absence of a monthly fee. If you sidestep a few other fees–like ATM and teller withdrawals, you can use it on the cheap.
However, you can’t get it without using H&R Block’s tax preparation services. And its features are somewhat limited.
So, if you’re already an H&R Block customer and don’t need prepaid card bells and whistles, it’s worth considering. If you’re set on a tax refund advance from H&R Block, then the Emerald Prepaid Card is the only way to get it.
If you’re not, check out our Best Prepaid Debit Cards list for some other options.
Best For: Those that use H&R Block tax preparation software or services.
Not So Good For: Those that use any other tax preparation software or service; those that want more card features.