Personal finance
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Kmart Launches Halogen Prepaid Card: It’s a Bad Deal
Another day, another questionably-useful retailer-sponsored prepaid card. But this time it’s not Walmart: it’s Kmart getting in the fee-laden game. The Halogen Reloadable Prepaid MasterCard, powered by Green Dot, is now available nationwide at your local Kmart and online. In order to make use of the thing, you had better shop at Kmart pretty regularly — and even then it’s a ripoff compared to newer products on the market.

While Kmart is known for its low prices, its prepaid card is anything but cheap. For starters, it costs $3.95 to purchase the Halogen card at a Kmart location, and $3.95 to load cash at a Kmart location, although the purchase of the card includes the cost of the first load. If you buy it online, however, Kmart will send it to you for free — but you’ll have to pay full retail for the first load.

The card costs $5.95 a month and offers little in return. ATM withdrawals are free at 20,000 MoneyPass ATMs nationwide, but this is perhaps the only free perk. Out-of-network ATM withdrawals cost $2.50 a piece, and even balance inquiries cost $0.50. To reload the card using Green Dot’s MoneyPak costs $4.95, while reloading at Kmart saves you just a dollar off that price. The card does allow for direct deposit of recurring payroll. It is also accepted wherever MasterCard is accepted.

It offers no benefits or savings at Kmart, aside from the $1 discount on loading fees. A customer using the Halogen card would spend about $14 a month just to load it twice a month and pay the monthly fee, unless they use direct deposit. If they don’t live near a MoneyPass ATM, their monthly costs would grow substantially.

The card is touted as a “brighter way to manage your money” by the retail giant, and the company’s VP of Financial Services, Jai Holtz, echoed this sentiment in prepared remarks: “With the introduction of the Halogen Card, we’re giving our customers a smart, convenient and safe way to manage their money and gain control over their personal finances.”

The value proposition of the card — $1 off money loading costs at Kmart — is muddled to say the least. If you went to Kmart to load the cash on the card, why not just spend cash there? And it’s not a good deal anyway. Chase, a nationwide bank, offers a prepaid card that costs nothing to load, and costs a dollar less per month to use. American Express offers a card with no monthly fee.

Bottom line: Kmart’s card seems cynical and exploitative compared to the better options that are currently on the market.

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