The Living On A Dime Series is designed to help those with a "ramen noodle every meal" kind of budget still live well and get things done.
It's My Money... And I Need It Now!
Wait, what do you mean you want $5 just to be able to access it?! You want $3 for what fee?
Money can be hard to manage even at the best of times. I mean, look at all the famous people that have gone bankrupt and ended up penniless! That to me, of course, is a resounding endorsement for not letting other people play with your money, but I digress.
Yes, even when we try our best it can still be hard. It’s even harder when you’re already broke, and struggling to deal with all the financial road bumps that being incredibly poor put in your path. Every day is like walking a tightrope between money coming in and bills going out, and some days it feels like people want to charge us just for walking out of our front door.
The Worst Part?
There aren’t very many options for those of us who, for whatever reason, can’t get bank accounts.
You still have options, of course. There are all kinds of prepaid re-loadable debit cards, and a lot of workplaces have their own version of ‘pay cards’ that your paycheck is loaded onto, which you can use like a bank account or debit card. The problem with these options is the fees are ridiculous, and the hoops you have to jump through just to get stuff done makes you want to rip your hair out.
The fees are what really set me off, though. I feel you shouldn’t have to pay a $4 monthly fee just to hold the card every month, or $4 just to load your check onto the card, or $2-4 every time you want to draw money out, or some cards even charge you a dollar for every transaction you do! To me, it feels like they are punishing us for being poor! I don’t feel like I should have to pay just to access my own hard-earned money, and I don’t feel like you should either.
So, with that in mind, I’ve done some research (along with my own personal experiences), and I’m going to share with you some of the top ways I’ve found that you can receive and handle your money with little to no fees. Whether you’re working an online side gig or you just want to be able to get your paycheck, I hope these sites help you!
PayPal is one of the biggest names around, and for a good reason. Nearly every online business uses them to pay people, from surveys to micro-tasks, transcriptions to blog posts, contest payouts to Fivver gigs, soup to nuts, you name it. People also commonly use it to transfer money between family and friends.
If you plan on doing any side gigs online at all to boost your income—micro-tasking, Fivver, some of the survey sites I’ll review and post for you, to name a few—You’re just about 100% going to need to set up a PayPal account. It’s actually pretty simple— they’ll need the usual stuff, name, address, mobile number for security and transfers, and email. In order to get the most out of your account, you will also be required to link it to a bank account or something that functions like a bank … a savings account or a prepaid debit card that has a routing and account number can be used here if you do not have a checking account. Once you have verified all your information is correct (and pretty much proven you’re a real human and not a bot or scam account), you’ll be good to go.
There is also the option to get the PayPal Business Debit card with your account – I recommend this if you’re going to be passing a decent amount of money through your account a month. As long as you've verified your account properly and you have a card of some sort linked to it, you should be eligible for the debit card. Again, having a prepaid debit card here would come in handy for this—you can link the bank account info as your bank, and use the card number as the card link! Even if it's just temporary, this would be a great idea.
The card can be used just about anywhere MasterCard can be used, and you can also set it up to withdraw money straight from the account at an ATM, or as cashback during a store transaction. You can check paypal.com for a list of fee-free ATMs.
I’m not 100% on bill-paying through PayPal, you can check your options on a case to case basis. Also, you can no longer deposit checks into PayPal through the mobile app. You can easily transfer money from PayPal to your ‘bank option’, and vice versa, however. The time this takes will depend on your bank, but it’s usually within a couple of days. Ultimately, PayPal will probably not replace a bank, but it’s a good sidekick.
Other Money Sharing Sites
There are other sites like PayPal where you can send and receive money between friends and family, and for services, such as Google Wallet and cash.me. I have limited experience with these companies—I do know they can be used for in-store purchases if you have a phone that’s enabled for mobile payments, and you can easily transfer money to your ‘bank option’ with them, but that’s about it.
I do know that Google Wallet used to have a physical card, but they discontinued it. As my current phone is too old to handle mobile payments, I have put my use of GW on hold until I upgrade.
I've not used Cash.me for the same reason. If anyone has any experience with these companies other than this, please let me know!
Dwolla.com. I have seen this site on some of my survey sites as a payout option, so I decided to go ahead and research it to see what it was all about. When I went to their main page, I’ll admit that I was pretty impressed with the concepts of what they were offering, though it seemed like they had some fees.
Then, I decided to go ahead and look at reviews on other sites for the company, and Holy Christmas Cookies Batman! The reviews are awful! Full of complaints about scammers hacking accounts that aren’t even set up, lost payments, payments rejected from other companies with no resolutions, accounts closed for no reason and money being lost, horrible customer support, just flat out bad bad bad. If you decide to deal with them or are forced to go through a company that only uses them as I noticed in a couple of reviews, tread extremely carefully.
Here I am referring to banks that are online only with no physical branch, as opposed to banks that have the online banking option.
I feel that your level of comfort with technology is going to have a lot to do with whether you go with this option or not, but don’t be afraid to at least check it out. You never know when having a backup account might be useful, or it could be a secret savings stash that’s completely separate from everything else! Even using one as your ‘side gig’ business account so expenses and payments don’t get all mixed up can be a great idea.
There are a lot of online bank options available now, through local banks, credit card companies, brokerage companies, and actual banks that operate online only.
I use Ally myself for these purposes. Now, looking at online reviews for the company, you will see both a lot of good AND bad reviews. In my case, I have never run into any of the situations I saw posted in those reviews, so I can’t comment on how those kinds of circumstances go. My experiences have been all positive so far, with transferring money back and forth between the savings and checking and my PayPal, debit card transactions, and bill paying. There are no account fees for the basic accounts, and they both earn interest so that’s a plus. Now, if you have a bill auto deducted and there’s not enough money, they will just refuse the payment. Of course, that means you then have to deal with the bill company after you get the money in the account, but on the other hand no $40 bounce fee! Frankly, I’ll personally take the no fee, even if I do have to deal with customer service for other companies.
About the only drawback to online-only banks is the ability to easily deposit cash. I have found an article that has some great ideas though.
“What if I have issues and can’t open a normal bank account?”
This is the area where we poor people run into the most problems.. and fees. Most companies won’t do business with you if you don’t have a bank account, bills are a lot harder to pay without a card, and most of the options that ARE available to you want to charge you half your paycheck just to be able to use them.
Don’t worry, there ARE still options for you that won’t take your last penny. Sometimes you can open a savings account when you can’t open a checking at certain banks, and there are some banks that don’t check telechex or chexsystem or other reporting companies. A quick internet search can give you a list of sites that have lists of banks you can try, you can find one such site here.
Then, there’s also the prepaid debit cards. A lot of these are just loaded with fees to use them – monthly fees, fees to load your money, fees to withdraw your money, fees per transaction, the list goes on. Some are worse than others, of course, but it’s still a minefield.
I did run across the BlueBird card from American Express in my research—this seems to be a nearly fee-free card that has a lot of good perks going for it. Of course, It IS an American Express card, so you’re going to run into the issues that having Amex cause—some places won’t take it, some places have a preset spending minimum on the card, and so on. So, not perfect, but, it does seem to be a pretty happy option if you can work around any issues that you run into. You can find more on it and other decent options here.
Ultimately, in the end no matter what option you use, make sure you’re doing your homework. What works great for me might not work at all for you, and vice versa. Also, reading reviews from independent sites is a great way to get a feel for a company. Don’t be afraid to dig in!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 Renny Windsong