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What To Do If AccountNow Closes Your Account – And An Alternative From H&R Block

by on June 21, 2013 · 35 comments

in Prepaid/ Reloads, TPG Contributors

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TPG contributor Jason Steele takes us through the pitfalls and perils of what happens when your prepaid card account is shut down and what you can do to get back in the points game.

Last month, I took you through the process of purchasing Green Dot Money Paks to meet credit card minimum spending requirements and earn additional points and miles in the following series:

Introduction to Green Dot Money Paks and Reloadable Cards
Green Dot Money Paks Vs. Vanilla Reloads
The Best Green Dot-Compatible Reloadable Cards
Strategies For Maximizing Green Dot Money Paks

At that time, I was using my AccountNow Silver card, which was one of the best Green Dot-compatible reloadable prepaid cards out there.

But if you have been using this card just to deposit Green Dot Money Paks and pay bills, you probably saw your account shut down last week, even if you occasionally used your card for purchases.

What Happened?

AccountNow closed the accounts of users in bulk somewhere around June 13, and according to posts on this FlyerTalk thread, this happened to anyone who had used Green Dot Money Paks, including some who reported that they only redeemed MoneyPaks once and others who had also used their card to make normal purchases. There has been no explanation of why AccountNow took this action. (Note that Green Dot Money Paks are an entirely separate product than the Green Dot Prepaid Card, which also has had similar issues as AccountNow prepaid cards.)

I received the following message when I logged into my account:

AccountNow

Canceled with no warning! If that wasn’t bad form in and of itself, AccountNow has been charging people $1 when they call to ask about the shutdown! People were asked to submit register receipts from their previously purchased Money Paks in order to have their account access restored. No one reports actually having to do so, and most were offered or requested a check for their remaining balance instead. Customers reported being told to wait 7-10 days to receive a check. Significantly, AccountNow cards are offered by The Bancorp or Metabank, which are FDIC insured, there is no question that cardholders will have their remaining balance returned – the question is how long it will take them and how many hoops they’ll have to jump through. Luckily I had a zero balance, so I have no need to deal with them again.

So while it may be possible to unfreeze an account, clearly AccountNow has chosen to treat certain customers so poorly that it would be unwise for them to return. I don’t think that Account Now was actually losing money on customers like me who redeemed Money Paks just to pay bills, but they certainly weren’t making income from merchant swipe fees or any other fees. On the other hand, it is possible that companies like AccountNow pay a small fee for bill payment services or even for accepting Money Paks. In either event, this company has clearly decided to take its ball and go home rather than let us play the Green Dot Money Pak game with its products. Yet since there is no credit check or reporting for prepaid cards, customers have not lost anything more than their inconvenience.

What’s Next?

My criteria for a perfect prepaid card to accept Green Dot Money Paks is that it has no monthly fees, include a bill pay feature, and offers reasonable daily, weekly, or monthly load limits. While there are nearly 200 prepaid cards offered that are compatible with Green Dot Money Paks, most do not meet that standard. One is the Rushcard, which I have used with good results. Another is the H&R Block Emerald Card, and it is a unique product that I only recently acquired.

Overview of the H&R Block Emerald Card

Like all prepaid cards, the Emerald Card is marketed towards the underbanked, not necessarily us reward travel enthusiasts. But this card is offered by H&R Block, which helped to distribute over $9.5 billion dollars in tax refunds last year to 3 million cardholders. So unlike AccountNow, we are unlikely to stand out among their immense customer base, the majority of which receive tax preparation services from H&R Block. Needles to say, those who file taxes and receive a refund are much more likely to be financially solvent than your typical prepaid card user.

Luckily there are still other options out there like H&R Block's Emerald card.

Luckily there are still other options out there like H&R Block’s Emerald card.

Getting an Emerald Card

Another interesting thing about this card is that you can’t order it online. At this time, you have to actually show up at one of their retail locations (I am told by H&R Block corporate that they are working on enabling online enrollment). With 11,000 locations, it wasn’t hard to find several near me. So I simply walked in to one of their offices and asked for an Emerald card, and they were happy to take my name, address, and Social Security number, look at my driver’s license, and give me a card right there. The card was made out to “H&R Block Client,” but was otherwise fully functional. I was told to expect my personalized card in the mail shortly. Nevertheless, the person I spoke to seemed a little confused that I wanted a prepaid card with no money on it, but was quick to point out that I could load it through the Green Dot network. So you don’t even have to be an H&R Block customer.

How It Works

With card in hand, I went to their site to create an online account and link my temporary card to it.

Emerald Card

From there, paying a bill was easy.

Bill Pay

Just like Bluebird and AccountNow, it is set up to pay bills to all of the major credit card issuers:

Enter Payee

One Hitch

The only problem I had with this card is that when I went to pay a bill, I was shown this screen:

Pay a bill

If you didn’t catch it, there is a $.95 fee for each bill payment, something that they do not disclose in their cardholder agreement. This is not an outrageous fee, or a deal killer, but it was a surprise. Clearly, I will try to consolidate my bill payment to minimize this expense. Ultimately, I may have to consider some products with small monthly fees in order to avoid paying this fee for every bill pay. For example, the 24/7 Card used to be offered in a version with no monthly fee, but now their least expensive option has a $6.95 monthly fee. For that, you get free bill pay with a daily load limit of $1,500 and a monthly limit of $7,000.

So how does it compare to AccountNow?

The H&R Block Emerald Card has a daily load limit of $999.99, compared to AccountNow’s $1,500, so that is a little less. Thankfully, there are no weekly or monthly load limits so Emerald card users can add as much as $30,000 a month. These load limits apply to all types of loads including cash, Money Paks, and direct deposit. One problem is that you will need to remember to load at least one Money Pak with only $499.99 if you plan to load two of these a day, and the other is the onerous $0.95 bill pay fee. But with a reputable name like H&R Block behind the Emerald card, hopefully we won’t have to put up with the same shenanigans that affected AccountNow users.

So if you have had your Account Now card closed, it is time to request a check for the remaining balance and move on to a different product. Thankfully, there are still dozens and dozens of prepaid products (compatible with Green Dot Money Pak) out there waiting to be discovered.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Celeste

    My account was not closed, even though I’ve reloaded with a green dot money pak once before. I’m guessing it’s a good idea to withdraw the rest of my money and get out of there?

  • Jason Steele

    Yes,cash it out immediately. Infamously, AccountNow will allow you to load money to a frozen account, even though you can’t withdrawal it!

  • Adam

    Isn’t it still possible to load green dot moneypaks onto Serve cards, and then use Serve’s bill pay to pay one’s self?

  • Jason Steele

    Yes, but the load limits are rather low $500 in one day, $2,500 per month. Also, you cannot have both Bluebird and Serve at the same time.

  • MrWho

    Why not just do ACH pull from another institution instead of BillPay?

  • Jason Steele

    I haven’t tried that or seen reports of success. Have you been able to do that?

  • mrs.whaaaa

    Gaming the system all the time is not bad form? Jez. I’ll send you a box of tissues.

  • DF

    My account with Account Now was closed. I only had $20 left in it which is being refunded. After providing all the requested documentation I asked them to reinstate my account and they told me that was not possible. The funny thing is my wife also has an account and that was not closed. They recommended I go ahead and apply for a new account.
    Is something anyone sees as a good idea?

  • Ed Chandler

    Interesting… I got mine about two weeks ago along with a coupon saying they’d rebate my $3.95 load fee ”within minutes” if I made my first deposit with a ReloadIt card. As you can probably guess, that didn’t happen.

    The CS call began with being told it didn’t apply to my type of card, despite the Ts&Cs *expressly* saying that it did, etc. Finally a “supervisor” sent the issue to “marketing” and promised that a “manager” would call me by EoD. That was more than a week ago.

    However, … my account, as of this moment, is still open.

  • carpooltunnel

    I’ve ordered an AccountNow card and I expect it to be delivered soon. I suppose I should just never activate the account. I’m lucky in that there is a place close to me that I can still get VRs at, so I suppose I’ll stick to Bluebird for now.

    No loss if I simply never activate the AccountNow card, correct? I have no fee to pay for them sending out the card?

  • asar

    The big question is: where are you buying GDs? At RA? All RA in PNW that I know of do not sell the GD with CC? Even if they did, the big question is what card to use. BUying it with TYP will get you shut down.

  • pier11

    the same experience with acc now.

  • Jason Steele

    Some places you can buy GD at RA with CC, some you can’t. I can in DEN, and I have had no problems. Having Citi manually issue checks appears to be the trigger.

  • Jason Steele

    No loss, except maybe a referral bonus.

  • Jason Steele

    Probably best to move along from this operation, for a number of reasons.

  • Jia Yu

    Dear Jason, can you find any no fee GD in Denver area? It used to be in any RA but I can’t find it now.

  • Pingback: Account Now closures… time to move to the next one()

  • carpooltunnel

    Ah, and I believe I used your referral code. Apologies, Jason.

  • Seth

    Went to an H&R Block location, was told to call 1-888-687-4722, because they can’t issue cards locally at that branch.

    Called the toll free hotline, said I had to file my taxes with them in order to get an Emerald Card.

    Anyone else have the same trouble?

    Got caught up in the accountnow mess and have a $500 GD sitting here with nowhere to put it. Guess will go somewhere else just to get rid of it, and stick with Bluebird.

  • Jia Yu

    Dear Jason, can you find any no fee GD in Denver area? It used to be in any RA but I can’t find it now.

  • AllAmericanAmy

    My experience – got the Account Now in April. Loaded ONE $500 greendot card onto it. Paid THREE bills via their bill pay. Have $350ish balance on it. Shut down. Called cust svc. They say it is fraudulent activity. Did not request anything written or faxed from me. Claim they will mail me check in 10-14 business days. we’ll see.

  • Telling it like it is

    Yep. Bloggers advocate massive abuse of the system and shocker! . . . the system gets shut down. Surprise, surprise.

  • Jason Steele

    Sadly, they appear to be gone.

  • Jason Steele

    My wife and I both walked out of our local office with cards. Try another office perhaps.

  • Biggles209

    Some notes on the Emerald Card:

    The $999.99 / day limit is from midnight to midnight Eastern time

    There is a 7 load/week limit (rolling 7 days) and 10 load/month limit (rolling 30 days) for MP loads.

    The load limits do not include direct deposit.

    ACH pull is supported, and I have not yet been charged a fee.

  • Andy

    Account Now

    2562.85

    AccountNow has suspended my account and refuses to refund my $2000.00 unless I send copies of my ID, social security card and a utility bill. I’ve been loading the account with ReloadIT cards and paying bills for several months.

    Has anyone else been in this situation? Has anyone successfully had their money refunded?

  • Andy

    Just to follow-up. I spoke the the Bancorp fraud department who told me my account is being audited and that I have to supply all of that information in order to get the account reinstated. If I refuse to send in the info they will send me a refund check however there is no timeframe on when it will be sent and there will be no way for me to check the status of the refund. I guess I’ll send the info.

  • Jim Miller

    Data Point: Stopped in my local H&R Block, 2 very bored employees there. They were happy to help, neither had done an emerald card for someone without a tax refund before. Walked out with my card. took about 15 minutes. No cost. Was also able to purchase GD at my RA with CC.

  • misty

    Im waiting on my check now if u dnt mind how long did it take yours to come

  • brettskyg

    I called 5 different HR Blocks in NYC and they all told me no Emerald Card unless they file your taxes. How have you all gotten around this?

  • Jack

    Did you get charged the reload fee at walmart store for AccountNow or H&R Block Emerald Card?

  • Bob

    Account Now froze my account with $851.00 on it and sent in the info requested…they have no idea nor a timetable when I will get my money back or card unfroze? Come on? freeze my card under the Patriot Act? come on? For $851.00? Nobody should get this card..STAY AWAY!

  • bomiller

    Account will be closed–no explanation—been with AN over 5 years with a few snags–average balance in the low 4′s.
    I reside overseas with DD on time–monthly.
    Time to get a REAL bank.

  • carsonheim

    Jason, I wondered how you are faring with the emerald card? What types of limitations are you finding with the MP reloads daily/monthly?

  • Shayden

    Where can you load money back on to you H & R Block Emerald Card?

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