Tax Refund Cards
The Guide is available online in several sections shown below, including: Why should I use a Tax Refund Card?
, What is a Tax Refund Card?, and information about Who Should Use a Tax Refund Card. If you have further questions, including information about when you should expect to get your tax refund deposited onto your prepaid debit card, see our Frequently Asked Questions About Tax Refund Cards.
Tax Refund Card Guide
Why Should I Use a Tax Refund Card?
The IRS allows you to receive your tax refund via direct deposit. It doesn’t matter whether you file electronically or by mail — direct deposit gives you access to your refund faster than if you choose to receive it as a paper check.
Direct deposit also avoids the possibility that your check could be lost or stolen or returned to the IRS as undeliverable.
With direct deposit, you get access to your funds more quickly than if you have to cash a refund check. It can take up to five (5) business days for a check to clear when you deposit it.
If your refund check is lost, stolen, or returned to the IRS as undeliverable, you won’t be able to request a replacement check until 28 days have passed from the date the refund was originally mailed.
Here is what the IRS says about using direct deposit:
Why Use Direct Deposit?
- You get your refund faster by direct deposit than you do by check.
- Payment is more secure. There is no check that can get lost or stolen.
- It is more convenient. You do not have to make a trip to the bank to deposit your check.
- It saves tax dollars because it costs the government less.
Setting up direct deposit is easy … if you have a bank account, that is. If you have a bank account, simply follow the IRS instructions here.
If you don’t have a bank account (or don’t want your tax refund to be available in your regular bank account), you may want to consider using a tax refund card (or “prepaid debit card”).
What is a Tax Refund Card?
A tax refund card is a prepaid debit card that is used to receive your tax refund by direct deposit. Tax refund cards are “prepaid debit cards”. Almost any prepaid debit card can be used to receive your tax refund. Some prepaid debit cards are issued especially for use (at least initially) as a tax refund card.
A prepaid debit card is a payment card that can be loaded with money (such as a tax refund deposit) by you or by someone else.
A prepaid card looks just like a normal credit or debit card, and has a card number, a signature strip on the back, and the logo of a card association (such as Visa®, MasterCard® or Discover®). Prepaid cards that are used as tax refund cards also are embossed with your name on the face of the card.
Prepaid debit cards are not credit cards, which provide you with a line of credit. Instead, prepaid debit cards only let you withdraw or access the money you have deposited (or “loaded”) onto the card. (Which is why some people refer to these types of cards as “pay before” use cards instead of credit cards which are “pay after” use products).
With prepaid cards, you can only spend the money you have loaded on the card. Which is why they are perfectly suited for use as tax refund cards – you can’t overdraw your account, and you can only spend as much money as you have deposited into your account.
Once you load funds onto your prepaid card, you can use it to make purchases (online or offline) and withdraw cash at ATMs, just like a normal bank debit card.
Some prepaid cards also allow you to pay bills using a bill pay system associated with your card.
Who Should Use a Tax Refund Card?
Tax refund cards are not appropriate for everyone. Here are a few questions to answer to see if a tax refund card is appropriate for you (if you answer “Yes” to 2 or more questions, you might benefit from using a tax refund card to receive your tax refund):
|1. Do you need (or want) access to your tax refund quickly?||___ Yes||____ No|
|2. Do you currently NOT have a bank account?||___ Yes||____ No|
|3. Do you want to keep your tax refund dollars separate from your regular bank account?||___ Yes||____ No|
People who need or want access to their refund quickly and who either don’t currently have a bank account or would like to keep their refund separate from other accounts will benefit from a tax refund card.
How to Get a Tax Refund Card.
As we discussed in the previous sections of our guide to Tax Refund Cards, tax refund cards are actually just prepaid debit cards. Most reloadable prepaid debit cards can be used as tax refund cards.
Applying for a tax refund card is easy. You may need to provide proof of your identity and your address when applying for a card – but that’s all. There are no credit checks or any other information that you need to provide. Once you have been given or sent your prepaid card, you may need to activate the card by following the instructions from your card provider.
There are two primary ways to get a tax refund card.
First, you can get a prepaid card and activate it prior to preparing your tax return (or before your accountant or tax preparer completes and files your return). If you choose this route, you’ll have more cards to select from (basically, you can choose any prepaid debit card that allows you to direct deposit funds onto the card, which is almost every card). This option requires that you plan ahead, so that you have a card account opened prior to filing your tax return. If you choose this option, consider using a card that fits your expected usage.
In the next section of this guide (titled “Our Highest Rated Tax Refund Cards”) we give recommendations about several cards that you may want to consider. Once again, make sure you have your account opened prior to filing your tax return, as you will need to have your card’s routing and deposit account number when you fill out your tax return forms.
Second, if you use a tax preparation service or certain tax preparation software packages, you can get a tax refund card while you are filling out your tax return. This option requires no advance planning – you apply for and get a card account set up as part of the process of preparing your tax return.
Check out the table in the section called “Our Highest Rated Tax Refund Cards” to see which cards you can get in this category.
Whichever way you choose to get a card, make sure that you review and understand the card terms and conditions so that you use the card properly (and in a way that avoids unnecessary fees). Check out GetDebit.com for tips and information about using prepaid cards.
How to Use a Tax Refund Card.
If you already have a tax refund debit card, or if you have just applied for one (check out our recommended tax refund cards in the next section of this Guide), you need to tell the IRS where to deliver your tax refund. The process is simple, but make sure you double (or triple) check the details (if the information you provide is incorrect, the IRS will mail your refund to you – which is what we want to avoid, right?).
You’ll need to gather some information before filing your return. In particular, you’ll need to get (1) the “routing number” for your prepaid debit account (which is a nine digit long number that identifies the bank where your prepaid account is held), and (2) the “account number” for your prepaid debit account (typically the 16 digit number on the front of your card). Most prepaid tax refund card issuers make this information easily available to you on their website or from within your account (when you log-in online).
You’ll need this information no matter how you are filing (whether you are filing online, by mail, or through your local tax preparer).
Once you have the routing number and account number, you’ll need to enter the information on your tax return forms.
Here’s an example of where to enter the information if you are using the 1040EZ form.
You can download a copy of the 2012IRS Federal Form 1040EZ, here.
The section where you’ll need to enter your routing number and account number is at lines 12a-d of the form as shown below:
Check with your account provider, but you will typically select “Checking” as the account type.
If you are using the Federal 1040 Form, you’ll enter the information at lines 73a-d, and if you use 1040A, you’ll enter the information at lines 45a-d.
Once again, double check your information to make sure your funds are deposited onto your account as quickly as possible.
The easiest way to file is to use a tax service such as the one provided by H&R Block. H&R Block makes it easy for you to file your tax return online, and they also provide details of how to get your refund deposited onto a prepaid debit card.
Our Recommended Tax Refund Cards.
There are literally dozens of choices of prepaid cards that you can use to get your tax refund deposited on. Which one should you use? The answer to that question depends on your particular situation, and how you’ll use the card. To help you decide, we selected several tax refund cards that we feel provide good value for different situations.
The choice of which tax refund card (in part) depends on how you will be filing your return. Will you be doing it? Will you be using tax preparation software to do it? Will you be hiring a tax professional to do it? Below, we have a few recommendations of cards for each of these situations.
Cards Designed as Tax Refund Cards
Some cards are specifically meant to be issued as tax refund cads. These cards can be used just like a normal prepaid debit card, but certain features make them well suited for use in receiving your tax refund quickly. Here are two we like.
The TurboTax Card
The TurboTax Tax Refund Visa® Card is one of our favorite tax refund cards. One reason we like it is because the issuance of the card is nicely integrated (and documented) in the TurboTax tax preparation software that millions of Americans use each year. Read more about the TurboTax Tax Refund Visa Card.
The H&R Block Emerald Card
Do you use H&R Block tax preparation specialists to prepare your tax return? If so, you may want to ask about the H&R Block prepaid debit tax refund card. Using the card to receive your tax refund may be a good idea (particularly if you don’t have a bank account). Learn more about the H&R Block Emerald MasterCard.
Regular Prepaid Cards
Why not use your existing prepaid debit card to receive your tax refund? If you currently have a prepaid debit card, check with your provider, and find out what account information you need to provide on your tax form so that you can receive your tax refund directly onto your current card.
If you don’t have a card, and don’t want to use either of the cards listed above, we recommend applying for one of the following prepaid cards. The reason we recommend these cards is simple: they are relatively highly ranked in our prepaid card rankings, and they have taken steps to make it easier for you to use their cards as tax refund cards.
The RushCard Cards
RushCard makes it easy for you to get your tax refund deposited onto a RushCard prepaid debit card. Read more about the Purple Diamond RushCard here.
The READYDebit Card
READYDebit is also making it easy to use their cards as tax refund cards. In particular, they have partnered with eSmartTax (an online tax software service) to make it easy for you to use a READYDebit card for your tax refund. Read more about the READYDebit Card here.
The Wired Plastic Prepaid Visa Card
The folks at Wired Plastic are running a promotion for people who use the Wired Plastic debit card as a tax refund card. It’s easy to enter the sweepstakes. Simply load your Federal tax refund on your Wired Plastic™ card account and you will automatically be entered to win the same amount as your Federal tax refund. No purchase necessary. (make sure to read the terms and conditions to get all the details). Read more about the Wired Plastic Visa card here.
Cards for Independent Tax Preparation Services
Attention independent tax preparation services — Would you like to provide low-cost prepaid cards as a value added service to your clients? Do you deal with clients who are unbanked but who would benefit from getting their tax refund directly deposited into a prepaid debit card account? Here are two tax refund cards that you may want to consider (both are designed for use by independent tax preparation services).
The Get It MasterCard®
The Get It MasterCard® is offered by ADVENT Financial.
The Get It card is the first step toward financial freedom, offering cardholders an opportunity to have access to a year round banking account and empowers them to better manage their money and payments – we’ve even included a form to sign up for free payroll deposit through the cardholder’s employer. Prior bank history is not an issue with the Get It card; there’s no minimum balance required, no monthly service fees charged and overdraft protection is included.
To provide Get It cards to your customers, please contact ADVENT Financial. ADVENT provides hard-working families and individuals access to affordable, permanent FDIC-insured banking accounts, using prepaid card technology to keep costs low.
Tax time represents the single largest deposit transaction for many working families. With a focus this year on improving the tax time options for under-banked clients, ADVENT has launched the Get It Prepaid MasterCard®, enabling direct deposit of refunds, yet designed with a cost structure to encourage ongoing deposits and long-term banking relationships. The tax refund and a valid SSN or ITIN is all that is required to open a Get It account.
The Green1040 Card
Independent tax preparers can also use the prepaid Visa® cards provided by Green1040.com. The Green1040 Prepaid Visa® card is distributed by tax preparers to their customers who want to receive federal or state tax refunds via direct deposit and do not have a bank account or do not want to use their existing bank account to receive their tax refunds. Green1040 cards come with pseudo bank account and routing numbers enabling them to receive funds by direct deposit from the IRS. The Green1040 card can also be used as a payroll card.
Tax preparation is a highly competitive industry. In order to compete with the national chains who offer prepaid cards, tax preparers of all sizes need to offer a way for unbanked customers to receive their refunds via direct deposit. Green1040 offers all tax preparers, regardless of the size of their business, to easily and economically provide prepaid cards to their tax preparation customers.
The Green1040 card is distributed through tax preparers as a value added service for their customers.
Tax preparers can sign up at www.green1040.com and begin distributing cards within a few days. Once tax preparers are registered they are able to securely login into Green1040 web-based system and enroll tax preparation clients. The Green1040 system has been designed with the flexibility to enable tax preparers to either hand cards to customers on the spot or have cards delivered by Green1040 directly to individual customers.
Green1040 cards can receive funds by direct deposit as soon as they are registered to the cardholder by the tax preparer.
Have more questions about tax return cards? Check out our Tax Refund Card FAQ.
Here are two of our most popular tax refund cards
AccountNow Prepaid MasterCard with (Direct Deposit)
The AccountNow Prepaid MasterCard can replace any bank account. When you set up Direct Deposit of your pay or benefits check with your AccountNow MasterCard, you enjoy great savings. Check out this feature packed card right now. Read More
Green Dot Prepaid MasterCard
GreenDot knows prepaid cards. Did you know that Green Dot runs one of the biggest networks of prepaid reload locations? They make it easy for you to put cash onto your card. Read More