Jackson Hewitt JH Preferred Prepaid Debit Card – Vanilla Reload Compatible

Update: My account was shutdown after loading and then shortly after unloading $5k via BillPay.

PFDigest writes about the latest pre-paid debit card, this time from tax preparation service Jackson Hewitt, called the JH Preferred Prepaid Debit Card. If Jackson Hewitt sounds familiar, they are the tax preparation service you may have seen in-store at WalMart on one of your Manufactured Spending Runs. I got a heads up on this card a couple of weeks ago and already have one for myself and my wife, so here is a summary of what we know so far.

jhpref

How to Sign Up

You enroll at jhpreferred.com by clicking on the “Enroll Now” button and then completing your details. You need to enter your full details including social security details, and the physical card will then follow in the mail about 7 days later. Once you complete the enrollment process you will sign up for online access which will give you access to your account which you will see starts out at a $0.00 balance.

Vanilla Reload Compatible

vanilla_reload

The key attraction is the card can be loaded using Vanilla Reload cards. For me this is a huge benefit, I am lucky enough to live in an area with more supply than demand of the famed VR cards, and almost all stores will happily let me buy the maximum $5,000 worth of cards in one transaction. So I am always keen to find new ways to utilize Vanilla Reload cards.

The monthly limit is $5,000. I have not had the card long enough to say if this is per calendar month or rolling month, I suspect the former but will update with experience.

The Bill Pay That is Not Bill Pay

The card offers what they bill (pun intended) as a Bill Pay feature. The reality is it provides a link to a third party website that lets you look up a “directory” of billers that accept debit cards for payments! You can actually check it out yourself without having a card here. Once you find a biller it just takes you to their web site, rather than allowing you to pay the bill directly.

Maybe this will improve with time, but for now the Bill Pay feature is rather useless.

So Then How Do I Unload This Card?

While the Bill Pay feature is not very helpful, the card is a PIN-enabled debit card, with no mention of the phrase “gift card” or similar on it. As such there is a whole variety of ways to unload this card easily:

  • You can use it to buy money orders and deposit those bank into your bank account
  • You can use it with a real Bill Pay facility such as WalMart money center or Evolve
  • You can actually use it to spend – there are no transaction fees
  • You can withdraw cash at an ATM (for a $2.50 fee, $2550/day, $5,500/month) or a cash advance over the counter (for a $5.00 fee, $2500/month)
  • You can use it to pay taxes

Will They Shut Me Down? Yes!

Update: My account was shutdown after loading and then shortly after unloading $5k via BillPay.

The story so far for Vanilla Reload compatible pre-paid cards has been one of woe and sorrow. Other than the trusy Bluebird (and it’s sibling Serve), all Vanilla Reload compatible cards have ended up being shut down. NetSpend accounts were closed. MyVanillaDebit cards have been brutal. Mio is becoming MyVanillaDebit. However those cards are all issued by The Bancorp Bank, a pretty flimsy organization. This card is issued by Sutton Bank which is a New York State based entity. While I don’t have any knowledge or insight into this bank, I do have professional experience with the New York Department of Financial Services, and I can tell you they are a regulator with teeth and are not affraid of using them. I have some confidence that we will not see the same Bacorp tricks on this cards due to the threat of a more serious regulator hanging over their heads. I will update this in due course based on experience, and if you do find your card is shut down, make sure to complain to the NYDFS.

As a precaution, make sure to keep all purchase receipts for your Vanilla Reload cards, and keep the cards after loading. I use a sharpie (bought at Staples, of course!) to write on the Vanilla Reload card the last four of the pre-paid card number and the date, and keep the card with the receipt. That way I can always trace back my purchases fully.

Conclusion

It is great to see a new Vanilla Reload compatible card. While unloading is not quite as easy as Bluebird, it is certainly not difficult or expensive, and the ability to recycle an additional $5,000 per month per person is a great new tool in the manufactured spend toolbox.

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Comments

  1. marathon man says:

    I’d like to report the quickest in and out shut down ever.

    I somehow got approved for this (friends of mine who had been booted from MVD a few times were never verified) and I got my card ten days later. I then loaded $5k VR – a few a day and then my last batch of max $2500 in one shot. They load faster because it’s better connected than BB. You will actually notice this.

    I decided to CA the whole thing and leave the $5 fee they say they charge for this. My plan was to load er up once more to $5k and do it again, then be done, seeing as how they’d probably be done with me.

    I was close on this prediction!

    I did the CA and logged on that night. No good. Could not get in. Called. Could not get anything. Had to battle with a lengthy hidden phone tree to finally reach a nice US based CSR. She told me, “Well sir this card is designed to be loaded and used over time for regular purchases and you just loaded it up fast and then wd the money. You cant do that.” I said, ok fine but ma’am can you tell me exactly where that is in the TCs? It’s not there isn’t it? She said no. We didnt argue but she got what I was saying. I said they really ought to TELL PEOPLE that you cant do that, otherwise why cant you? very Paypal of them. Very Incomm/Bancorp (which is who JH partnered with to set up this very card, as it has the Vanilla logo on the back too).

    In the end she told me I could spend down the $5 but when I tried it was a no go. I had planned to let them have it anyway and so done I am.

    Another ft friend did the same thing and got shut down too. It was done after $5k anyway. And a third CAd after only $2500 planning to load more and he got shut down after the first $2500 CA. So he should have loaded more.

    You wouldn’t want your money held up by these guys, because then you have to fax in this or that, or FDIC them and wait. I would suggest avoiding this card or only really planning on floating if you have the ability.

  2. MilesAbound says:

    “I would suggest avoiding this card or only really planning on floating if you have the ability.” this is true of all prepaids, including Bluebird (cos Amex can decide to change the game at any point too). I’ll see how it goes here. Worst case get $10k between me and the mrs, better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick

  3. SJCRussell says:

    Almost identical experience with me to MarathonMan but with the Univision card this past week. I have $3k in hock that I’m having to fight for. The speed with which they are doing this now and that this card appears to be from Sutton Bank suggests to me that they may not in fact be the administrators for this, just the ones on the hook for liability with FDIC.

    • MilesAbound says:

      That’s probably about right… I’d still lob a complaint into NYDFS. As best I can tell the best route for Univision is load and dump without registering. However we don’t have ‘em round here. But I plan to get some on upcoming Cali trip

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  5. It seems the issues are more around a load then a cash advance? I think I could sprinkle in a few regular purchases and buy some MOs to see if I can keep it open longer. I’m with MILESABOUND, I can do $10k at least in our household. Worth a shot. Took GoBank 7 months to shut me down.

  6. I received this card today. Why? I have no idea. I did have my taxes done by Jackson. But why send me this card?
    Also I don’t see anywhere ‘ where it says how to cancel the card if u don’t want it anymore.

  7. And I’m almost afraid to activate it.

  8. How do I reach a live person?! This is so frustrating.

  9. Is there a transfer to bank feature on this card? Dont necessarily have use for BP. But for a one trick pony, dont mind getting $5k in and out. Dont wanna do a CA or MO for this though.

    • MilesAbound says:

      No BP/MO/CA are the only exits for this one. Now it’s out in the open, you can use this card to pay your Citi CC by phone. It works, I’ve done that.

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