In late January, T-Mobile surprised everyone when it unveiled its newest service, “Mobile Money,” a line of Visa-branded prepaid debit cards consumers can use and load with access to 42,000 free in-network ATMs nationwide and zero overdraft and maintenance fees.


Flickr source

To contextualize T-Mobile’s latest move, examining their shifting brand as a cellular carrier will be vital, as we analyze the limitations of their financial services since their expertise lies in a non-financial sector. First, we start by putting their transition into perspective.

T-Mobile vs. banks

Though T-Mobile’s foray into the banking realm was met with surprise, T-Mobile is hardly the first non-bank entity to launch a prepaid debit card, and it is now one of several “neobank” competitors, which include Simple, Moven, GoBank, and AmEx Serve.

2012 survey conducted by the FDIC found that 28.3 percent of U.S. households were “unbanked,” meaning that just over 28 percent of households have ventured outside mainstream banking for services like check cashing, money orders, and payday loans.

However, T-Mobile’s vast customer base and distribution network as well as marketing strength are reasons why the launch of Money Mobile has made a splash, steadily steering their brand into uncharted territory and pioneering a hybrid of new features and services for phone subscribers as well as financial consumers.

T-Mobile wasted no time in announcing new services and features that have grown their customer base, such as their Un-Carrier 4.0 Initiative, which offers to pay up to $350 in early termination fees for individuals and families who switch from other carriers to T-Mobile, as well as reimburse new customers up to $300 for trading in their old phones.

Card perks

According to some industry experts, T-Mobile’s Mobile Money should worry bankers. The card’s perks as well as the company’s established customer base represent a very real threat to traditional financial intuitions, as T-Mobile has introduced an attractive Visa card package that enables customers to bank without using a real bank.

Here is what Mobile Money offers:

  • 42,000 in-network ATMs with no fees (out-of-network ATMs cost $2 per withdrawal, plus the fees the ATM operator charges)
  • Free replacement for loss or stolen cards
  • No overdraft or maintenance fees
  • Free activation
  • Free monthly maintenance
  • The ability to keep money in a checking account and make deposits as well as pay bills
  • A smartphone Mobile Money app available for iPhone or Android phones that has helpful banking features — customers can take pictures of checks through the app to move money into their checking account, pay bills, add money, view one’s account, transfer funds, and even locate ATMs.
  • Free bill payments and free transactions to other cardholders
  • The ability to deposit cash at T-Mobile stores
  • Direct deposit
  • The ability to have your tax refund deposited directly to the card
  • The ability to withdraw cash back at the register through retailers, just like with a bank debit card

Is safety an issue?

Banks do not inherently provide extra safety coverage when compared with non-bank competitors, such as T-Mobile. In fact, in Mobile Money’s contract, there are two sections on customer protection, “Our Liability for Failure to Complete Transactions,” and “Information About Your Right to Dispute Errors.” Here are the most noteworthy points:

  • “If we do not properly complete a transaction from your Card on time or in the correct amount according to our Agreement with you, we will be liable for your losses or damages.”
  • “In case of errors or questions about your electronic transactions, call (866)306-9636 or write to… if you think your statement or receipt is wrong or if you need more information about a transaction listed on the statement or receipt.”
  • “You must contact us within one hundred twenty (120) days after the transfer allegedly in error was credited or debited to your Card Account. You may request a written history of your transactions at any time…”
  • “We will determine whether an error occurred within ten (10) business days after we hear from you and will correct any error promptly. If we need more time, however, we may take up to forty-five (45) days to investigate your complaint or question. We will tell you the results within three (3) business days after completing the investigation.”

In general, customers and experts have responded positively regarding Mobile Money’s customer service to respond promptly and urgently to fraud or errors. Of course, well-established banks have more experience dealing with these sorts of issues, but there is no reason to feel unsafe when “banking” with T-Mobile.

Are there disadvantages?

Though T-Mobile is tantalizing potential customers with its low-cost pricing strategy, there are a few downsides to the new Mobile Money card. For instance, customers must have a minimum balance of $125 in order to use the card at the gas pump.

Additionally, T-Mobile is advising customers to be wary of using Mobile Money for restaurant, hotel and rental car payments, because these types of purchases are ones that may require a hold on a large percentage of funds.

Most importantly, T-Mobile customers get bigger breaks on their prepaid cards than customers of other carriers. For example, non-subscribers are charged fees for monthly maintenance (accounts with less than $500), in-store cash deposits, lost or stolen cards, international transactions, and ATM balance inquiries. All these charges make it much less appealing to use T-Mobile as a financial services provider if you aren’t a T-Mobile phone customer.

In general, Mobile Money looks to be a promising contender as a prepaid debit card offering many free and useful features that competitors have yet to match, though non T-Mobile customers do not receive as many perks.


Related Stories:

Top 5 Prepaid Debit Cards: Winter 2014

4 Tools to Help Monitor Your Accounts for Fraud

Prepare to Pay Bills With Just Your Smartphone Camera

Did you enjoy this article? Yes No
Oops! What was wrong? Please let us know.

Ask a Question

  • Nottoday

    Stay Away from T-Mobile Debit Cards

    You state “In general, customers and experts have responded positively regarding
    Mobile Money’s customer service to respond promptly and urgently to
    fraud or errors”

    NOTHING CAN BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH. Their fraud dept is not 24/7 and impossible to reach. There is no direct number so you have to go through customer service wait time only to be told there is no one available to talk to in fraud.

    You are promised a call back within 2 business days which never occurs.

    I received a card I did not sign up for and cannot get a call from T-Mobile fraud department. It has no been 3 weeks and multiple calls to them with NOTHING back.

    Do not walk but RUN away from T-Mobile

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, we will look into this matter further and justly add a note into this article.

    • Unhappy tmobile scam tactics

      I also received a T Mobile prepaid debit card I did not request. There are no fraud department numbers, no information, other than the “We have permission to teach you and you cannot opt out of this tracking.” Should anyone else be successful in making contact with this company and discovering how they elected to send this card to those of us who did not request it, please share. What a con. It’s dishonest.

      • Unhappy tmobile scam tactics

        Correction : * track you (rather than teach you).

  • demonnerd

    Had my card a few months now and I won’t change anything. No hidden fees, easy management, variety of ways to get money on the card, compared to other prepaid this is a breeze. I love the instant texts when money goes on or comes off card, I get my money a full day earlier than i used to. Just no downside so far.
    Best surprise was a bonus that was offered if I used direct deposit. They set the terms, I complied and bam, money was deposited in my account way before i expected it. (Have been thru this with other companies and not ONE ever gave me the bonus for meeting their criteria, was always an excuse they were verifying.. one even told me that they couldn’t give me the bonus because i didn’t deposit in concurrent weeks, when that condition was nowhere listed lol.)
    At any rate I couldn’t be happier. Yes, i have a Credit Union for my savings and the like, but for my daily money management, some bill paying etc, this has been a great decision I made, and the easiest option I ever had on a prepaid.

    • Wow, that’s great to hear! Thank you for sharing your experience in detail, which is especially compelling because it contrasts so sharply with our other reader’s experience. You might take your opinions to our Bank Reviews section – your voice will be well-heard!

  • jazmin

    I love my card already and it’s awesome. I’m a tmobile customer and the perks for your customers are great. I used to have netspend and they are a company I would stay away from. A 1.00 for every swipe….I’m good right where I am. Thank you guys for introducing this card. Watch out banks, you have competition!!

  • mad consumer

    Dont send you tax refund to this card because they will block your card and make you jump through hoops to get access to your money they wanted me to send in my social security card, w2, tax return,and my id but the killing thing with the id is that they wanted me to take a picture of my id with me holding it next to my face wth really its a drivers license my picture is already on there and then tell you to call back once you send the information and ask for the risk department only for customer service not to be able to reach anyone in that department each time you call then say call back in a few hours its already 5 pm in a few hours the risk department will be closed i wont be using this card again after this.

  • Leslie Windless

    This card has been nothing but trouble from the time I got it. I just recently had my tax return sent to it and they blocked the card as soon as the refund posted. They gave me the run around for a week and then said that I had to send them a DTE Bill, lease, w2, social security card, and picture of my ID. Why would I send this information to them? You don’t need all of this to set the card up and it’s a prepaid card so you are the one who puts the money in the account. Their customer service is horrible and is not anyway or shape connected with the phone company. All of the representatives are extremely hard to understand as well. I asked them to send the money back to the IRS and it’s been a week and they still have the funds and have not sent the funds back to the IRS even though they told me they were going to because I refused to send them my life’s history via fax or email. I just talked to them and the money is still in the account and the card is still blocked. This has to be illegal!

    • Dayna Coates Ruff

      Which i had read the reviews before they got me…..

  • Steve DeVore

    Be warned. If you attempt to have your tax refund directly deposited your account will be frozen for at least 5 to 7 business days minimum. In my case that means two payroll deposits will be denied and I will have no access to any of my funds that were there before the tax return was posted. I understand and planned for the stated 48 hour hold. I had no way of knowing or planning for an additional week of no access to my money. I was very satisfied with this card up till now. Needless to say I have soured on the the idea of continuing to use this service.

  • John

    Do not use this card had my direct deposit from work rejected, and they have no idea why no confirmation email was received and now im out of money. stay away from the tmobile card!

  • terrible service

    Do not use this card..anytime I make several purchases on my account they freeze it..they also take forever to get back to you. ..they froze my direct deposit. From my job…and now they still owe me my money. ..which they refuse to release. …worst service ever.

    • Dayna Coates Ruff

      Which i had read these reviews before i did it…..they had my money 3 days according to bancorp but they are still lying to me Saying they dont have it when bancorp says they do

  • Mel B

    This card sucks!! I live in TX, someone in FL was able to use my card at a Walmart. I reported it thinking the money would be back in my account in a timely manner, I was wrong. The rep advised it takes 45-90 days for review!!! They had to send me another card which takes 7-10 business days unless its expedited which costs $25 and that is 3-5 business days. My direct deposit is just sitting in the account while I wait for my card because there isn’t a way to get any money out of the account without it. I called and asked if there was anyway to do bill pay so I could transfer money to my sister’s bank account because I have to pay my bills. I was told the only way to access bill pay is online but I have to wait to receive my card. I’m going back to Wells Fargo!! I’ve also been charged atm fees for using atms listed on their website. They refunded the fee but that took 2 weeks.

    • Mel B, that’s awful! Unfortunately, this is a drawback for prepaid cards, and it sounds like having a bank account would better serve your needs.

      Have you heard of online checking accounts? I use a completely free checking account from Ally Bank. (Here’s more info:

      I was in the exact same situation as you. Someone tried to use my Ally debit card number at a Walmart in a different city (they tried to charge $450) but it was flagged immediately by Ally’s awesome third-party security company. I was given a call by a robot and asked to call Ally’s customer service. When I did, they informed me they already rejected the purchase. I was mailed another card in less than 7 days.

      Overall, I was pretty impressed with their security.

  • Dayna Coates Ruff

    Worst customer service known to man…never again in life will i use this card they should fire anyone who works for them and start over. They held my money for three days and sign of it when i call they tell me they cannot anything about my money so i called the bancorp Bank they informed me my money was sent over on the 10th now its the 13th and still nothing…….I still have not recieved my money and im pissed off about it

    • Dayna, if you are still struggling to get your money back from this prepaid card account, I would suggest that you submit a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at this web address:

    • Mary 😡

      Same thing I call them give my phone number my birth day all information even went to the store with the card with my name on it show my picture they did not give me information how much I had on card cause I need to know how much I deposited on card I told them it was three month ago I was mad never again 😡

  • Ranae

    Don’t even bother with this card. I just had my account drained due to fraud & they won’t even give a discretionary credit so I’m left with no money for the next 45-90 days. Absolutely ridiculous.

  • Rebecca

    They put a block on my card because I cancelled a vacation I paid for with their card. To get it back, they said I had to send them my receipt for my payment from Disney showing Disney had received the money DESPITE the fact they could see the charges coming out if they looked at my account history. Their customer service and risk management people are complete idiots and they talk over their customers. Hello…they wouldn’t get pay checks if not for the customers.

  • pookie76

    I am a T-Mobile phone customer so I thought the card would be good. I got my card at a corporate T-Mobile store. I gave them the money I wanted on the card and they activated it the store. When I got home to register it I couldn’t. They kept saying they couldn’t verify my identity. This was after giving them my name ,SSI number, date of birth and address. They ask a series of questions at the end that do not relate to me personally in any way.(What street is Lankeau hospital near? Then they tell you to pick one of four answers) Since I don’t know the correct answers my identity can’t be verified. I said I’m a T-Mobile phone customer and you have all my personal information yet you cannot verify my identity. Carlos then told me this card has NOTHING to do with T-Mobile phone company. I then asked for a supervisor that told me the same thing. I said in the United States your SS# is the main peace of information used to verify your identity. He said this is how we do it in El Salvador, I cannot override the system. If I known I was talking to someone from El Salvador, I would have never given them my social security number. Especially since they are saying the card has NOTHING to do with T-Mobile.

  • Kris A

    Recently got this card and it’s been 3 days and my direct deposit is missing…. Have called the company numerous times and have gotton no help on that end… I’ll be calling back on Monday with my lawyer… If I would have known this would happen I would have never signed up for this card

  • John Staples

    Damn! from the reviews, this card must have been mass produced from the FIERY depths of HELL! Therefore, I will run from it like it’s the PLAGUE!

  • Sonja

    I writing today to inform you of the horrible customer service I received from your call center rep. Mark which is a CSR and supervisor Christian. When calling into the call center today I was mistreated as member and hung up by supervisor Christian which is unacceptable. I work for a call center and part of your training Is to know how to handle a call with irritated customer. I asked to speak a supervisor because Mark was extremely rude to me. Looking for that comfort I was hung up on by the supervisor. Who basically stated that the conversation wasn’t going anywhere. I asked for his boss name and contact information. He would not provide me with any information and didn’t apologize not one time for inconvenience. I then called back asking for management and spoke with Edward who was extremely helpful and provided me with your contact information. I believe you all should pull the calls and listen to them Bad example for a training class. Unprofessional behavior should not be allowed in your call center. I will post this bad experience on social media and also throughout the internet until it has been acknowledge. As a member I should have been treated way better than I did. I was having issues with ATM withdrawal for crying out loud. Who in their right mind wouldn’t be irritated about that and its the first of the month bills are due. Sympathy is what was needed during the call. I would love for someone from the management team or the CEO of this company to contact me email me. I will go above and beyond I regards to this horrible eexperienceI received from Mark CSR and Christian the supervisor.