About MileagePlus GO Visa Prepaid Card
The MileagePlus GO Visa Prepaid card is a reloadable debit card that can earn up to 2,500 United MileagePlus frequent flyer miles per month.
The card was the first of its kind when it launched in June 2018, a time at which no other major travel company or airline offered a debit card that could earn rewards.
Owning a prepaid debit card that earns rewards as opposed to owning a rewards-earning credit card presents some interesting comparisons – both options have their strengths and weaknesses.
During the course of this review, we’re going to cover the MileagePlus GO’s rewards and features. Along the way, we’ll compare those rewards and features to the United MileagePlus Explorer credit card.
The goal of this review is to help you understand what this card can offer and show you how it may or may not be a better fit for you compared to its credit-card counterpart.
The MileagePlus GO Visa Prepaid’s Rewards
Most credit cards provide rewards in two ways: a sign-up bonus and per-dollar spending. The MileagePlus GO offers per-dollar spending rewards but not a sign-up bonus.
These rewards come in the form of frequent flyer miles Visa will deposit to your United MileagePlus frequent flyer account. If you don’t have a MileagePlus account, Visa will set you up with one when you apply for the card.
If you already have one, you can link your GO card to your account by entering your account number when you’re filling out the application.
You have two different levels of rewards you can earn on the card, and the level that you get depends on how you pay your fee for owning the card, which is something we’ll talk about in a few minutes.
The two levels you get are one mile for every dollar you spend and one mile for every two dollars you spend.
When you compare this card’s rewards earning to the United MileagePlus Explorer’s, there are some distinct differences.
First, the MileagePlus GO’s best rewards rate is 1 point per dollar on all purchases. The MileagePlus Explorer gives you one point for all purchases but also provides a 2-points-per-dollar rewards rates when you book flights, travel and incidentals through United.
So, if you’re someone who travels often and prefers to fly with United, the MileagePlus Explorer credit card is a great choice for you because of the double rewards on your United purchases.
The second main difference between the two cards’ rewards systems is that there is no cap on the total number of frequent flyer points you can earn with the MileagePlus. The MileagePlus GO, on the other hand, caps the number of points you can earn each quarter at 2,500.
The rewards cap is disappointing for two reasons. First, the most miles you can earn in a year with this card would be 10,000. Second, those 10,000 points aren’t enough to get you a free flight.
United’s rewards flights start at 12,500 points one way, which means, assuming you spend $2,500 every three months, it would take you 15 months to earn enough points to get a free one-way flight and nearly three years to earn enough points to get a free-round trip flight.
Other Features of the MileagePlus GO Visa Prepaid Card
The one main benefit you get with this card is that you can get Direct Deposit to your account for no fee. In fact, their website claims that you can get your Direct Deposit up to two days quicker than you would if you were doing the deposit to your checking account.
The MileagePlus GO Visa Prepaid Card’s Fees
There are two important fees you need to keep in mind as you considering sign up for this card. First, you’ll pay an annual fee of $85 to use the card, a fee that you can split up into monthly payments of $5.95.
If you go with the yearly payment, your rewards rate will be one point per dollar. If you choose the monthly plan, it will be one point per two dollars.
What’s interesting is that the yearly fee will cost you $13.40 more than what you’d pay for 12 monthly payments. Based on what we know about the rewards rates, you’re most likely paying that extra $13.40 in order to get one mile per dollar instead of one mile for every two dollars.
In our opinion, the value you get out of the rewards rate Visa gives you for paying your annual fee all at once is worth paying that extra $13.40.
The next important fee you need to know about is the card reload fee. If you put money on your card via an ATM, you’ll pay between $2 and $3.95, according to the searches we did for eligible ATM’s in New York, Boston, and Orlando.
Remember, though, that you can only reload your card at ATM’s in the Netspend Reload Network, which isn’t quite as extensive as other ATM networks like the ones you’d get from a big bank like Chase or Bank of America. For example, there were no Netspend ATM locations in Jacksonville, FL.
If you want to get cash back from your card on a purchase like you would with a debit card, you’ll pay $2.50.
If you want to want to withdraw cash from an ATM, you won’t be charged a fee if you use machines in the MoneyPass network. If you go outside that network, you’ll pay $2.50 plus whatever the ATM operator charges.
Unlike the Netspend network, the MoneyPass network is substantial. You can use their website to find in-network ATM’s near you.
Also, if you use your card overseas, you’ll pay a 3.5% transaction fee as well as a $4.95 fee if you use the card to withdraw cash through a foreign ATM.
How the MileagePlus GO Visa Prepaid Card Compares to the MileagePlus Explorer Card
Based on our research of both of these cards, we believe the MileagePlus card offers better value for you. The annual fee ($95) is higher than the MileagePlus GO, but you have the opportunity to earn more rewards during the year, especially if you spend money each year booking United flights through United’s websites or brick-and-mortar United locations.
Other things to keep in mind are that the MileagePlus credit card gives you a sign-up bonus of 40,000 miles if you can spend $2,000 in the first three months of owning the card. Also, the card gives you a $100 bonus after your first purchase.
The credit card also provides two free passes to United Club airport lounges and priority boarding. You’ll also get one free piece of baggage when you fly.
In our opinion, the MileagePlus Explorer is the best option when it comes to rewards and benefits.
The main advantage the MileagePlus GO has is that you’ll never have to worry about the late fees and interest payments the MileagePlus credit card subjects you to.
The Final Word: Pros and Cons of the MileagePlus GO Visa Prepaid Card
Based on our research of this card, we believe its greatest strength is that you can earn MileagePlus miles without having to worry about making interest payments or paying late fees. To us, this card is a great option for someone who wants a rewards card that will protect them from the financial pitfalls of owning a credit card.
The downside to the card is that your rewards are really limited and you have to pay an annual fee of $85 in order to get the best rewards rate possible. An $85 annual fee is pretty standard for airline rewards credit cards but those cards typically offer a host of benefits that go beyond just points.
Also, the fees you have to pay to deposit cash onto the card are really high if you work in a job where you earn tips that are paid in cash.
In our opinion, the MileagePlus GO is a good financial option if you don’t trust yourself with credit cards, want to earn rewards and have a history of carrying balances on credit cards and/or paying late.
Now, if you aren’t convinced that the MileagePlus GO is the right fit for you because you think you aren’t getting a lot in return for the annual fee, then take a few minutes to read through our in-depth guide to the best airline rewards cards.
In this guide, we compare the most popular airline rewards cards, showing you each card’s features and benefits and helping you understand exactly what you’re going to get with a particular card.