What is H&R Block Emerald Advance and is it worth it?
Beginning on November 18th (all throughout January 10th) you can visit any of the H&R Block locations to apply for the card. The card is essentially a line of credit that for many of its users works as advance of the anticipated tax refund. It is a prepaid debit Mastercard with the balance ranging from $350 to $1,000.
In order to remain in good standing with H&R Block, you have to pay down the entire balance on the card until February 15th. This rule appears to be the most important one when talking about this product. H&R Block can extend the paydown deadline if you select it as your tax preparer and use your refund to pay the balance.
If certain conditions are met, the line of credit can be extended year around. For once, you have to make monthly payments on time. Those payments are either $25 or 4% of your balance – whichever is greater. Once your balance is cleared (on February 15th), you will have access to the line of credit throughout the year. That line of credit remains open as long as you continue making timely monthly payments.
The application process is very uncomplicated. You do have to visit an H&R Block location and bring the following: latest pay stub and driver license. The application process takes an estimated 20 minutes and once approved, the money is loaded into the Emerald Card. It is available to you almost immediately.
The card has many fees. They are small, but they can add up depending on how you use the card. It’s not uncommon for this type of service to be expensive so you should consider it carefully before committing to signing up for the advance.
Common fees include:
- Cash reload – $4.95 although that amount can be lower and is determined by the reload provider; there are also limits on how many times you can load cash daily or monthly to your Card Account.
- ATM withdrawal – $3.00 – there aren’t any network banks to eliminate the fee.
- Inactivity – $4.95/month – if there aren’t any card transactions for 60 days.
- Over the counter withdrawal (banks, other financial institutions) – $35.
- Annual fee – $45.
- APR – 36% – this is significantly higher than many credit cards that currently charge APR in mid-20%.
There is also one eye rising charge: ATM balance inquiry of $1.50.
The charges for using an ATM are assessed by the card issuer. They do not include any potential charges by the ATM operator.
The card is an option to get a cash advance. It is definitely less expensive than payday type of loans, but the it should be carefully considered given all the rules, available credit amount, and the associated administrative costs.