GoBank Review: Walmart Bank Services

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Image by Theresa Chiechi © The Balance 2019

Walmart offers low-cost banking services designed for bargain shoppers in need of a checking account. Walmart itself is not a bank, but the GoBank account is only available through Walmart, with banking services provided through Green Dot Bank.

Is GoBank right for you? It may be a good fit for tech-savvy, fee-conscious consumers, especially if you’ve previously had trouble opening bank accounts. But you’d be wise to research the limits on check deposits, set up a direct deposit to avoid fees, and make sure to open a savings account somewhere else (so you can earn interest on money you’re not using).

Before you open any new bank account, shop around and compare offerings from online banks, local banks and credit unions, and traditional banks. If you don't have a history of bouncing checks and you plan to establish direct deposit of your pay, you can probably find a competitive offer almost anywhere.

The GoBank account might be appealing if you value the retail store locations. But banks and credit unions may also have convenient branch networks.

Overview and Fees

GoBank is a low-cost checking account (for the most part). You don’t need to meet minimum balance requirements or pay overdraft fees. There’s also no overdraft protection (with the associated costs), so be prepared for purchases to be declined when you run out of money and try to use your debit card.

The account charges a monthly fee of $8.95, but you can qualify for a waiver by setting up direct deposit of at least $500 per month. Some traditional banks require larger automatic monthly deposits, while others require less.

GoBank works fee-free at over 42,000 ATMs, but you pay $3.00 to use an out-of-network ATM, plus any fees charged by the ATM operator.

Opening an Account

To open an account, visit GoBank.com or use the GoBank app for free to complete an application. Alternatively, you can obtain a “starter kit” for $2.95 at Walmart stores, which requires a $20 opening deposit. You need to provide personal information such as your Social Security Number, date of birth, and more. Financial institutions typically must ask for those details under federal law.

Currently, GoBank accounts are only available for individuals. You can’t use GoBank for business checking, nor can you open a joint account. That also means the accounts are not available for minors, although you may have other options for the under-18 crowd.

You should receive a GoBank debit card roughly seven days after you complete your application. Then, you activate the card and verify your contact information. Until you activate your card, some GoBank features are unavailable, such as P2P payments and mobile check deposit.

GoBank claims that the account is available to virtually anybody who meets the identity verification requirements. That's good news for those who cannot open accounts at other banks due to bad credit or negative information in their ChexSystems history.

Is Your Money Safe?

GoBank is the first Walmart banking product that is FDIC-insured. As long as you stay below FDIC coverage maximums, your account is protected if GoBank goes belly-up. Currently, it’s not possible to go over the FDIC limit of $250,000 per depositor per account—GoBank has a maximum account value limit of $50,000.

How to Add Money

You can fund your GoBank account in several ways, but there are limits on how quickly you add cash at retail locations: You may deposit up to $2,500 of cash in one day, or a maximum of $3,000 over a 30-day period. 

Direct deposit: If you use this account, it’s best to set up direct deposit with your employer. A monthly direct deposit of more than $500 allows you to dodge the $8.95 monthly fee. In some cases, GoBank allows you to access funds from your direct-deposit paycheck several days early—before your employer actually sends the funds.

Mobile deposit: Use your mobile device to deposit checks. The GoBank app guides you through the process of using your device’s camera to snap a photo of a check and submit it. GoBank has improved their hold times, and mobile deposits might be available as soon as the next day after you deposit. There are several limits to GoBank’s mobile deposit feature, including a restriction on checks payable to Cash. If mobile deposits are new to you, read more about depositing checks with your mobile device.

When you deposit a check, you’re responsible for the deposit. Your bank might allow you to withdraw or spend those funds, but if the check doesn’t clear, you need to replace the money.

Add cash at stores: if you’re a regular retail shopper, you might enjoy the fact that you can deposit cash at participating Walmarts, 7-Eleven stores, and Kmart locations. Provide your
GoBank debit card to the cashier, and the funds can go into your account. Adding cash at Walmart is free, but you pay up to $4.95 to add cash to your account at Kmart or 7-Eleven.

Electronic transfers: You can also transfer cash to your GoBank account from other bank accounts. However, GoBank does not offer an electronic transfer feature, so you need to initiate the transfer at the sending bank. Funds arrive via ACH.

Using Your Money

How do you spend the money from your GoBank account? Again, you’ve got several
options.

Debit card: To make purchases at retailers or online, you can use your GoBank MasterCard debit card. When you buy your starter kit, you receive a temporary card, and after completing your application, you should get an official personalized debit card in the mail.

Get cash: GoBank boasts free ATM withdrawals from over 42,000 ATMs nationwide. Some of those ATMs reside inside Walmart and 7-Eleven stores. But you can find fee-free ATMs at other locations, including bank branches. Visit the GoBank website for a map showing free ATMs.

Online bill pay: GoBank offers online bill payment for no extra charge. Add your payees and instruct GoBank print and mail a check (some payees receive payment electronically). Anybody in the U.S. can be a payee, including individuals.

P2P payments: To send money to friends and family, you can use GoBank’s person-to-person payment system. Enter an email address or mobile number, and your payee receives a message asking them to collect payment. If you pay another GoBank customer, the funds instantly move into their account. Those who don’t have a GoBank account can direct the funds to their PayPal account.

Final Notes

GoBank is a mobile bank offering that offers pretty much everything a checking account
provides. However, there’s no savings account option from GoBank. That said, there is a "Money Vault" feature that segregates funds you want to set aside for particular goals (helping to remove the temptation to spend). 

The Money Vault does not pay interest. When interest rates are low, or your savings balance is small, that might not matter much. Still, it’s best to open and fund a savings account that pays interest at some point.

While GoBank makes it easy to open an account if you’ve had financial problems in the past, there are tradeoffs to using this account. For example, the monthly fee (if you pay it) is steep, and the lack of a savings account makes it harder to accumulate savings. But depending on your needs and how you use the account, it might not matter.

More: Best Savings Account Interest Rates

The Balance offers a comprehensive comparison of the best savings account interest rates. We teamed up with Bankrate to survey approximately 4,800 banks and credit unions nationwide. Depending on how much money you’re looking to deposit, this list will show you some of the best options available today. All of the banks and credit unions listed are insured by the FDIC or NCUA.