The Walking Dead Visa: Five Things You Should Know

It was just about a year ago that and Skybound announced their The Walking Dead prepaid [...]

It was just about a year ago that and Skybound announced their The Walking Dead prepaid Visa.

Believe it or not, I got one right around then...and promptly forgot that it existed until Comic Con International: San Diego, when I loaded it up with some lunch and cab money and took it for a weekend-long spin.

Since then, I've used it periodically, in part just because when you've got a prepaid card it's nearly impossible to run it down completely to zero...and we reporters are a cheap and skinflint-y lot, so leaving a few bucks sitting on the table just isn't an option.

"Having The Walking Dead art on these debit cards will be an exciting way for fans to incorporate the series' art into their daily lives," series creator Robert Kirkman said at the time -- and it's certainly been a conversation piece. I'd say as far as pop-culture junk that I have on my person at all times, the only thing that's generated more chatter with strangers is the Strangers in Paradise keychain I've had since I was in college. And for obvious reasons, a lot more people see your keychain than see your debit card for more than a second.

As far as prepaid cards go, it isn't a bad one. I find them to be a convenient way to parcel out a little bit of money for specific things, to keep on me when I need to hand my wallet off to my wife for some reason. That said, as with any fiduciary device, there are unique things that you'll want to know if you're thinking about getting one...and after a year, it seems like a fair period of judgment to give a little bit of a lowdown.

One thing I will say: all in all, there are some wonky things, but other things are actually really easy and intuitive (with your password and one ID verification question, you can change your address or PIN number -- something that can take an act of God at some banks).

A note: I'm no financial expert, and am not suggesting that you should or shouldn't get this card. Just providing context from a user. Also, much of this is probably common to prepaid cards. If, like me, you don't have a ton of experience with prepaid cards, it will be useful information. If you do have such life experience, a lot of this might seem redundant.

You can wait.

The cards themselves, featuring art by Charlie Adlard, are probably a limited-time thing because, let's face it, they're a novelty and eventually novelties wear off, or the license expires, or whatever it is. Whether your The Walking Dead card will be grandfathered in and you'll get another when it expires, I don't know -- but I will say that if you expect you'll want one, go ahead and apply. As I intimated above, doesn't seem to mind much if you wait until a good time for you to activate the card.

That's because it's a prepaid card. They're not in danger of losing anything so, unlike a credit card where waiting too long will get you flagged as potentially fraudulent and make the activation process harder, prepaid cards typically can be turned on pretty much whenever you want to put some money on them.

Of course, if you're not going to use it right away, waiting is actually a good idea, because...

There is a service charge.

Every month, you're going to get yourself a roughly $5 fee to use your card, unless you really use your card. The charge is waived if you sign up for direct deposit using a checking account number provided (you cannot use this to write echecks out of the account, but you can use it to deposit via Paypal) and direct deposit more than $800 per month into the account.

There are lots of options to load it...kind of.

There are a variety of different ways to load cash onto your prepaid card, but most of them will end up either being a pain in the neck, or taking several days to clear, or both.

The quickest and most usable way to load the card is to buy a Moneypak, which nominally are sold at a number of retailers around the U.S. -- but as the option to swipe the card for "refills" has become popular, many of's retail partners no longer stock the actual Moneypak refills -- and some of the companies that do, such as KMart, will tell you when you get to the cash register that it's a dead product, something no longer sold.

That's fine as long as you're putting money on it for yourself, and can just swipe the card and buy the credit...but it means if somebody else were going to loan you money, or owed you money, and tried to load it up for you, it can be a bit of an adventure. It seems as though Wal-Mart is the only retailer that reliably stocks the Moneypak refills.

Loading it through a physical check is another option -- assuming you bank through a major financial institution. Taking a photo of your check allows you to deposit it in a few days (or to pay extra and have it deposited almost immediately), but if you bank through a small, local credit union like I do, the option simply doesn't work. It's also a third-party app to take photos of the check rather than being a one, but since they've got a simple-to-navigate mobile site and no app that I"m aware of, that's fair enough. It isn't like you have to download several apps to make basic transactions work.

Restaurants are weird.

It's not entirely uncommon for restaurants to be a bit wonky in the way they charge your card. The fact that many eateries will only charge you for the initial bill despite the fact that the server's tip will eventually be included as well throws automated systems a bit, and creates a situation where different processors handle it differently.

In the case of, they preauthorize a little extra, and then release it after a couple of days. No big deal, generally, but there are two things to consider:

Since it's a prepaid card, tying up additional funds may be more of a pain than it's worth, so you might just want to hit an ATM before you eat.

This happens even at places where one would think it's obvious there is no need for a tip.

For instance, it happened to me at Comic Con International: San Diego's Skybound booth...for some reason. I bought a $40 shirt and it authorized $48 and kept the extra $8 tied up for the rest of the convention. There was no indication either in my printed or e-mailed receipt that Skybound had done anything incorrectly, so it appears to be just a 20% over-authorization that happens, probably because retailers at someplace like Comic Con are a special circumstance.

It also happened at McDonald's where, as you can imagine, I had no need, ability or desire to leave a tip.

Money management as key

If you're going to use a prepaid debit card -- The Walking Dead or otherwise -- as your primary financial instrument for some reason, it will probably quickly turn out to be more trouble than it's worth. One thing you have to do is always make sure there's a comfortable cushion in terms of both funds (in case they randomly preauth 20% extra and there is by the way no easily-accessible customer service number) and time (it takes, usually 2-5 days for anything except a Moneypak to process, depending on the time of day you initiate the transfer, and as noted above, the Moneypaks aren't easy to come by). This one is certainly not bad and if, for whatever reason, you want or need a prepaid card (I plan on using mine to insulate myself from Paypal fraud by not allowing Paypal access to my "real" bank account while retaining a card I can use to get cash out).