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The H&R Block Emerald Card and Advance Line of Credit
The H&R Block Advance Line of Credit
What Is It?
The Emerald Advance line of credit is a year-round line of credit that lets you repeatedly borrow and repay between $350 and $1,000, depending on bank approval. You can use it for whatever you need, and you'll only borrow and repay the specific amount that you want. Though you can use it year-round, you need to make monthly payments on the card and have the card paid in full by February 15th of every year. (This date may change from year to year.)
With the Emerald Advance, you can:
- Load funds from your line of credit to your H&R Block Emerald Prepaid MasterCard
- Pay down the balance on the Emerald Advance with a portion of your tax refund
- Have access to credit year-round
How Do I Apply for the Emerald Advance Line of Credit?
You can only be approved for an Emerald Advance during specific times of the year, usually between November and January. To apply during this promotional period, you should:
- Make an appointment to visit an H&R Block office. You cannot apply for this online.
- Bring a current earnings statement (like a pay stub), an unexpired, government-issued photo ID (like a driver's license or passport), and your Emerald Card (if you have one).
- If you have never been issued an advance before, you'll also need to bring a proof of address, like a utility bill or bank statement.
You will be either approved or denied on the spot, and in my experience the process takes about 20 minutes.
How Much Is the Credit Limit?
If approved, you can have a credit limit between $350 and $1,000. However, you can choose to borrow less than the amount you're approved for so you don't borrow more than you actually need.
When Is the Line of Credit Available to Use?
If you're approved, you will immediately be able to draw against a portion of your credit limit and have the money loaded onto an Emerald Card.
Can I Use My Tax Refund to Repay the Emerald Advance?
Yes, you can choose to pay down your balance with a portion of your tax refund, but only if you go to H&R Block to have your taxes prepared. You can only do this to pay down debt and not make monthly payments.
You need to make a minimum monthly payment of $25 or 4% of the outstanding balance, and the balance is due in full by February 15th. You can pay several different ways:
- Check or debit card
- Transfer from Emerald Card
- Cash payment at MoneyGram or 7-Eleven locations ($2.99 service charge applies)
- Tax refund (for pay down only, not available for monthly payment)
What Fees Will I Have to Pay?
The fees you will have to pay include:
- $45 annual fee for the first year, applied on the day the Emerald Advance is opened, and $30 a year after that
- 36% Annual Percentage Rate (APR) – Finance charge assessed on the amount drawn from your Emerald Advance
- 36% APR applies during promotional period and for unsecured lines of credit. For partial savings-secured and full savings-secured lines of credit, the APR is 18% and 9% respectively
For late payments and returned payments, the following fees apply:
- $7.50 late fee for payments received after the due date. These are assessed monthly, with a maximum of five fees per year
- $20 returned payment fee (for any payments that are returned)
Always be sure to read the terms and conditions of the Emerald Card before opening an account.
Information on the Emerald Prepaid MasterCard
What Is It?
The Emerald Card is a reloadable, prepaid debit card that you can use to receive and use your tax refund. You can also loan money to it with an Emerald Advance line of credit.
Where Can You Use it?
You can use this card anywhere that MasterCard is accepted to buy things and use your card to buy things like groceries, gas, clothes, etc. (Note: you cannot use your card to pay from the pump.) You can also use your card for online and phone purchases.
Can I Use this Card at an ATM?
Yes. You can get cash at any ATM what has a MasterCard logo on it. If it doesn't have a MoneyPass logo on it, though, you'll be charged a fee by the ATM owner. They're usually between $1.50 and $3.00. However, you won't be charged anything if you use an AllPoint ATM at a CVS or 7-Eleven store.
How Can I Add Money To It?
You can add money to your Emerald Card by direct depositing your payroll, unemployment, or government benefits. You can also load checks through the H&R Block mobile banking app (you'll be charged a fee though—this also isn't available for everyone), transfer money from another account (if it's linked), or add cash at some retail reloading locations.
To deposit funds directly, you need to ask your employer if they participate in direct deposit. If they do, you can be enrolled by giving them a complete copy of the Direct Deposit authorization form. You can also add money to your card at participating retail reloading locations through the Green Dot, MoneyGram, and Western Union networks. You should check to see if the retail location charges a fee, though, since some of them might.
What Kind of Fees Will I Have to Pay?
Fees will be applied when you use your card to pay bills, deposit checks to your card, withdraw money from a non-MoneyPass ATM (except ATMs inside of CVS or 7-Eleven locations), and reload your card at some retail locations.
What's the Difference Between this Card and a Credit Card?
With a prepaid debit card, you can only spend money that you have loaded or that has been loaded by someone else. There is no credit part to this card, and no credit check, bank account, or bank history check is required to get the card. You should also know that you will not build credit with this card.
How Do I Get an H&R Block Emerald Card?
You can apply for a card in person at an H&R block tax office and it will automatically be activated when your funds are loaded. You cannot apply online.
How Can I Get Cash with this Card?
Many merchants will let you get cash back at the point of sale for no charge (this can include grocery stores and pharmacies). You should always ask to make sure that you aren't being charged anything, however, since some retailers do apply a surcharge.
You can also get cash from ATMs with the MasterCard logo on them (though you will be charged a fee unless you are using an ATM with the MoneyPass logo or an ATM at CVS or 7-Eleven).
For more information, including information on opening a joint card, you should go to the H&R Block website.