Prepaid debit card caution

5:08 PM, Jul 31, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- Michael Feight takes care of most of his financial transactions with his Green Dot prepaid card.

"It's convenient.  It's accepted everywhere Visa is excepted," Feight says.

He uses the card carefully and says he's able to avoid almost all fees.

But a Consumer Reports Money Adviser investigation of 26 prepaid cards finds many carry heft fees.

"You can be charged an activation fee, a swipe fee every time the card is used, a monthly maintenance fee, and even a dormancy fee for not using the card often enough," says Margot Gilman.

The Account-Now Gold Visa prepaid card has some of the highest fees.

It charges $9.95 per month, as much as $495 to reload the card and $2.50 for every ATM withdrawal.

And the NetSpend prepaid Visa Pay-A-You-Go card charges every time you use it.

Gilman says, "For a daily user of the NetSpend Pay-As-You_go card, the swipe fees could add up to hundreds of dollars a year."

The worst prepaid card in Consumer Reports ratings, the American Express for Target.

"You can only reload it at a Target store unless you have a bank account or direct deposit.  to get cash for an ATM almost always incurs a fee.  And, the card isn't FDIC insured," Margot Gilman says.

But there are some cards that do offer good value and convenience.  They include the Emerald card from H&R Block and the Bluebird card with direct deposits.

The Green Dot card is another good choice. 

Michael Feight found almost all fees can be avoided if the card is used 30 times a month and reloaded with direct deposits.

Three Prepaid Cards Worth Considering

Now it can be tough trying to figure out the fees on most prepaid debit cards.

So, no matter which one you're considering, make sure that you carefully read the find print. 

Coming Soon: ATMS That Dispense Prepaid Cards

And, be aware that prepaid cards are not protected by law against loss or theft, although most issuers have voluntary protections in place.


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