Do Not Buy Prepaid Debit Cards



This will be quick and easy. Do . not . buy . prepaid . debit . cards. Every prepaid debit card comes with exorbitant fees.

There are fees just for buying the card known as issuance fees (although Walmart's card waives the $3 issuance fee if you apply online); there are monthly fees even if you do not use the card (although some companies will waive the fee if you add money to the card during the month); there are first-time use fees (called account opening fees); there are fees if you use the card; there are fees if don't use the card; there are fees if you check your balance; there are fees if you call for phone help; there are fees for making an ATM withdrawal; there are fees for attempting to use more than your available balance; there are fees when making a purchase and asking for cash back.

Some companies even charge monthly fees after you have no money left and will collect those fees if you reload the same card later.

Prepaid debit cards are nothing more than legalized banditry preying on people who can least afford all these fees.

Suze Orman Approved prepaid debit cardCNBC TV Financial Adviser Suze Orman today announced (1) she is launching her own brand of prepaid debit card ostensibly to offer a lower fee alternative to consumers. However, her card is not without fees.

Checking her card's website [now defunct], we see that there is a $3.00 Card Purchase Fee, a $3.00 monthly fee, a $2.00 ATM fee in addition to any fees charged by the ATM owner, a $1.00 ATM Balance Inquiry Fee, a $2.00 Cash Withdrawal Fee, and other additional fees.

You get one free call to a live customer service agent per month - additional calls during the month will cost you two bucks.

Although Ms Orman's card is a little better than most prepaid debit cards, I suggest you take the same money and find a bank that offers free checking. Unless you have absolutely horrid credit, they'll give you a debit card with no usage fees, no monthly fees, and you can check your balance or make withdrawals at your bank's ATM without balance inquiry fees or withdrawal fees.

Disclaimer: I have been in the prepaid phonecard card business for more than 17 years and have sold prepaid debit cards for more than a decade. Now you may ask why I sell cards and yet advise my readers not to buy them. If I were a manufacturer of donuts I would give the same advice: do not buy donuts because they are not good for your health.

At one time I sold cigarettes from my vending machines (see my article here) and if I were still in that business I would exhort my readers not to smoke (see my articles on smoking).

Just because I make money in a business does not mean I cannot give good advice to my readers.




ENDNOTES


(1):

NY Times, TV Adviser on Money Offers Card

For more than a decade, Suze Orman has exhorted her viewers on CNBC to spend less than they earn, flashed her blazing smile from the covers of best-selling books and endorsed the occasional auto loan provider and brokerage firm.

Never before, however, has she built a financial product from scratch and urged her considerable number of fans to use it frequently. That changes with the introduction on Monday of her Approved card, which works a lot like a bank debit card but does not come with a checking account. It is a prepaid debit card, and companies that offer similar cards have drawn criticism for sky-high fees and poor disclosure.



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