Of course, a lot of people simply don’t want a checking account, and their numbers are expected to grow as more national banks begin charging monthly fees. But before you ditch your bank for a prepaid card with lower fees, consider two things: First, not every bank charges monthly fees (Capital One and PNC are still fee-free, for instance), and those that do will usually waive the fees if certain conditions are met. Secondly, the vast majority of prepaid cards still cost more than maintaining a checking account – even one that charges a high monthly fee.
NerdWallet tracks numerous prepaid cards on its site, and several carry annual fees in excess of $100. The card with the highest fees, the Vision PrePaid from The Bancorp Bank, costs $153 for the first year. That averages out to $12.75 a month, well above what any of the major banks charge to keep open a checking account. Other offenders include the Pink ACE Elite from Visa, which contributes a percentage of each purchase to breast cancer research but also charges $123 for the first year.
In all, nine cards listed on the site had a higher annual fee for the first year than the Kardashian Kard. “I don’t think the Kardashian Kard was the worst of the worst, it was just the most visible,” says Adam Levin, chairman and founder of Credit.com.
That’s not to say that the Kardashian Kard got a bum rap, though. Much of the outcry stemmed not just from the monthly fees, but from the litany of additional fees buried in the card agreement’s fine print. Those fees included a $2 bill pay fee, a $1.50 fee for calling the card’s customer service line and a $6 fee for canceling the card. “What puts the Kardashian Kard head and shoulders above all the others is those other fees,” says Bill Hardekopf, CEO of LowCards.com, which tracks and compares credit cards. Combined with the fact that the Kardashians’ image was clearly used to market the cards to teens, it’s easy to see why it generated so much opposition.