Prepaid Debit Cards Are Still Charging You Fees

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The prepaid debit card marketplace shifts constantly, but 83% of prepaid debit cards still charge monthly fees, according to a recent Bankrate.com survey.

While new cards appear constantly in the market and others are altered often, Bankrate.com's survey of 30 widely held prepaid cards found that while all charge fees, the specific fee structures vary considerably. Out of those cards, 33% will waive the monthly fee if a certain amount is loaded on the card. Altogether half of the cards either have no monthly fee or will waive it.

"Not all prepaid cards are created equal," said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com.

The fees leveraged by prepaid companies can add up quickly since many optional transactions require additional costs. The survey found that 53% of cards have activation fees ranging from $2.95 to $9.95, depending on where it is purchased with only 10% which do not charge an activation fee if the card is purchased online or over the phone. Another 53% of cards charge for receiving account statements by mail with fees ranging from $1 to $5.95.

The most competitive offers are coming from banks and other financial service companies which offer greater fee transparency, lower fees and typically leverage the bank/branch ATM network for free cash withdrawals and reloads, he said.

Of the cards that are affiliated with an ATM network, 64% do not charge for in-network withdrawals. The range is $1 to $2.50 among those that do. All 30 cards assess a fee ranging from $1.95 to $3 for going outside the ATM network.

Checking the card balance at an ATM will typically cost you since 77% of the cards charge a fee between $0.45 and $3 and only 10% do not charge for balance inquiries at any ATMs.

Point-of sale fees are rare with only 17% of companies which charge a fee for PIN-based transactions ranging from $0.95 to $2, although an additional 7% don't permit PIN transactions.