Prepaid Debit Card Fees Vary Considerably

Apr 07, 2014, 08:00 ET from Bankrate, Inc.

NEW YORK, April 7, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The prepaid debit card marketplace continues to evolve rapidly, with many new or altered offerings since last year. (NYSE: RATE) recently surveyed 30 widely held prepaid cards and found that while all charge fees, the specific fee structures vary considerably.

"Not all prepaid cards are created equal," said Greg McBride, CFA, chief financial analyst for "Some have many fees, some have few; some will waive or reduce monthly fees, others won't; some permit free in-network ATM withdrawals, others don't."

McBride believes that prepaid cards should supplement the traditional banking structure, not replace it. "Call me old fashioned, but if you're going to build wealth and save and invest for the future, you need to be part of the traditional financial system," he said.

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Monthly Service Fees

  • Monthly fees are commonplace – 83% of the prepaid cards that surveyed charge monthly fees, but 33% will waive them, typically based upon the amount loaded onto the card.
  • Altogether, half of the cards either have no monthly fee or will waive it (down from 67% last year).

Activation Fees

  • More than half (53%) have an activation fee ranging from $2.95 to $9.95, depending on where the card is purchased.
  • Ten percent do not charge an activation fee if the card is purchased online or over the phone.

ATM Withdrawal Fees

  • 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.
  • Predictably, all 30 cards assess a fee (ranging from $1.95 to $3) for going outside the ATM network.

ATM Balance Inquiry Fees

  • Checking the card balance at an ATM will typically cost you; 77% of the cards charge a fee between $0.45 and $3.
  • Ten percent do not charge for balance inquiries at any ATMs, while seven percent only charge at out-of-network ATMs.

Point-of-Sale Fees

  • These fees are rare. Only 17% charge a fee for PIN-based transactions (ranging from $0.95 to $2), although an additional seven percent don't permit PIN transactions.
  • Only seven percent charge a fee ($1) for signature-based transactions.

Monthly Statement Fees

  • Fifty-three percent charge for receiving account statements by mail, with fees ranging from $1 to $5.95.
  • Thirty-seven percent don't charge to receive paper statements in the mail, while 10% don't even offer mailed statements.
  • Only 10% of cards offer paper statements at ATMs, and all charge either $1 or $2.50.

Customer Service Fees

  • Twenty-seven percent charge for customer service calls, up from 17% last year.
  • The fees range from $0.50 for checking your balance to $4.95 for using the call center to transfer cash between accounts.

Declined Transaction Fees

  • More than three in four (77%) do not charge for declined transactions under any circumstances, while 10% charge either $1 or $2 for transactions declined at an ATM.
  • The remaining 13% charge between $0.40 and $1.50 for all declined transactions.

Inactivity Fees

  • These are only charged by 17% of the cards that surveyed (down from 29% last year).
  • Among those that charge, the monthly inactivity fees range from $1.95 to $5.95.

Bill Payment Fees

  • These fees are not charged by any of the 30 cards (last year, eight percent charged bill payment fees).

Methodology: surveyed 30 prepaid cards offered by prominent issuers from February 10-19, 2014.

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About Bankrate, Inc.

Bankrate is a leading publisher, aggregator and distributor of personal finance content on the Internet. Bankrate provides consumers with proprietary, fully researched, comprehensive, independent and objective personal finance editorial content across multiple vertical categories including mortgages, deposits, insurance, credit cards, and other categories, such as retirement, automobile loans, and taxes. The Bankrate network includes, our flagship website, and other owned and operated personal finance websites, including,,,,, Nationwide Card Services,,, InsureMe,,,, and Bankrate aggregates rate information from over 4,800 institutions on more than 300 financial products. With coverage of nearly 600 local markets in all 50 U.S. states, Bankrate generates over 172,000 distinct rate tables capturing on average over three million pieces of information daily. Bankrate develops and provides web services to over 80 co-branded websites with online partners, including some of the most trusted and frequently visited personal finance sites on the Internet such as Yahoo!, AOL, CNBC and Bloomberg. In addition, Bankrate licenses editorial content to over 500 newspapers on a daily basis including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Boston Globe.

Caroline Farhat Publicist Bankrate, Inc.  (917) 368-8638

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SOURCE Bankrate, Inc.