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New Prepaid Debit Card Rules More Consumer Friendly

Advocates say new rules by the federal government on prepaid debit cards will help consumers. (dhs.gov)
Advocates say new rules by the federal government on prepaid debit cards will help consumers. (dhs.gov)
October 13, 2016

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Consumer groups are praising the new rules on prepaid credit cards just released by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The regulation goes into effect next fall and will make prepaid card issuers follow many of the same rules that apply to credit cards.

Graciela Aponte-Diaz, a policy director for the Center for Responsible Lending, says low-income families, who may not have a bank account, often use prepaid cards.

But the cards can come with hidden fees, something that will change with the new "know as you go" provision.

"It ensures that the prepaid card issuer lets the consumer know what the exact fees are, if there's a monthly fee, if there is a fee when you go to the ATM,” she explains. “Is there a fee when you reload the card with cash?"

The new rules would force card issuers to underwrite a consumer's ability to repay a loan on his or her prepaid card and would impose limits on companies' rules for repayment, in an effort to make the process more fair.

But Aponte-Diaz maintains the rule doesn't go quite far enough, and says she would have liked to see the rule ban overdraft fees entirely if people spend more than the face value of the card.

"As the rule is written now, someone can use their card and overspend and they'll be charged fees for that," she explains.

The rules also say that when errors are found, the card issuer will be required to open an investigation and give consumers a replacement card, instead of freezing their funds.


Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD