Prepaid Fees: Know What You'll Owe

Credit cards

When it comes to prepaid cards, most consumers expect some sort of fee structure. Monthly fees, transaction fees and reloading fees are all part and parcel of the prepaid card game.

A recent survey by looked at the fees of 18 cards and found some interesting trends. First off, no prepaid debit card was fee-free.

The most common fees of the cards that were surveyed were ATM balance inquiry fees (78%), monthly fees (66%), activation fees (61%), fees for using the issuer’s own ATMs (61%) and fees for receiving a statement by mail (61%).

Bankrate says the fee structures found in this survey lead them to recommend low-cost or free checking accounts to most, but not all, bank customers.

“Consumers with a tendency to overdraw their checking accounts or those unable to obtain checking accounts may find a prepaid card to be a suitable alternative, but it is important to shop around to find the card that will produce the lowest fees for the cardholder’s particular financial tendencies,” said Greg McBride, CFA and senior financial analyst for Bankrate, in a press release.

Bankrate not only looked at the cards from another direction also, analyzing what the total fees would be for a consumer who makes 10 purchases, four bill payments, a customer service call and an out-of-network ATM balance inquiry and withdrawal in a month. What they found was that the range of fees was more than $20 -- confirming that shopping around for a card with low fees is the key to major savings.

[Credit Cards: Research and compare prepaid credit cards at]

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---'s Deputy Managing Editor. Kali writes on a wide range of personal finance and credit topics. She previously ran, the personal finance website powered by TheStreet. She has also worked for The Wall Street Journal as a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund intern and at The Huntington Herald-Dispatch as a reporter. Reach Kali at kali at


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