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Despite fees, prepaid debit cards are on the rise among consumers

Published: Monday, April 15 2013 11:29 a.m. MDT

In this July 17, 2009 file photo, a customer uses a Bank of America ATM in Charlotte, N.C. Prepaid debit cards are now offered more. Along with ATM withdrawal fees, there are various other fees that accompany the cards.

Chuck Burton, AP

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More national banks are offering prepaid debit cards this year, according to a recent study by Bankrate.

Of the 24 most common prepaid cards that Bankrate surveyed, all had various fees associated with them.

“Many offer cards with low, fixed monthly costs,” said Greg McBride, CFA and senior financial analyst for Bankrate. “The ability to know the total monthly cost in advance is valuable to consumers, particularly with the decline in free checking accounts.”

Free checking accounts are now only available at 72 percent of credit unions and 39 percent of banks. This could cause consumers to lean toward prepaid debit cards.

Although 63 percent of prepaid cards have a monthly service fee, which can range from $3 to $9.95, over half of the cards offer a fee waiver or reduction for the monthly fee.

Other fees include activation fees, though two-thirds of the cards are not charged an activation fee if bought online, according to the survey. ATM withdrawal fees can range from $1.50 to $2.75.

For those who want a statement by mail, 58 percent charge about $1 to $5.95 for a monthly statement.

EMAIL: alovell@deseretnews.com

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