Are prepaid charge cards helping or harming customers?

Are prepaid charge cards helping or harming customers?

The middle for Responsible Lending is really a non-profit research and policy company focused on protecting home-ownership and household wide range.

Let us start out with the premise that is following with regards to technology thus key item expenses, general function reloadable prepaid cards are indistinguishable from debit cards related to checkless checking records.

Both prepaid and debit cards must maintain a database of specific account documents; both access the payments that are same through a bank person in a funds transfer community such as for example Visa or MasterCard.

Both prepaid and debit cards have actually a requirement to “know your consumer” because the records must go through a bank to get into the re payments community.

Ergo, the greatest differences when considering prepaid cards and debit cards are distinctions perhaps not in technology however in legislation, or what exactly is usually referred to as “regulatory arbitrage” and only the unregulated providers.

Some situations of regulatory arbitrage between bank providers of checkless debit card reports and presently unregulated card that is prepaid consist of:

  • Debit cards have periodic written statements of account under Regulation E;
  • Regulated debit card providers have mandated minimal money demands;
  • Debit cards have actually customer protections for missing cards or card that is unauthorized; and
  • Prepaid cards are exempt through the Durbin interchange needs, at the least when it comes to smaller, rent-a-charter banking institutions.

Prepaid cards should be needed to meet up with the after three guidelines:

  • No arbitration that is mandatory
  • No tie-in to financial obligation items, either before the prepaid credit card load or following the card stability was expended.
  • No penalty costs such as for example nonsufficient funds or fees that are overdraft


We pulled yesterday evening the account disclosure type for Netspend, one of many biggest prepaid credit card providers. Clients must read and consent to these terms before registering for a Netspend card on-line that is prepaid.

We challenge anybody in this space to learn this disclosure type, 12 pages of microscopic print presented horizontally across two pdf print pages. Buried into the print from the page that is tenth a dependence on mandatory arbitration, and just as a person, never as a bunch action.

Actual discrimination or consumer deception can’t be re-dressed by a person customer in a arbitration forum that is mandated.

Financial obligation item tie-in

A card that is prepaid haven’t any tie-in to a financial obligation item whatsoever. From the front end, making use of a pay day loan to invest in a prepaid credit card is definitely an invitation to abuse.

If prepaid credit card fees take 10 % for the prepaid credit card balance to convert to money, a 450 % annual interest pay day loan is deceptively changed into a 700 % APR loan, thus circumventing state or federal usury limitations, including those protecting army workers.

The Netspend tie-in with payday financing, and its own trying to provide pay day loans straight through its card that is prepaid merely unsatisfactory. Any office of Thrift Supervision had been straight to prohibit Netspend’s i-advance program.

Overdraft charges

The solitary reason that is most-cited consumer selection of a prepaid credit card would be to restrict investing to funds actually contained in the account. The extremely label “prepaid card” communicates the vow that the account is not overdrawn, which by meaning would otherwise be a “postpaid” card.

Overdrafts really should not be allowed in virtually any type for a prepaid credit card. Prohibiting overdraft and nonsufficient investment charges is the single-most important step for CFPB to simply just take at the moment.