Oakland Debit Card Fees Draw Criticism

March 19, 2013
San Francisco Chronicle  
credit card news

Oakland, Calif., residents who use the debit function of the city's municipal identification card will pay more in fees than for a comparable prepaid card from a store, according to Consumers Union. Oakland's dual-purpose identification and debit card imposes an unusual combination of fees, which Consumers Union says takes advantage of the population it is meant to help. The card was created by the city to serve as a municipal identification card, largely for undocumented immigrants, but the prepaid debit function was added in an effort to expand the pool of potential users and provide low-income residents with better access to banking services. Cardholders are charged $2 for enrolling the card in federal benefits and $1 every time money from federal benefits is put on the card via direct deposit. Oakland officials maintain that the card's fees are lower than the median fees charged by many popular prepaid cards. Prices listed on the current terms and conditions of the card include 75 cents for each purchase, a $2.99 monthly fee, a $1.50 fee for using in-network ATMs, and a $1.75 fee for every call to customer service. Consumer groups also have criticized the cards on privacy issues, as the card includes a person's name, address, and date of birth on its front -- which can compromise its financial security.

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