Prepaid Card Use is Growing Rapidly. Is This a Good Thing?
April 30, 2012
About $28.6 billion was loaded onto prepaid debit cards in 2009, according to estimates from Mercator Advisory Group. The group also expects that number to reach $201.9 billion next year. About 13 percent of U.S. households had a prepaid debit card in 2011, reported Javelin Strategy & Research on April 11. Use of these cards is highest among Generation Y and younger people, as well as people without access to traditional banking products. While some cards can be used to build a credit history, many cards also carry traps. Often the cards' fees go unnoticed, including fees to call customer service, card inactivity fees, ATM use fees, and fees for loading money onto the cards. Prepaid debit cards also may not be covered by FDIC insurance, regulations, or statutory protections if it is stolen. Consumers can find the best option for prepaid cards by shopping around. Some customers may want the limits of a prepaid debit card, rather than dealing with the interest rates of a credit card. Consumers who are not ready or qualified for a revolving credit card should opt for a prepaid debit card, but those who are responsible enough may find greater advantages from credit cards, such as rewards and rebates and an interest-free loan.
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