The amount of money loaded onto prepaid debit cards nearly tripled between 2008 and 2012, reaching $76.7 billion, according to the Mercator Advisory Group Inc. Analysts say that prepaid debit cards are moving in on checking accounts; as free checking disappears from the landscape, there is at the same time growth in prepaid card offers with a single monthly fee. The freedom of a prepaid card, however, may come with a variety of other costs -- depending on the individual product -- such as fees for paper statements, card activation, and ATM balance inquiries. "The two major reasons for not having a checking account are: You can't qualify for a checking account, or two, you previously had a checking account and were frustrated by high fees and repeated overdrafts," says Tom Feltner, director of financial services at the Consumer Federation of America. "Prepaid cards don't check your credit, and most of them … allow you to only spend what you have, and I think that's the reason why they're a rapidly growing transaction product." Many prepaid card providers also protect consumers from loss and theft as long as the card is registered; and most offer insurance on balances from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., although this is not yet required by law. Prepaid cards also give users a way to pay bills and make non-cash transactions without turning to more expensive alternative financial services.