Scrutiny for Social Security's Prepaid Debit Card

June 24, 2013
Bloomberg Businessweek  
credit card news

The Senate’s Special Committee for Aging recently hosted a hearing to discuss the effort to transition to paperless Social Security payments. So far, 98 percent of the program's 54 million recipients have signed up for direct deposit into a bank account or for a government prepaid debit card issued by Comerica Bank. However, experts at the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) claim the prepaid plan hurts the needy. About 3.2 million people are enrolled in the Social Security prepaid card program. Like many similar products, it comes with a number of fees. Although customer service calls and getting cash back at retailers is free, the Social Security card allows only one free in-network ATM withdrawal a month and charges 90 cents a month for a paper statement. The Treasury’s inspector general said he has received more than 37,000 complaints about questionable charges to the accounts, although prepaid cards generally do have lower fraud rates than paper checks. The Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) also pointed out that while the Social Security prepaid card does not allow payday loans or overdrafts, direct deposit into banks does not prohibit overdraft fees. In a March report, CRL found that about 25 percent of people who take payday loans from banks are seniors on Social Security.
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