February 2014: Reloadable Prepaid Cards

This Bank Monitor Report looks at the various prepaid cards offered by the firms in our coverage group, of which six currently offer personal prepaid cards. A prepaid card, which does not need to be linked to any traditional deposit account, allows users to load money onto a card and spend it anywhere debit cards are accepted. Unlike with a credit card, prepaid cards do not allow users to spend more money than they have put onto the card and often do not require a credit check to open.
Firms were not graded on the prepaid cards they offer; instead, we focused on capturing a detailed look of the current prepaid card market and what each prepaid card offers to customers. To this end, we focused on three main components: card features, service fees and public site information.  As we investigated each firm’s reloadable prepaid cards, our research focused on the following key components:

  • What general and unique features does each reloadable prepaid card offer to clients?
  • What fees and balance requirements are associated with each reloadable prepaid card, i.e. minimum opening deposit, reloading fee, and expedited card replacement fee?
  • How does each firm promoted their reloadable prepaid card product on their public site?

Currently, six of the 17 firms tracked by
Bank Monitor offer and promote prepaid cards on their public site. Interestingly, only one firm markets its prepaid card solely to teenagers and their parents, while the remaining five firms do not associate their card specifically with a target audience. Two firms stand out for providing extensive standalone sitelets to promote and provide information about their respective card offerings, going in depth about card benefits, features and fees. The other four firms offer product pages similar to those made available for their deposit accounts.

 

All firms, save one, charge a flat monthly fee that ranges between $4 and $7, though one firm offers a reduced monthly fee of $4 for card holders who deposit $500 or more per month on the card. Currently, only two firms provide users with ways to avoid the monthly maintenance fee. Additionally, half of the six firms charge a one-time enrollment fee for opening the account and obtaining the prepaid card plastic, though only one charges this fee if the card is obtained in a branch; online account opening of is free of charge. Additional key findings include:

  • All six firms provide card holders with the option to sign up for online banking and alerts.
  • 67% of firms offer PDF Account Guides or Fee Schedules.
  • Only two firms do not require an initial minimum load, though both do charge a $4 account opening fee.