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Report: Prepaid debit card fees vary widely

New York – While a majority of the most popular prepaid debit cards charge monthly fees, specific fee structures vary widely. According to a study of 30 of the most widely held prepaid debit cards conducted by Bankrate.com, 83% of the prepaid cards surveyed charge monthly fees, but 33% will waive them, typically based upon the amount loaded onto the card.

Altogether, half of the cards either have no monthly fee or will waive it (down from 67% last year). In addition, more than half (53%) have an activation fee ranging from $2.95 to $9.95, depending on where the card is purchased. Ten percent do not charge an activation fee if the card is purchased online or via the phone.

Other findings include:

• Of the cards that are affiliated with an ATM network, 64% do not charge for in-network withdrawals. The range is $1 to $2.50 among those that do.

• Predictably, all 30 cards assess a fee (ranging from $1.95 to $3) for going outside the ATM network.

• Checking the card balance at an ATM will typically cost you; 77% of the cards charge a fee between $0.45 and $3.

• Ten percent do not charge for balance inquiries at any ATMs, while 7% only charge at out-of-network ATMs.

• Only 17% charge a fee for PIN-based transactions (ranging from $0.95 to $2), although an additional 7% don’t permit PIN transactions.

• Only 7% charge a fee ($1) for signature-based transactions.

• Fifty-three percent charge for receiving account statements by mail, with fees ranging from $1 to $5.95.

• Thirty-seven percent don’t charge to receive paper statements in the mail, while 10% don’t even offer mailed statements.

• Only 10% of cards offer paper statements at ATMs, and all charge either $1 or $2.50.

• Twenty-seven percent charge for customer service calls, up from 17% last year.

• More than three in four (77%) do not charge for declined transactions under any circumstances, while 10% charge either $1 or $2 for transactions declined at an ATM.

• The remaining 13% charge between $0.40 and $1.50 for all declined transactions.

• Inactivity fees are only charged by 17% of the cards that Bankrate.com surveyed (down from 29% last year).

• Among those that charge, the monthly inactivity fees range from $1.95 to $5.95.