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New type of prepaid debit cards will be available in time for holiday shopping

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The days of paying huge fees to access your own money on a prepaid debit card may be coming to an end. That's because the cards that come with heavy fees are being challenged by a new type of pre-paid debit card.

Cheryl Moore loves the convenience of prepaid debit cards.

"I use the Internet to pay my bills online and I can do it with the card as opposed to having to go here or there to pay my bills," she said.

But Moore does not like the fees that come with the cards, like fees just to use them.

"I am on a budget, so if I spend my money on fees, that can be a tank of gas or a few groceries from the store," she told us.

Moore says she really hates the $5 charge for using ATMs, and she's not alone when it comes to paying those fees.

"The average person who has a debit card spends about $200 a year on withdrawal fees, overdraft fees and various bank fees," said Sam Stowell with Money Management International.

Stowell says a new kind of pre-paid debit card may help to cut costs for those who use them. Walmart and American Express are going to be offering a card called Bluebird, which promises low fees and works much like a checking account, which experts say offers inexpensive alternative to banks.

"Banks are charging fees for this and this particular card there are essentially no fees except when withdrawing cash from the ATM," said Stowell.

Stowell says setting up an account with the card is free online and offers no annual use fees or minimum balance fees. The card can be used for online purchases and at any store that accepts American Express.

"It is sort of like a modern day check, and a lot of people do not have checking accounts," said Stowell.

The card is not entirely free of fees. If card-holders do use direct deposit, withdrawing cash from an ATM will cost $2 in addition to extra fees charged by the ATM owner.

For that reason, experts say users need to know the details of any prepaid card before loading it with money.

The new card will show up at Walmart stores next week, just in time for Christmas shopping.

(Copyright ©2014 KTRK-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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