Suze Orman’s Prepaid Card: What is in the fine print

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By Consumers Union on Thursday, January 12th, 2012

There has been a lot of buzz around Suze Orman’s new prepaid card.  However, a prepaid card is still just a prepaid card and consumers should pay attention to the fine print. Here are some  take-aways after looking at the fine print of Suze Orman’s new prepaid card:

Fee Summary:

  • Monthly fee $3 (first month is waived)
  • ATM withdrawal is $2 (Free for cardholders who set up Direct Deposit or a Bank Transfer)
  • ATM Balance inquiries are $1 (Free for cardholders who set up Direct Deposit or a Bank Transfer)
  • ATM transaction declined fees are $1 (Free for cardholders who set up Direct Deposit or a Bank Transfer)
  • To speak to a live customer service rep it is free for the first call per calendar month, after that it is $2 per call
  • Card replacements are $3
  • Paper statements are $2
  • To close an account it is free
  • Bill pay electronically is free
  • Bill pay by check is $1

 

Overall, the fees on the card are in line with other lower fee prepaid cards in the marketplace. At the same time, as is the case with many prepaid cards, the fees are lower if the cardholder sets up direct deposit or bank transfer (where the card is funded on a regular basis).

Card Features

The card has some interesting features, but it has yet to be seen if they will actually provide any value to consumers yet
The ability to set up sub-accounts (i.e. Emergency Fund)
The ability to have up to 3 additional cardholders on the same account
TransUnion Credit Scores, Reports and Monitoring/ The Credit Project- The prepaid card industry has been trying to figure out a way to make prepaid card activity history meaningful, especially for consumers with thin and even bad credit files. While it is an interesting development consumers should not count on this card to help rebuild their credit score yet. There are two other credit reporting agencies that affect your score and this program is definitely in its infancy.
Identity theft monitoring by TrustedID. We have always said that consumers should stay away from purchasing fee based
ID theft monitoring. It’s free here, but these services are not always helpful.  We still think the best way to monitor your credit report is to access it for free once a year via www.ANNUALCREDITREPORT.com. If you feel your credit security has been compromised then learn more about a Security Freeze.

After three months of inactivity a card will be closed. This will likely help to prevent fraud and will prevent money from being lost to fees. Another piece to note is that cardholders will not be able to use this card at the gas pump, for hotels or car rentals. This may be inconvenient, but avoids the problem with debit holds which may tie up funds beyond those actually used for long periods of time.

The Approved Dashboard, the videos on the website and alerts may help consumers gain a better sense of their finances and how to use their money more wisely.

Be sure to check out Consumer Report’s take too.

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