Prepaid Debit Cards – Better Than a Bank Account?

Today, on the Huff Post, Patrice Peyret, the CEO of Plastyc, Inc. wrote an article with the bold title of “How to Save $11 Billion in Checking Account Fees in 2010”. How does he suggest we do it? Use prepaid debit cards and prepaid bank accounts to avoid the fees associated with starter checking accounts.

Here’s how Mr. Peyret suggests that we save $11 billion in banking fees in one year:

There are many sources of prepaid accounts. Some non-for-profit organizations like the Community Financial Resources offer a one dollar per month prepaid card, which, when used occasionally for ATM withdrawals, amounts to about $50 per year. Credit Unions also strive to offer lower-cost services than traditional banks. They tend to be less Internet-ready than larger institutions, but several of them have low-cost prepaid cards that you can manage online.

And a new generation of online-only prepaid accounts offers many of the same services of a traditional checking account but with fewer fees and constraints. If you shop carefully and choose a service that offers FDIC insurance, you’ll get the same level of safety as a bank checking account. There’s no retail bank to visit, but you can log-in anytime via any Internet-connected PC or cell phone, and get email support at no cost.

How much exactly can you save? The example I know best is the iBankUP service offered by my company: its yearly cost for a usage pattern similar to the Bretton Woods study is $55. This is about $220 less than the median price of a checking account.

Using this kind of service instead of a bank checking account, the 51 million people in the 18 to 29 age range would collectively save $11 billion.

Finally, an $11 billion stimulus package from the banks to American consumers, not the other way round.

These savings are similar to those shown on the prepaid card calculators. For example, using the FaceCard Prepaid Debit Visa as an example, in a typical month a FaceCard user could save over $40 each month as compared to Bank of America’s “Regular Checking” account (which is the account that a typical young person would qualify for).

Check out Patrice’s article here.

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