Are prepaid charge cards assisting or harming consumers?

The middle for Responsible Lending is a non-profit research and policy company aimed at protecting home-ownership and household wide range.

Let us start out with the following premise: with regards to technology and therefore main item expenses, basic purpose reloadable prepaid cards are indistinguishable from debit cards related to checkless checking reports.

Both prepaid and debit cards must keep a database of individual account documents; both access the payments that are same via a bank person in a funds transfer system such as for example Visa or MasterCard.

Both prepaid and debit cards have actually a requirement to “know your client” because the reports must go through a bank to get into the re payments community.

Ergo, the largest differences when considering prepaid cards and debit cards are distinctions perhaps not in technology however in legislation, or what exactly is frequently referred to as “regulatory arbitrage” in support of the unregulated providers.

Some situations of regulatory arbitrage between bank providers of checkless debit card reports and presently unregulated prepaid credit card providers consist of:

  • Debit cards have periodic written statements of account under Regulation E;
  • Regulated debit card providers have actually mandated minimal money requirements;
  • Debit cards have actually customer protections for missing cards or card that is unauthorized; and
  • Prepaid cards are exempt through the Durbin interchange needs, at the least when it comes to smaller, rent-a-charter banking institutions.

Prepaid cards needs to be necessary to meet with the after three rules:

  • No mandatory arbitration clauses
  • No tie-in to financial obligation services and products, either before the prepaid credit card load or following the card stability is expended.
  • No penalty costs such as for instance nonsufficient funds or fees that are overdraft


We pulled yesterday evening the account disclosure type for Netspend, one of several largest prepaid credit card providers. Clients must read and consent to these terms before applying for a Netspend prepaid credit card online.

We challenge anyone in this space to learn this disclosure kind, 12 pages of microscopic printing organized horizontally across two print that is pdf. Hidden into the printing in the tenth web page is a dependence on mandatory arbitration, and just as a person, much less an organization action.

Real discrimination or customer deception can’t be re-dressed by a person customer in a mandated arbitration forum.

Debt item tie-in

A prepaid credit card should haven’t any tie-in to a financial obligation product whatsoever. In the end that is front making use of an online payday loan to finance a prepaid card can be an invitation to abuse.

If prepaid credit card charges just take 10 % for the prepaid card stability to transform to money, a 450 % annual rate of interest pay day loan was deceptively changed into a 700 % APR loan, thus circumventing state or federal usury restrictions, including those protecting army workers.

The Netspend tie-in with payday lending, and its particular trying to provide pay day loans straight through its card that is prepaid just unsatisfactory. Any office of Thrift Supervision had been directly to prohibit Netspend’s i-advance system.

Overdraft charges

The solitary most-cited cause for client range of a prepaid credit card would be to restrict investing to funds actually contained in the account. The extremely label “prepaid card” communicates the vow that the account can not be overdrawn, which by meaning would otherwise be considered a “postpaid” card.

Overdrafts shouldn’t be allowed in virtually any type for a card that is prepaid. Prohibiting overdraft and fund that is nonsufficient is the single-most important step for CFPB to just just just take at the moment.

If a client requires financial obligation, allow them to get a credit that is regulated, which can be created for that function.