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Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to create prepaid card regulations

Scott Tong May 24, 2012
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Jeremy Hobson: The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced this week it is trying to figure out how to regulate pre-paid debit cards. Basically reloadable VISAs more and more people are carrying around instead of cash.

Marketplace’s Scott Tong reports from Washington.


Scott Tong: You can get a prepaid card anywhere — online, at stores — then you load it up with cash or a paycheck, and swipe away, at the gas station, the ATM, Amazon. But we all know there’s a catch.

Here’s Michelle Jun of Consumers Union.

Michelle Jun: A company may say that you have free access to loading your funds, but you’re going to have to pay up to five dollars.

Some 13 percent of us use prepaid cards, and growing. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fears the cards aren’t backed by protections given regular credit card holders — say, limits on fees from stores, or caps on losses if your card’s stolen. But of course fees to you and me are revenue for banks.

Industry analyst Bert Ely.

Bert Ely: If fees are restricted in one area or another, then banks have to earn that fee income elsewhere.

He says prepaid cards may not be a big profit maker, but banks are starting to offer them to bring in customers and introduce them to other products.

In Washington I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

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