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Prepaid Cards: Second-Tier Bank Account Substitutes

DESCRIPTION: Prepaid cards, or “general purpose reloadable cards,” are marketed as sensible, attractive alternatives to check cashiers and traditional bank accounts. 1 However, consumers face dangers and traps with prepaid cards, which are becoming the foundation of a second-tier banking system that shadows the traditional banking system. Until consumers who use prepaid cards are guaranteed the same protections as consumers who use traditional debit and credit cards, consumers who use prepaid cards will be at risk of losing all their money, face multiple, high, and sometimes confusing fees, and be offered convenient but very expensive forms of credit associated with the card. This report discusses the prepaid card market and details needed improvements.