Dicey Debt 4/6/12

Published On: Apr 04 2012 11:25:31 AM CDT

Promotions for prepaid debit cards are enticing - "There's no credit check. No bank account required. And if you're 18 or over, you can't be turned down." "With 100 percent approval and no credit check, you can get your card now." You can buy prepaid debit cards in stores and online. They bear familiar logos like MasterCard and Visa. And like a regular debit card, you can use them to make purchases and to get cash at ATMs. But after examining the extensive terms and conditions of 16 prepaid debit cards, Consumer Reports says that's where the similarity ends. "If your prepaid card is lost or stolen or there are errors on your account, you don't have the same legal protections that you do with a traditional debit or credit card. And there can be lots of fees." Take the AccountNow Gold Visa Prepaid card. Its fees include a monthly charge of 9.95 unless you've loaded 25-hundred dollars on the card that month. Using an ATM to withdraw cash costs 2.50. Plus you'll pay 15.95 if you want to close your account and get a check for the remaining balance. And although some cards imply they can help improve your credit history, Consumer Reports says they can't. Mandy Walker "These are a type of debit card. So the big three credit agencies don't use any of the activity on them to determine your credit score." TV personality Suze Orman's new prepaid debit card is trying to change that in a pilot program with TransUnion - one of the big three credit agencies. But Consumer Reports says it's uncertain how effective that will be. ."