New Unemployment Debit Card Costing Consumers

We are a part of a debit nation. Cash and checks are becoming more and more obsolete. Now days, we turn to debit for everything from daily purchases to disability benefits, and now unemployment payments.

Over 30 states have made commitments to begin issuing debit cards for those on unemployment. Deals have been made with Bank of America Corp., JP Morgan Chase and US Bancorp.

Wyoming is one of the latest states to hop on the debit bandwagon. High unemployment states such as California and Florida are looking to implement the system by the end of this year. While it may seem like a good idea, most consumers seem to prefer the snail mail method, as transferring payment via debit card has been costing consumers more than they’d like.

Programs vary by state, but consumers are generally charged $1.50 ATM withdrawals, and 50 cents for bank calls.

In some states those receiving unemployment benefits are required to use the prepaid debit cards, while other states provide other payment options. Some banks charge overdraft fees of $20 instead of preventing charges exceeding the balance of the prepaid debit card. In Pennsylvania they charge for lost debit cards, contacting the call center, checking card balances, making withdrawals and balance inquires.

While many consumers believe that the fees are illegal. The U.S. Department of Labor allows the fees as long as the states allow consumers to get the money for free. Consumers can get the money for free if the use the debit cards for all purchases or withdrawal all the money one time, according to Suzy Bohnert, a Department of Labor spokeswoman.

Joan Evans the Workforce Service director in Wyoming encourages consumers to use the debit cards, as they are a better way to serve clients, as they don’t have to wait in line to cash their checks. “The individual decides how to manage his drawdowns using the debit card,” she said.

“If you use your card the right way, you shouldn’t have to pay fees at all,” a representative at said. “The goal is to make it easier for consumers to access money and give them greater ease at purchasing in an Internet world.”

But the consumer consensus is in – saving 15 minutes of their time waiting in line is not worth the penalties.