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Understand the fees you will pay

A prepaid card provider has to disclose fees before you buy the card.

If you get your card in a store, a short summary of key fees and information will be on the outside of or visible through the prepaid card packaging. This short form will include a toll-free number and a website to view all the fees that may be charged on the prepaid card and other important information.

If you get your card in other settings, like online or over the phone, the card provider needs to give you this form on paper or electronically. This form will tell you where to find all fees and services (usually in the cardholder agreement).

It is important to register your prepaid card as soon as possible. Your prepaid card provider is not required to protect you from loss, theft, or fraud on your card account until you successfully register it. If you apply for a card online, you will usually register it before you get the prepaid card. But if you buy a card in a store, be sure to register it to get full protection in case your card is lost or stolen.

This explainer can help you shop for the prepaid card that is the best for you. Note that the fees listed are the highest that can be charged. The form will indicate if there are fees that might be lower depending on how or where you use the card.

Transaction fees

Section of a sample prepaid disclosure that highlights (1) the monthly fee, (2) the per purchase fee, (3) the ATM withdrawal fee, and (4) the cash reload fee

  1. Monthly fee: Charged each month. If it can be waived or lowered (for example, if you receive direct deposit of wages or benefits onto the card), the form will say so.
  2. Per purchase: Fees that apply each time you buy something with the card. If you plan to use the card frequently, a card with a monthly fee might be cheaper for you. If you do not plan to use the card very often, the per purchase fee might be a better option.  
  3. ATM withdrawal: Charged when you withdraw cash at an ATM.
    In network: If you use an ATM in your prepaid card provider’s networks you may get cash for a lower or no fee.
    Out of network: If the ATM you use is not in your prepaid card provider’s networks you may pay a higher fee to get cash.
  4. Cash reload: You may be able to reload your prepaid card at a store using cash. Each time you add cash to your card, the card provider will charge you this fee.

Service fees

Section of a sample prepaid disclosure that highlights (1) the ATM balance inquiry fee, (2) the customer service fee, and (3) the inactivity fee

  1. ATM balance inquiry: Fee charged when you check the card balance at an ATM. There may be other ways to check your balance more cheaply or for free, such as online or by telephone.
  2. Customer service: Fee charged when you call customer service. This fee may be higher if you prefer to speak to a live customer service agent.
  3. Inactivity: Some card providers will charge a fee if you do not use your card for a certain length of time. The card provider will indicate both the fee and the time period before this fee is charged.  You may be able to avoid this fee by making a purchase, depositing money, or checking your balance.

Other fees

Section of a sample prepaid disclosure that highlights (1) other fees, (2) lower fees, (3) overdraft/credit information, and (4) deposit insurance information

  1. Other fees: Some prepaid cards charge fees other than the ones already listed on this form. The card provider must say on the form how many other fees they charge. A high number might reflect the number of other fee-based services that the card provider offers to cardholders. One or two of these fees might be listed on the form as well. Check the full disclosure of all fees (either provided with the short form or via the toll-free number or website or other location listed on the form) to learn about all fees that apply to the prepaid card.
  2. Lower fees: Near the bottom, the form tells you whether some of the fees might be lower than what is shown on the form. 
  3. Overdraft/credit: If you might be offered overdraft/credit in the future, it will say so. The prepaid card provider cannot offer overdraft/credit to you until 30 days after you register the card.
  4. Deposit insurance: Some prepaid card programs provide deposit insurance to protect the money on your card if the bank that holds the money fails. The bottom of the form will say whether your funds are eligible for this insurance. You must register the card to be eligible for deposit insurance.

Submit a complaint

Having trouble with a financial product or service? If you've already tried reaching out to the company and still have an issue, you can submit a complaint. Tell us about your issue—we'll forward it to the company and work to get you a response, generally within 15 days.

Start a complaint

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