NEWS ITEM: At least 30 states have contracted with banks to provide direct-deposit unemployment benefits, some of which come in the form of a debit card. This saves the states the cost of printing checks and mailing them.
REALITY: Some banks are abusing the system by charging fees to use these unemployment debit cards. Try $20 for trying to “charge” too much on the card–an overdraft fee when all the bank has to do is refuse the charge. Or how about 50 cents to check your balance? A fee per transaction each time you make a withdrawal? Etc. Etc.
Here’s one man’s story:
Arthur Santa-Maria, a laid-off engineer who lives just outside Albuquerque, N.M., said he didnâ€™t pay any fees the first time he was laid off, for several months in 2007. His unemployment benefits were paid by paper checks. He found a new job last year but was laid off again last fall.
This time, he was issued a Bank of America debit cardâ€”a â€œprepaidâ€ card in industry lingoâ€”but he was surprised to learn he had to pay fees to get his money. He asked the bank to waive them. It said no. Thatâ€™s when Santa-Maria called back to ask how to check his account online. He logged on and saw that the call cost him a half dollar. To avoid more fees, Santa-Maria found a Bank of America ATM at a strip mall and withdrew $80 at no charge. When he got back to his car, he decided to take out the rest of his moneyâ€”$250â€”and deposit it in his bank account.
Afterward, Santa-Maria logged on to his account and saw a charge of $1.50 for two withdrawals in one day.