Avoid Wal-Mart's 'lower fee' prepaid debit card


Looking to capitalize on the weak economy, Wal-Mart is slashing the fees on its reloadable pre-paid debit cards. The Wal-Mart Visa cards allow consumers to deposit paychecks, check balances, pay bills, and shop without having bank accounts.

The Associated Press reports that "Customers will now pay $3 to purchase and activate the card, $3 to reload it at a Wal-Mart store and $3 a month. The fees used to be $8.94 to buy a card plus $4.64 for every reload and $4.94 for the monthly fee."

That's a pretty steep drop in fees but still a complete ripoff, given that all of the services offered by the card are available for free at banks and credit unions.

Consumer advocate Remar Sutton, who is the author of Don't Get Taken Every Time, told me in an email that "Using Wal-Mart's debit card is miles better than paying rip-off rates at a check-cashing service to cash a paycheck, and a city block better than buying money orders to pay a bill. But the card is a few feet short when it comes to cost:You still pay a monthly fee to use the card and pay other fees. Why?Get a free checking account and free debit card at a credit union before locking yourself into the Wal-Mart card. These days, virtually anybody can join a credit union, and virtually all credit unions offer free checking and debit cards."

Before you or someone you know signs up for Wal-Mart's card, check out FindaCreditUnion.com.