NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Many hourly and even full-time employees receive their paychecks in the form of payroll cards, but workers need to look out for fees, which can be steep and outweigh the convenience of paying bills online.
While there are many low cost or free checking accounts, an estimated 68 million Americans still lack access to a checking account or are just partially banked. That creates the appeal of prepaid cards for consumers who can use them for transactions without having to deposit and withdraw money from a traditional account. The payroll cards work like traditional debit cards and are branded with the logo of a major card brand such as Discover, Visa or MasterCard and are insured by the bank or credit union where the funds are deposited.
One clear advantage of payroll cards is that it helps employees avoid carrying cash around or having to shell out fees each time they needed to cash a paycheck. An employee who didn’t have access to a checking account and earned $26,000 a year wound up spending $750 in check cashing and money order fees to pay his bills (that's 2.8% of his annual earnings), according to a 2010 study by the Massachusetts Division of Banks. Using a payroll card cuts the costs each year down to $83, according to a 2011 report by Bretton Woods.
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