Newer prepaid cards from JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and American Express (AXP) feature more transparent pricing than many of their older peers. But the recent arrivals have yet to make a major impact on the overall prepaid market's pricing structure, a new survey suggests.
The survey by Bankrate.com compares 24 prepaid cards based on the fees they charge consumers. Its results are not much different from a survey of 18 reloadable cards that Bankrate released one year earlier.
For example, the 2012 survey found that 14 of 18 prepaid cards charged customers a balance inquiry fee on at least some automatic teller machines. This year, 18 of 24 cards charged such a fee on at least some ATMs.
In last year's survey six out of 18 prepaid cards charged fees for at least some declined transactions. This year, nine out of 24 cards did.
Other fees charged on some of the cards include activation fees, ATM withdrawal fees, fees on point-of-sale purchases, fees for receiving a monthly statement by mail, fees for customer-service calls, and inactivity fees.
Newer prepaid cards with simpler pricing structures have yet to have a major impact on the pricing of older cards, says Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com.
"We're seeing some new entrants into the market that not only have lower fees, but are also more transparent," McBride says. "I expect that over time, you're going to see the higher-fee offerings being marginalized in the marketplace."
One fee that has become less common over the last year is the charge for bill payments. Only two of 24 cards currently charge for bill payments, compared with four of 18 cards a year earlier.
Both the Chase Liquid card and the American Express Bluebird card were launched in the 11 months since Bankrate released its previous survey in May 2012.
Chase Liquid customers pay a $4.95 monthly service fee and $2 from out-of-network ATM withdrawals, but the card carries few other fees.
Bluebird users pay $2 to load funds online with a debit card and $2 for out-of-network ATM withdrawals, but the card does not have a monthly fee and carries few other charges.