No Transparency with Prepaid Cards: A GTA Student Perspective

This essay is one in a series written by GTA students for American Banker magazine’s Bank Think blog.

Banking has always been a wonderful experience for me. When I go inside the bank to make deposits or to cash checks it is always so quick and simple. I use to think to myself how could you ever run into a problem inside the bank if everything is always going perfectly fine? Well, that changed when I signed up for a Breast Cancer debit card.

In order to activate the card I had to put $25 on the card as a minimum. I put $30 on the card to have money for gas because I knew once I finished paying everything I needed I wasn’t going to have any money left. Days went by, my gas tank got lower and I decide to pull up to the gas station to put the $30 in my tank. I got out and put the card in the cardholder by the pump, and saw there was only $6 on my card. I felt upset and frustrated.

I called the card issuer, and they said that there wasn’t anything that they could do because I had spent the money on the card. They said they didn’t know if I had really spent the money or if I was just making up a scenario that I never received the full amount of money that I loaded onto the card. I had lost the transaction receipt in the check cashing store, which made it hard to prove that I was telling the truth.

This set me back financially because I am between jobs. I feel that they cheated me out of my money that I worked hard for.

I never imagined banking could make life complicated, but this experience proved me wrong. I didn’t even want to continue using the card because I felt that they took advantage of my money. Until this experience, I had always faithfully loaded that card and gone on my merry way. The customer service agent did not even try to reason with me or resolve the problem. I am the type of customer who never gives any individual a hard time. I am honest when I am wrong; I have never had a problem like this before. I look at banking differently now because they feel like they are high powered and above everyone else.

As a result, I do not use the debit card as much as I did before. When I have to make an online purchase, I load the card. However, I keep my receipts for every single transaction from now on. I understood the rules: how to load the card, the minimum of $10 to even to begin the transaction, and everything, and I didn’t expect to end up in this situation. I learned to track every single transaction that takes place.

Danielle Jones is a student in Oakland, California, and an alumna of Game Theory Academy.