Senators Demand Protection for Prisoners over Debit Card Fees

November 9, 2015, Written By John H. Oldshue
Debit Card

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is facing pressure to regulate a debit card program for released prisoners. A group of 18 senators wrote a letter to the CFPB about the high fees on these debit cards that all released prisoners receive.

When prisoners are released, many of them have accumulated money from work they did in the prison or funds that friends and family members have sent them while they served time. This money is released in the form of a prepaid debit card rather than cash or check. The prisons say they do this as a matter of convenience, saving them from having to issue cash or write checks. Nevertheless, government officials are fighting to reduce the fees on the cards to help ex-prisoners secure as much of their money as possible.

The problem is that the debit card programs aren’t designed to benefit the prisoners. Rather, some prisons and jails choose a card provider based on the commission they are offered, even if that means higher fees for the inmate. The fees vary from one issuer to the next, but one report showed an average ATM withdrawal fee of $3 and a transfer fee as high as $30.

The CFPB is yet to make a statement about their action on the matter, but the Senators hope the Bureau will either lower the fees or give ex-prisoners an option on how they want their funds issued to them.

The information contained within this article was accurate as of November 9, 2015. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.