March 14th, 2009
08:58 AM ET
14 years ago

Another twist for the unemployed: Debit card fees

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Debit card fees are causing grief for the unemployed."]
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (CNN) - If you're out of work like Steve Lippe, who was laid off from his job as a salesman in January, you know you already have problems. But looking at the fine print that came with his new unemployment debit card, he became livid.

"A $1.50 [fee] here, a $1.50 there," he said. "Forty cents for a balance inquiry. Fifty cents to have your card denied. Thirty-five cents to have your account accessed by telephone."

He was quoting fees listed in a brochure that goes out to every unemployed person in Pennsylvania who chooses to receive benefits via debit card. He was given the option when he filed for jobless payments: Wait 10 days for a check or get the card immediately. Like most of the 925,000 state residents who received unemployment benefits in February in Pennsylvania, he chose the debit card and only then, he says, did he learn about the fees.

"I was outraged by it," he told CNN. "I was very noisy about it. I just couldn't believe it. An outrage is just too weak a word. It's obscene."

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 30 states offer direct deposit cards to the unemployed. Many of the nation's biggest banks have contracts with the individual states. JP Morgan Chase, for instance, has contracts with seven states and has pending deals with two others, according to Chase spokesman John T. Murray. About 10 states, the Labor Department says, pay by check only.

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Filed under: unemployment
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. katiec

    Another example of the financial institutions bilking the American people. When will these people be made to be accountable and
    show some integrity in their policies? They continue to get away with whatever they want to do, greed over acceptable business practices.

    March 14, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  2. Scott, Tucson

    Considering the small fortune the banks makes by ripping off the American people with these fees, no way should our tax dollars be bailing them out.

    March 14, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  3. Had It

    It's a State problem. Talk to your State lawmakers. Some states do not do this.

    March 14, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  4. Sue

    That doesn't seem right. Greedy financial institutions at work preying on the poor again.

    March 14, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  5. Homer

    He could have it direct deposited for free and that way he wouldn't have to get angry.

    March 14, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  6. Dawn

    What won't they think of next, like direct deposit, now debit cards? In Pennsylvania you call in to apply for unemployment benifits and if you are head of the household they do ask if you need foodstamps.

    It is alright, but I still like to see the actually check.

    March 14, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  7. FreeNLovIt

    Look, just have it directly deposit into your bank's account and you'd be fine.

    March 14, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  8. California Gold

    No wonder the banks are the target of so much anger. They even want a cut of your unemployment benefits!

    That's down right predatory.

    March 14, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  9. JonDie

    Another "twist"? No, another ripoff of the taxpayers by Republican-friendly corporations.

    March 14, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  10. thomas

    Aren't bank fees a big part of the whole economic problem. They think of your money as theirs so they can dip into your account anytime they want. They are like the government with an ebay mentality.

    March 14, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  11. Marge

    With all the harm these banks have done to our economy why in the world are they even allowed to issue these cards. AND why isn't congress stepping in and putting a stop to this process. If it was giving help to foreign countries, the super rich or big business these banks would give anything they wanted away FREE.

    March 14, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  12. Honorable Kansas Vet

    A national disgrace. Geedy bankers have bleed this nation drt and know no shame. Contact you elected official and demand a stopping of this obscenity, they will say its indivdual contracts with states and banks issuing the cards, I say enough is enough and will not accept that as a blamless answer. It is time Congress to include the Republicans get off their back sides and take charge of this nation. If they are incapable of doing their jobs then replace them.

    March 14, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  13. Neutralizer

    My god! These people can use every penny from their unemployment check, banks must NOT charge them even a penny. Enough is enough!

    March 14, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  14. peter, ct

    I've got nothing but sympathy for the unemployed during this time. Seriously. But that said, has anyone thought about where this money is coming from? How can PA afford to pay almost a million people who aren't working? And then all of the recipients are going to raise a storm because of a few dollars worth of card fees? States should do a better job negotiating, yes... but you'd think all those million people would be less inclined to bite the hand that feeds.

    March 14, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  15. Kent in CA

    These programs are just another way for pratriotic American businesses to take from the poor and line their pockets.
    It's pure folly. These institutions that have the most to lose from a socialist state are doing exacty what they need to do to make it happen! These crooks should be taken over by the government, recapitalized, then sold to the workers through payroll deductions. Put the greedy bastards out of business.
    If your bank is participating in this larceny, I say pull your money out and put it an honest bank.

    March 14, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |