Chicago Transit Prepaid Debit Cards Also Fully Loaded With Fees

There are other, less fee-laden prepaid debit cards out there than this.

There are other, less fee-laden prepaid debit cards out there than this.

Yesterday we told you about the sky-high fees associated with the combination photo ID/prepaid debit card being issued by the city of Oakland. Now comes a report that Chicago-area residents who choose to opt in to the prepaid debit option on their transit cards will also see their cash eroded by fees.

The Chicago Tribune read through the contract the Chicago Transit Authority signed to add this prepaid debit functionality to the Ventra fare cards and discovered “a continuous stream of nonfare revenue generated by the host of debit card fees.”

Disputing a charge? The Tribune reports there’s a $10/hour “Account Research Fee” in addition to the $2 fee simply for calling customer service. That’s even higher than the rate on the Oakland ID card.

If your account goes unused for 18 months, your transit fare account is hit with a $5 monthly “dormancy fee” and your prepaid debit account will be charged $2 a month, meaning idle cardholders could lose $7/month for not using their cards.

Reload the debit card with your personal credit card online and pay a $2.95 fee. ATM withdrawals will hit you with a $1.50 service fee. Decide to cancel your account and want a check for the remaining balance? There’s a $6 “Balance Refund Fee.”

“It’s always the case that the big print giveth and the small print taketh away,” the president and CEO of the Chicago region’s Better Business Bureau tells the Tribune. “Consumers need to read it all ahead of time and determine whether the Ventra debit card is right for them.”

The CTA stresses that commuters are not required to enroll in the debit card program.

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