Here at Consumerist HQ we’re a bit leery when it comes to pre-paid debit cards. They always seem to come with hidden fees that can pop up and punish users for trying to access their own money. And when you throw in a celebrity like say, the Kardashians or in the latest news, Justin Bieber, the potential for the younger set to be exposed to this fee-laden world grows.
The New York Times says Bieber is getting a $3.75 million paycheck for hawking a pre-paid debit card for the SpendSmart Payments Company, ostensibly as a way for teenagers to learn about financial responsibility. His contract covers 14 months and also includes stock options and potential royalties from the company for any active cards that are opened in that time.
The company is touting the card’s parental-control features, including alerts whenever a teen uses the card, the ability to block purchases from certain Web sites and allow parents to lock the card if their kid is using the card inappropriately.
But while the SpendSmart card isn’t as awful as other pre-paid cards we’ve heard about, that money management lesson comes at quite a price: There’s a monthly fee of $3.95 just to have the card; loading fees of $2.95 if you re-up with a credit card or $0.75 from a checking account (unless you schedule an automated payment once a month); $1.50 just to take money out of any ATM, plus whatever fees the ATM charges; $0.50 for balance inquiries at ATMs; $7.95 for a replacement card; and $3 for 30 days of inactivity.
As such, our esteemed colleagues at Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, are duly concerned over the Bieber card. Michelle Jun, a lawyer with Consumers Union says the SpendSmart fees are bad enough that she would advise parents against it.
“We would not recommend that parents use prepaid cards for their teens,” she said. “It doesn’t help your teen establish a credit history or a relationship with a financial institution, so we recommend going the traditional route and opening up a checking account at your bank or credit union of choice.”
But does that credit union come with a boy wonder with eyes like a baby deer? Probably not, although you will be more likely to access your money without getting smacked with fees to do so.
Bieber Backs a Debit Card for Teenagers, From Parents [New York Times]