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Unemployment Debit Cards Come With Many Service Fees

With the relatively high unemployment rate in Missouri, many people are on unemployment benefits. Unless they sign up for other options, they're automatically paid that money through a debit card. But cardholders say there are numerous service fees that come with those cards. KSMU’s Xiaowen Tan reports.

At the Missouri Career Center in Springfield, one young unemployed woman, who didn’t want to give her name, said she’s used the debit card that Missouri’s unemployed benefits come on. She said although she was aware of these service fees, she didn’t like the extra charges.

“I don’t think a fee should be added on to get money out of the bank account,” she said.

For example, the unemployment debit cards have a fee of $1.75 for every ATM cash withdrawal other than Central Bank or Allpoint locations, and it charges 50 cents for every balance inquiry at those same ATMs. There’s a fee of $1.50 for inactivity after 180 days, and a 25 cent fee when the purchase is declined.

Jaydean Miller is a workforce development supervisor at the Missouri Career Center. She says the service fees are actually revealed to cardholders with a pamphlet.

“When they apply for unemployment benefits, they are automatically mailed the access card along with this pamphlet that tells what fees will be charged, and it also tells them how they can access their account for free as well through different ATMs and even their website,” she said.

Amy Susan is a spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Labor. She says the unemployed individuals have more than one choice to access their benefits.

“We encourage individuals to use the direct deposit, this is choice number one. This means their benefits are automatically placed into their bank account. It’s a direct deposit. However, if they do not choose the direct deposit, then they automatically will get their unemployment benefits placed on the Missouri Access MasterCard,” Susan said.

Susan says these fees are in the contract with the cardholders, and Central Bank receives these fees because it is a processing fee to use these cards. She says the state did renegotiate this contract and individuals are now allowed to call three times a week at no charge to check their benefit status.

For KSMU news, I’m Xiaowen Tan.