Prepaid credit card stings user with fees, despite rule changes
Ross McLaughlin and Sandra Hermiston, CTV Vancouver
Published Tuesday, October 10, 2017 6:00AM PDT
If you want to give money as a gift, watch out for prepaid credit cards. You may find that fees could eat away at your gift, leaving the recipient with less money than you'd hoped.
Three years ago the Canadian government introduced rules to help control monthly maintenance fees from whittle away the balance on prepaid credit cards. But that didn't help Jessica Liew because the rules don't apply to all cards.
Liew was given a prepaid PayPower Visa worth $500 from a relative.
“I thought that until I activated it that the amount would be safe on there. I kind of just forgot about it," said Liew.
That was a big mistake. After more than three years, there was just $311 on the card when she cashed it in. Monthly maintenance fees had eaten away at the balance.
“I was shocked,” she said, “Even though I hadn’t activated it, the money was still being deducted.”
The federal government has recently cracked down on the fees. Banks are now blocked from charging monthly maintenance fees in the first 12 months. And for reloadable credit cards they need permission to charge a fee.
“All the key information needs to be disclosed on the exterior of the package and is done so in a very clear fashion," explained Richard Bilodeau with the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.
But the rules only apply to federally regulated banks. Liew’s card was issued by a credit union so all bets were off.
“It's incredibly important people understand what they're getting into before they purchase them," said Matt Schulz with CreditCards.com.
There are some prepaid cards that won't charge fees. But reloadable credit cards will charge if you agree, and after a year the clock can start ticking on monthly maintenance fees.
"If there are cases where banks are charging these maintenance fees or violating the regulation in any way shape or form, we'll investigate and take the appropriate action," said Bilodeau.
Home Trust has now taken over the PayPower brand and told CTV News in an email statement, “All the rules on PayPower cards in Canada are now set by Home Trust and are fully compliant with federal rules on fees."
The credit union that issued the card is no longer in business. However, Liew received two cheques after McLaughlin on Your Side got involved.
One was from Home Trust which refunded half the fees as a good faith gesture. And then the credit union that took over the old one picked up all of the fees for a total of $288.90.
That’s $100 more than she lost.
"You were actually able to get in contact with people which was something I wasn't able to do on my own so thank you," said Liew, “Never tuck it away, spend it right away.”