Thursday, July 18, 2013

Payroll Cards and Fees: Not always and not for too long

As more companies work to automate their processes, they will turn to payroll cards - those prepaid debt cards employees have been subjected to in recent years. Both businesses and their workers benefit from them because they eliminate the wait in receiving that paper check and the cost of printing them.

But not everyone is happy using them, especially those who are not accustomed to carrying their paycheck on a card. They still enjoy receiving the paper checks by mail, cashing them at their local bank or check cashing institution, and more importantly, there is still this level of security in actually seeing those printed numbers that make up their pay. When first introduced, pay cards were met with much resistance. It all goes back to having to change old habits and adopt new ways of doing things. Believe it or not, many Americans are still unaccustomed to this technology rage that has influenced just about how we do anything these days - even get paid.

There is a bigger problem to consider though. Many Americans forgo bank accounts, which means that their paycheck is not being directly deposited into any account. Instead, they settle for payroll cards that may be loaded with fees. Especially for low-income earners, who are more likely than not to rely on this new system, that translates to less net pay. What many workers are unaware of is that although there are benefits to owning payroll cards, such as security from theft and receiving timely payments, they don't necessarily have to use them. With companies pushing workers to adopt payroll cards, there is this sense that they have become mandatory. They're not. In fact, it is against the law to pressure employees to use them, which is why several companies are now being investigated by state regulatory agencies.

Several companies in New York have found themselves in this particular situation. Notable companies such as Time Warner, Walmart and Home Depot recently got into trouble for pushing just a little too hard. I'm sure as the investigation continues, regulations covering payroll cards are bound to change to better protect consumers. In the meantime, here are some things to consider:

  • Not all payroll cards come with fees. Speak to your payroll department about the conditions of use. Many companies have arranged a way to help their employees avoid additional fees.
  • If you haven't, invest in an account. Direct deposit is free and you have the security of receiving your paycheck on time and securely.
  • Remember that these pay cards are voluntary. You are not bound to accept them and if your employer insists, kindly remind them they are violating the law.
  • Rest assured that there will be changes to benefit employees. Many politicians are working to pass laws that eliminate these fees.

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