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CFPB Finalizes Strong Federal Protections for Prepaid Account Consumers

October 05, 2016 / Source: CFPB

New Rule Includes ‘Know Before You Owe’ Prepaid Disclosures

OCT 05, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) today finalized strong federal consumer protections for prepaid account users. The new rule requires financial institutions to limit consumers’ losses when funds are stolen or cards are lost, investigate and resolve errors, and give consumers free and easy access to account information. The Bureau also finalized new “Know Before You Owe” disclosures for prepaid accounts to give consumers clear, upfront information about fees and other key details. Finally, prepaid companies must now generally offer protections similar to those for credit cards if consumers are allowed to use credit on their accounts to pay for transactions that they lack the money to cover.

“Many consumers rely on prepaid cards to make purchases and access funds, but until now they were not guaranteed strong consumer protections under federal law,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “This rule closes loopholes and protects prepaid consumers when they swipe their card, shop online, or scan their smartphone. And it backs up those protections with important new disclosures to let consumers know before they owe.”

Prepaid accounts are among the fastest growing consumer financial products in the United States, usually purchased at retail outlets or online. The amount consumers put on “general purpose reloadable” prepaid cards grew from less than $1 billion in 2003 to nearly $65 billion in 2012. The total dollar value loaded onto these prepaid cards is expected to nearly double to $112 billion by 2018. Prepaid accounts may be loaded with funds by a consumer or by a third party, such as an employer. Consumers generally can use these accounts to make payments, store funds, withdraw cash at ATMs, receive direct deposits, or send money to others.

The new rule applies specific federal consumer protections to broad swaths of the prepaid market for the first time. It covers traditional prepaid cards, including general purpose reloadable cards. It also applies to mobile wallets, person-to-person payment products, and other electronic prepaid accounts that can store funds. Other prepaid accounts covered by the new rule include: payroll cards; student financial aid disbursement cards; tax refund cards; and certain federal, state, and local government benefit cards such as those used to distribute unemployment insurance and child support.

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