Fox 25 Consumer Watch: Pre-paid debit card problems

What to know before getting a pre-paid credit card. (KOKH file)

On a budget and in a bind, an Oklahoma mother finds herself stuck in financial gridlock after she was trying to repair a broken appliance in her home. She called Fox 25 Consumer Watch for help getting her money back, and along the way we learn some need to know facts that could help you avoid a financial meltdown if you depend on pre-paid debit cards.

Amber Candle called Fox 25 Consumer Watch in tears. She says she was standing outside of her neighborhood Walmart, and the store refused to give her answers or a refund after a problem with one of the store’s pre-paid debit card. The Candle family’s large fridge was sitting at home as a glorified pantry, and had been broken for over a week.

Candle says she was trying to save money by ordering the part to fix the problem online. She has some medical issues, and can't move around much, so her son offered to help her buy a pre-paid debit card at Walmart.

"My son said that he had purchased pre-paid debit cards while I was in the hospital before, many times, and that we could just get a pre-paid debit card, and just purchase the part online," says Candle.

Candle is on a tight budget, and her limited movement means she makes her living with an at home business, so when she learned the pre-paid card had been declined, she panicked.

"We called the card company and they said it was a fraudulent card, and that they were holding the funds for five days," says Candle.

After that she went back to Walmart, and asked for a refund.

"After begging and pleading with them, and crying inside of Walmart because that was the last of the money we had, and trying to save what we have, nothing could be done until I called you," says Candle.

Because of the delay, the Candle family had to keep what food they could in a cooler for over a week. Candle says she was first told her address was entered incorrectly which caused a problem, but later she was told her 17-year-old son registering the card was the issue.

That's what Walmart told Fox 25 Consumer Watch in this statement:

“Our policies don’t allow anyone under the age of 18 to activate a pre-paid money card, in an effort to protect our customers. Once we realized, Ms. Candle’s son was trying to activate the card on her behalf, we refunded her money,” says Leslee Wright the Senior Manager of Corporate Communications

Green Dot, the company that provides the cards, does say in their 15-page Terms of Service that users should be 18 or older to register the card.

If you ever plan on using a pre-paid debit card, we've got your back with some helpful hints:

  1. Most require someone 18 years old or older to register the card.
  2. A minor may be able to use it, if they are registered as a secondary user.
  3. Pre-paid cards can sometimes charge you fees, so that will affect the total on your card.

Candle says her son has registered these cards for her in the past, and there has never been a problem before. She also says the confusion was very stressful, but Fox 25 Consumer Watch's involvement got her money back.

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