One of the big issues surrounding Suze Orman’s Approved prepaid debit card is that she appears to be marketing it to middle class “banked” customers who want to ditch their banks because of high fees. In the middle of the furor surrounding Occupy Wall Support, Suze Orman has been using code like “99%” as part of her marketing blitz to drum up support.

The problem that many personal finance blogger types have with the card is that Suze is marketing it as a viable alternative to banking — even for those who are able to get a checking account. Personal finance bloggers have come out in droves to point out that there are a number of alternatives for many people. And they won’t cost you more than $36 a year to take advantage of.

Leave Your Bank without Turning to a Prepaid Debit Card

For many people, there is no need to turn to a prepaid debit card to find low-cost banking. While some of the “unbanked” who can’t qualify for checking and savings accounts might have to turn to prepaid debit, if you already have a bank, you can stick it to a bank charging fees by trying these options:

  • Go online: There are plenty of online options these days. They offer free checking and some even offer no-fee debit cards that allow you to earn rewards. You can get the equivalent of prepaid debit card on your own — without paying monthly maintenance fees.
  • Work with your broker: Believe it or not, your broker may want a banking-type relationship with you. Many brokerages will provide you with cash management accounts. These accounts look suspiciously similar to checking accounts — even allowing you to pay bills online, get a debit card/ATM card and write checks. You can set up direct deposit, and pretty much manage your cash as you would at a bank. Plus, some brokers will provide you with a small interest payment on the money in your cash management account.
  • Credit union: You probably knew it was coming: If you want an alternative to increasing bank fees, you can check out your local credit union. Be warned, though, that some credit unions are starting to charge fees. My credit union recently added a monthly checking fee (no fee on share accounts, though, so we just have the share account and the credit card). However, if you are looking for competitive loan rates, and competitive yields on your cash, a credit union might not be a bad place to look.

Before you assume that the only way to beat your bank is to get a prepaid debit card, consider your other options. And, don’t forget that many brick and mortar banks are back pedaling a little bit on fees. With consumer outrage at levels not seen for years, many are dialing back their fees — or at least offering some actions that customers can take to avoid paying fees (such as maintaining a minimum balance or engaging in a certain number of transactions each month).

Look around, and see what your options are. Change banks if that’s what will give you the best option, but look for a fee-free option. They’re out there.


Miranda is freelance journalist. She specializes in topics related to money, especially personal finance, small business, and investing. You can read more of my writing at Planting Money Seeds.