Media Coverage

Washington Post: American Express Prepaid Debit Cards Get FDIC Insurance

American Express announced Tuesday that its prepaid debit cards will now be backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the latest indication that a market once shunned by established financial institutions is gaining ground.

The use of reloadable prepaid cards has exploded in the wake of the credit crisis that left millions of Americans outside the traditional banking system. But reloadable prepaid cards do not offer the same financial protections for consumers as checking accounts. They also operate with fewer regulatory constraints.

Facing increasing scrutiny from consumer advocates, the vast majority of card operators have opted in the past few years to carry up to $250,000 in mandatory deposit insurance per customer offered through the FDIC. American Express is one of the last major providers to sign on to that government backstop.

The coverage will apply to Bluebird cards sold at Wal-Mart stores. The card carries the American Express insignia and operates much like a debit or credit card, with features such as roadside assistance and mobile banking. Customers also can write checks with the account and load up to $100,000 a year.


But Susan Weinstock of Pew Charitable Trusts is concerned that the FDIC insurance is not being extended to all American Express prepaid products, including a similar prepaid card offered through Target.

“Does it set a precedent that allows other companies to get into this space and avoid FDIC insurance?” Weinstock said. “Should those companies go under, the big question is what will happen to consumers and their money?”

Prepaid Cards Research Project

Related Resources

  • February 26, 2014

    The Need for Improved Disclosures for General Purpose Reloadable Prepaid Cards

    In an effort to improve prepaid card disclosures, The Pew Charitable Trusts developed a model summary disclosure box that provides information on the key fees, terms, and conditions of the cards in a concise, easy-to-read manner. Pew developed this box to help consumers compare the terms and conditions among prepaid products, and between those products and checking accounts. more

  • February 6, 2014

    Consumers Continue to Load Up on Prepaid Cards

    “Consumers Continue to Load Up on Prepaid Cards,” updates the 2012 report, “Loaded with Uncertainty,”
    examining disclosures and fee structures of 66 GPR prepaid cards, looking at new trends in the marketplace
    since our last report, and detailing what services and protections are afforded consumers who use these cards.
    This series starts with the research conducted in 2012. Based on the volume of funds loaded onto the cards, the
    prepaid cards studied initially made up more than 75 percent of the total market. more

  • February 6, 2014

    Why Americans Use Prepaid Cards

    This report presents findings from a first-of-its-kind, nationally representative telephone survey of adults who use general purpose reloadable prepaid cards at least once per month. The survey finds that most customers’ primary motivation for using prepaid cards is to gain control over their finances, including avoiding credit card debt and overdrafts. Among those who have had a checking account, 2 in 5 have closed or lost an account because of overdraft fees. more

  • February 6, 2014
    What is a GPR Prepaid Card?

    What is a GPR Prepaid Card?

    The term “prepaid card” encompasses a wide range of long-standing or familiar products, from flexible spending accounts and gift cards to payroll and government benefits cards, but general purpose reloadable prepaid cards are a relatively new financial product. more

  • March 5, 2013

    Imperfect Protection

    General purpose reloadable prepaid cards have rapidly gained popularity. They allow consumers to direct deposit their paychecks and pay their bills online, just like a checking account. But unlike checking accounts that carry up to $250,000 in mandatory deposit insurance per customer, prepaid cards are not required to carry any at all.