Today is Whatever Wednesday, where I decide what to write about based on what people say on Twitter and Facebook. I got a bunch of great suggestions as usual, but I really have to focus on one topic today because I think it’s so important, and I’m a little pissed off about it. It came to me in a direct message from Phil Villarreal

tweet about suze orman

Yep, I’m talking about Personal Finance TV Personality Suze Orman’s prepaid debit card – The Approved Card. Specifically I’m going to address two different topics. First, the card itself. Second, the fact that Suze Orman is putting her name all over it and defending it.

The Approved Card

The Approved Card is a prepaid debit card. It’s designed for people with really bad credit; maybe those who can’t get approved for a credit card, or can’t trust themselves to use a credit card responsibly. These are all good things. In fact, there are lots of positive features on this card.

  • Zero liability for lost or stolen cards
  • No purchase fees
  • No credit check to open the account
  • Free Allpoint ATM withdrawals with a direct deposit or bank transfer of $20 or more

There are definitely some good things about this card, but at the same time I completely expect all of those things from any card I have. Suze Orman is hyping that stuff like it’s the best thing since sliced bread, but in reality it should just be expected. Now here’s what I don’t like about the card.

  • Monthly Fee: $3
  • ATM Balance Inquiry Fee: $1 (waived with direct deposit)
  • ATM Declined Fee: $1 (waived with direct deposit)
  • Over the counter cash withdrawal fee: $2
  • Live Agent Customer Service Call: 1st of month is free, $2 per call thereafter
  • Bill Payment Fee – Paper Check: $1

Some of these fees are so outrageous I’m afraid you’ll think I’m making it up. My FREE checking account doesn’t have a single one of those fees, and I haven’t even shopped around for the best checking account. I’m still using the one my mom opened for me 20 years ago. The fact is there are plenty of free checking accounts that can do all these things for you without charging you a penny. Let’s review some of the fees.

$3 a month to use a prepaid card with your own money? I should stop right there because that’s absurd.

But then I see an ATM Balance Inquiry Fee or Declined Fee? I can’t believe anyone would even think to charge for that. It costs literally nothing for the ATM to tell you a balance or decline a withdrawal. Charging to check a balance is outrageous and offensive. I don’t care that the fee can be avoided with a direct deposit; the fact that it exists is infuriating.

The last one really kills me. They charge you a fee to pay your bill. You can pay your bill free online, but what if you’re in loads of debt (like the people this card is targeted for) and have cut out expenses like a computer or internet? Too bad, so sad according to The Approved Card.

I understand the fee structure on this card is less than some other prepaid cards available, but being better than horrendous doesn’t make you good; it just makes you better than horrendous.

And honestly, I don’t care about the card. It’s a crappy product and I would completely ignore it if not for the fact that Suze Orman is preaching about it like it’s the greatest financial product in the world.

Suze Orman on Her Card

Here’s how Suze feels about her card, according to a video on the card’s website:

Let me tell you why I created The Approved Card. You spoke. I heard. And what you said mattered to me. So I wanted to give you a place to bring your money home to; a place that really valued you and put people first. And that is The Approved Card. You know when you speak, I will listen. You know I will do everything in my power to always tell you everything that you need to know. And you can always bank on me, because I have your best interest at heart.

suze orman

photo credit: flickr.com/greginhollywood

For a woman who is a personal finance expert, this whole statement really disturbs me. It’s her job to know that people have plenty of options for spending their money without costing them $3 + additional fees every month. She is using her influence as a celebrity to endorse a product that will make her money instead of endorsing a product that will save people money.

If she really had people’s best interest at heart, she would create a card with fewer fees or support a product that doesn’t cost so much, like any free checking account or prepaid debit cards with no monthly fee like the Walmart Prepaid Card or the PerkStreet Debit Card, which also gives people rewards on their purchases.

Suze Is Nasty On Twitter

And finally, I want to remind you of a quote from Suze. “You spoke. I heard. And what you said mattered to me.” Well I spoke to her on twitter, and she heard alright. It doesn’t sound like what I said mattered much though.

Suze Orman Twitter Conversation

I was shocked that the Twitter account of Suze Orman would even bother to respond. I was even more shocked that it was a snarky, rude comment. Even if her card were as good as some of the better products out there (which it’s not), it would still be completely reasonable to use one of the other cards. To say “I expect more from my viewers” when they disagree is just plain disrespectful.

When she says she expects more from her viewers, does that mean she expects them to be completely devoid of their own opinion and just blindly follow whatever advice she gives? I don’t know what she means, but I’ll let you decide for yourself.

I don’t watch a lot of TV, so I never had much of an opinion of Suze Orman before today. Now that I know more about the products she endorses and the way she responds to twitter mentions, I can definitely say I’m not a fan.

How do you feel about Suze’s card and/or her unbridled endorsement of it and ridicule of anyone who disagrees?