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
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.
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.
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?
I agree with you completely. Suze has never been my favorite, though I read her stuff and glean bits of good information from it like I do from all personal finance people. But this is the first time I’ve seen a personal finance guru lend his/her name to a product without it being a real gem. She’s obviously getting some kickbacks from all those fees, and I’m disgusted she has lowered herself to that level. And the snotty Twitter comment just demonstrates her true character. I think I’ll pass on her next book.
I love your response on twitter – “if by “more” you mean more money from the fees people will pay you on your prepaid debit card, then I’m sure you do.”
This really is a puzzling move by someone who claims to be a personal finance expert. Why would anyone sign up for a card like this when there are cheaper alternatives for prepaid cards – and free checking account alternatives like Perkstreet?
Not only all that – but why would Suze be so rude and snarky on Twitter? Let’s just hope it is some underling on her social media team operating the account – and that they get fired today. 🙂
I’m shocked that a rude comment from Suze shocked you… she says rude things all the time on her show.
Used to be a fan of hers. Wife and I would watch her show; it was amusing. But after yesterday’s tirade I’ve lost respect.
Take or leave the card, it’s the responses that really get me. No one should be called an idiot or ignorant because they have an opinion.
SwearJar liked this.
Never been a big fan of hers, but I have found her entertaining. Sometimes people need someone to tell them what to do.
That being said all these prepaid cards are pretty much awful, but sometimes people have no other choices if they show up on ChexSystems. So they run out of options on how to deposit and access money. $3 a month might be a lot cheaper than having to go to the local Check cashing place.
I’m not saying it is right, but sometimes people don’t have options that are better.
To add on to what Brian said:
It’s not just that some people don’t qualify for credit cards, some people don’t even qualify for traditional checking and savings accounts because of tarnished banking histories.
If they’ve constantly had overdrafts or other infractions, it gets recorded in their ChexSystems report (the banking equivalent of credit reports).
Therefore, prepaid card have become to go-to solution for the unbanked/underbanked population. Some banks offer what are nicknamed “second chance” checking accounts, which are regular checking accounts with monthly fees that are $10+.
Regardless of the criticism that Orman faces, her new product can be called “competitive” in the prepaid card market.
I never had much of an opinion of her either. I watched a few of her shows but I haven’t read any of her books. Sometimes I agreed with her advice and other times I had questions. But now I have lost a lot of respect for her.
I don’t care about the product, as much as her response to everything. It seems really ridiculous to rudely defend a product and call other members of the personal finance community idiots.
I guess we really hit a nerve. She underestimates the power of PF bloggers. Not a fan.
This card is absurd, and the responses to criticism are even more ridiculous! People are calling her and her card out, but she clearly has nothing when it comes to defending the fees.
I’ve never had much of an opinion on Suze, but it’s definitely, definitely not a positive one now.
I saw her comment to you on Twitter and just thought “wow, Kevin got mentioned by Suze! Even if it was rude…” Never in a million years did I think she’d respond to several of us in such a rude manner, then block us when the going got tough. Absolutely bizarre.
I stumbled across her TV show a couple weeks ago and watched about 5 minutes. I felt dirty afterwards.
This card would seem to indicate she’s not worried about squandering the trust she’s built up with her community of followers. She seems to have lost her way.
Whoever was responsible for the suzeormanshow twitter account is getting fired! It is such a shame that they resorted to name calling at the end instead of rationally responding to the negative comments.
I never understood prepaid debit cards. There are quite a few of them in the market with outrageous fees. Why can’t people simply use an ally/ING direct debit card. It is not as if the prepaid debit cards are helping anyone build credit history…
It’s sad that she chose to victimize those who are the most vulnerable. Her reputation is now trashed, in my opinion.
I agree totally that some of these things are hard to believe they are real. In particular, the bill payment fee and the customer service call fee (that’s the one that really blew me away). Since when is charging someone for a phone call called “customer service”?
The only person Suze is trying to help with her new card is herself! I can’t believe her Twitter response; very unprofessional.
Whatever you want GIRLFRIEND, you can definitely afford it with your new found riches gained from “The Approved Card”. Unfortunately your pay day will come at the expense of those most susceptable to “Financial Darwinism”
I’m so disappointment by her response. Hopefully, her followers will do their homework before getting the card. I don’t blame her for trying to make money, but to do it with a credit card – isn’t that a conflict for a financial guru?! She could have written another book.
I think the twitter reactions have caused this to blow up. Whoever is running that account is not doing a very good job.
Suze responds personally to the Tweets, I believe. She has responded to me in the past.
I don’t like this card, either.
I guess it *could* work for people who are constantly hit with overdraft fees, much higher than $3/month.
Suze really doesn’t need more money. Not sure why she would do this.
Many people who watch Orman’s show come to recognize her vanity, her inconsistency, and her abusiveness towards guests. Her advice is sometimes reliable, but not invariably. Anyone who visits the Television Without Pity forum on her show will find lots of similar criticism. (Partial disclosure: I have posted there myself, but won’t reveal the handle I use for that site.)
I’ve never heard of her. But if she’s a little bit like any one of us, one of the reasons she’s doing it is to make money. and i don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. i’m sure there are many people who have benefited from her card.
Suze Orman’s card is not a bad prepaid card, but it is nothing more than that either. It is not even the best prepaid card out there, as that distinction belongs to American Express’ prepaid card, which comes with no monthly fees at all.
But what really bothers me is that Orman advertises her card almost like the solution to all of your financial problems, provided “you use it how I tell you to.” The thing is, if the “unbanked,” who constitute the vast majority of prepaid users, were always doing what they were told with their finances, they would never have been cut off of the banking system and come to rely on prepaid cards in the first place. http://blog.unibulmerchantservices.com/why-suze-ormans-prepaid-card-is-a-non-event
I bet Ellen+ Portia use her system.(just to keep it in the family)
I’ve used The Approved Card since February and I really liked it. Well, 3 days ago I went to one of many Allpoint ATM’s and I couldn’t get any money, so I call the customer service department and they didn’t know who I was! They claim my account has been deleted from they’re system; also, I can’t access my online account either! #wow