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Unemployment Debit Cards: The good, the bad, and the fees

I finally received my debit card for unemployment insurance a couple of days ago. Apparently this is the new way the gubment distributes its benefits – by hiring out banks to send out their cards.

In a lot of ways, it’s nice – especially in today’s cashless society. But there are concerns – particularly with bank fees.

In my state, I don’t have to pay any fees to take my card into a bank and withdraw all my cash. However, if I were to go to an ATM that isn’t owned by U.S. Bank – I have to pay a transaction fee. Which is really awesome, since the closest U.S. Bank is in – oh, NOWHERE IN MY STATE.

But anyway. I care not, for I really don’t use ATMs that much.

This is the advice I give anyone who bitches about any transaction fees:

1) Take your debit card to a store.

2) Buy an inexpensive product that you use anyway (soda, milk, tampons, whatevs)

3) Use your card as a Debit card, not as a credit card.

4) Enter your PIN.

5) Get cash back.

BING! NO FEES. And, hey, you got something you already use.

I will say, however, that the awesome thing about the card is that now I receive my unemployment payment within two days of filing instead of five days, as it was in the days of yore.

And you still have to take a check to the bank.

I will say, though, that maybe not everyone has had the same experience I have had. The consumerist had a pretty bitchy post with lots of complaints in the comments section. Under my response to the post, someone wrote that every time they go to the bank it’s a crapshoot on whether or not the teller will actually let them do a cash advance.

Your mileage may vary with these cards, as every state has different rules. I believe in some states they charge you if you go to the bank more than twice for a cash advance or an ATM fee.

So, anyone else using the card: Have you had any success? Problems?

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