I avoid any fee like the plague and consider myself a well-informed consumer; however, the prepaid debit card fee snuck up on me and bit me big time! I purchased the card as a gift card, but the activation fee was $4.95.  Whoa! Adding an additional fee on top of the purchase amount of the gift card was not in my budget.

There are many reasons for needing one of these cards—from keeping your kids within their budgets to avoiding bringing your checking account card with you while traveling. Regardless of your reason, consider these seven tips to help avoid additional, hidden fees that increase your out-of-pocket expense.

1. Read the fine print on the card prior to purchase

You may be charged a fee just to check your current balance. If the transaction is declined, you may incur additional fees. Determine if the card carries a transaction fee for purchase or for any account activity. For example, The MoneyGram AccountNow Prepaid Visa Debit Card requires a $4.95 card activation fee, $9.95 monthly maintenance fee, and a $2.50 ATM withdrawal fee—so make sure you know before you take the plunge.

2. Track your transactions

Register the card through the provider’s website and track your account activity as it occurs. Knowing your account balance also prevents embarrassment at the register when your card is declined because the balance is zero. If you prefer paper statements, make sure they don’t charge you (or at least be aware of how much). For example, RushCard charges $1 for each paper statement mailed to you.

3. Avoid prepaid debit cards that require a credit check

The BB&T MoneyAccount Prepaid Debit Card requires a credit report for account review and evaluation. Accessing your credit report can lower your credit score, so use caution if a credit report is required.

 4. Return purchases are dependent on the merchant’s return policy

The Visa Prepaid Card allows return purchases per merchant return policy even after the funds on the card have been depleted. Keep your purchase receipt and card in case you need to return the item.

5. Consider withdrawing the amount of the card

If you mistakenly purchase a prepaid debit card with too many associated fees, consider cashing out the amount and incurring only the ATM fee. Then, you can either use that money for the intended purchase or purchase another card with no associated fees.

6. Close the account and request a refund check

If you find yourself with a prepaid debit card that’s loaded with additional fees, consider calling the company and returning the card for a refund check. Although a small fee may be charged, you may come out ahead since you’ll stop incurring any additional fees. A great example is the Walgreens Balance Financial Prepaid MasterCard. A refund check can be requested if you change your mind about the card; however, a $2.95 fee is charged.

7. Purchase a card with less fees with your current prepaid debit card

Forget to read the fine print and have a card with raging fees? Turn the card around by purchasing an Amazon email gift card. This purchase can be made with a custom amount such as $4.47, instead of $5.00.

7 Tips to Avoid Hidden Prepaid Debit Card Fees