Your take: Do you think you’ll ever go bank-less?

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If there’s anyone who could lose a popularity contest with Congress right now, it might be Wall Street bankers. In a poll conducted earlier this year by Gallup, only 26 percent of respondents expressed confidence in the nation’s banks, compared to 41 percent before the crisis.

It’s not hard to figure out why. Only five years ago, the reckless behavior of the nation’s biggest banks pretty much dumped the world economy — and many Americans’ livelihoods — in a blender and hit “frappe.”

But is disliking big banks enough to make you want to try and live without their most ubiquitous product, the consumer checking account?

One group linked to the Occupy Wall Street movement thinks so. Late last month they announced plans to offer an Occupy-branded prepaid debit card. According to their website, they envision people using the card will be those who are “unbanked, underbanked, and even just angry-banked.”

The idea of an anti-bank group offering a financial product that requires them to do business with a bank may seem a little odd, but the product itself is pretty conventional. Like a lot of prepaid debit cards, it’s basically an a la carte checking account linked to a debit card. You pay fees for all the stuff that’s normally bundled with a conventional checking account, like withdrawing money from ATM or talking to a live customer service rep over the phone.

For their money, Occupy cardholders who didn’t have a checking account would get a place to have their paycheck deposited and access to electronic payment networks that are pretty hard to live without these days. The card also wouldn’t offer a way to trigger an overdraft charge, so cardholders wouldn’t be hit up with cascading overdraft fees that can lead to big negative overdrafts.

But even using the group’s own projections for how many fees a user is likely to incur in a given period of time, it’s pretty expensive, at $152.82 a year or about $13 a month. That’s more expensive than potential competitors such as the Walmart/American Express Bluebird card, and a lot more expensive than $0, which is what many credit unions, community banks and online banks are still charging for checking accounts these days.

Granted, one big overdraft episode where you make a ton of small charges and ring up a huge balance of fees can easily cost you what it would take to run your Occupy Card account for a year, but most people don’t suffer that kind of fee-splosion very often, and would do better with a conventional checking account.

So what I’m interested in hearing from you guys on is whether you’d ever consider ditching your checking account for a prepaid debit card like the Occupy Card. Has anyone done so already? Let us know in the comments.

(Photo: Michael Fleshman)

{ 7 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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7 Responses to “Your take: Do you think you’ll ever go bank-less?”

  1. freeby50 says:

    My bank account works just fine and I have no interest in getting rid of it.

  2. Shirley says:

    My Credit Union checking does everything I need at no cost to me. I’ll stick with it.

  3. Yellow Snow says:

    I never thought I’d see the day America’s Big 3 could face bankruptcy, but it happened. With all the bank branch closings happening now, it’s time to look at other options. I have two separate banks as I am transferring from one to another. Went to the first bank to cash a check for $15,000 and was told they didn’t have that much cash and would have to order it. Went to the new bank and tried again to cash, same story, they didn’t have that much cash and would have to order it. That was my wakeup call. I now leave only enough to pay my bills for the month, and withdraw the rest. I’m looking for an alternative to a bank.

    • Rob says:

      I don’t know of too many banks that hold more than $15,000-$20,000 of cash on hand nowadays. It simply isn’t necessary given that almost everything is done electronically. Plus, it’s safer that way. And they definitely won’t give a large portion of their on-hand cash to one person who just shows up. But if you give the bank a heads up the day before, they can usually have it there the next morning.

      And not that you will earn much interest on funds sitting in a bank savings/checking account, but inflation is eating away at your savings if it isn’t earning sufficient interest. So I suggest doing something with your money other than sticking it under your mattress (a bigger security risk than leaving it with a bank).

  4. bloodbath says:

    My lifestyle is tightly tied to my bank accounts. I rely on online access to my bank for many things including:
    Direct deposits, automated billpay, ATM access, wire transfers, rental income deposits, tracking expenses and payees, organizing and prioritizing bill payment and as input to preparing income tax returns.
    I would need a more sophisticated and reliable system than just a ‘bankless’ prepaid debit card.

  5. Rob Berger says:

    I can’t imagine not have a checking account. I even use a “big” bank and am very happy. No fees and good customer service. I use online banks for savings accounts because of the interest rates. I know of no comparable alternative.

  6. Rob says:

    As I commented a few days ago (but was not published for some reason), it’s an interesting gimmick…an “anti-banking” group offering a prepaid debit card. My suspicion is that this is a clever way for this group to obtain funds interest free. If I had to guess, they will take the prepaid funds and invest them. In the end, it’s a clever way to use other people’s money to turn a profit.

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