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New Jersey Commuters: Avoid Debit Card

PATCO introduced a new prepaid debit cardHere’s another pointless prepaid debit card you should avoid.

PATCO is a commuter train that connects southern New Jersey with Philadelphia. You pay by either buying a ticket or waving your “Freedom” card over a terminal at the gate onto and off of the train.

This week, the commuter line introduced a pilot PATCO Wave & Pay ANYWHERE Visa Prepaid Card (its caps, not ours).

For the first six months of the pilot program, you can pre-pay into a contactless Visa card and use it to pay for train fares or train parking.

You can also use the card at any other merchant that accepts contactless Visa payments to pay bills or make ATM withdrawals — which is the big difference between this and the Freedom card.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, in the second six months of the pilot program, PATCO will accept all contactless cards as payment for train tickets and train parking.

After a year, PATCO will decide whether to make the program permanent or scrap it.

So the point of this is what? The usual: Fees.

The PATCO Wave & Pay ANYWHERE Visa Prepaid Card (again — its caps) will charge you a fee for taking money out via the ATM ($1.50), to get a copy of your statement ($2) and to call customer service ($2) — and that’s just a start.

Good luck finding that information on the website. It’s not easy — but here’s a direct link.

The card itself is free for now, although quoted one official who said it may someday cost you something just to get the card.

Why would anyone sign up for a prepaid debit card that’ll knock them with fees when, in six months, they can use any contactless credit or debit card in the same way?

Not all prepaid debit cards are bad.

But this one is pointless for consumers. Why pay extra for something when you don’t need to?

This could be a way for PATCO to test out whether or not it can ditch the Freedom card all together, but it shouldn’t be putting the cost of that testing on the backs of its passengers (who already faced raised fares this year) by peddling a pointless debit card that’ll charge them fees.

And I have a PATCO Freedom card. It’s already contactless at the PATCO entry and exit gates.

The Freedom card is a re-loadable card with no fees except the fee to get your first card.

It’s a needless program (other than making banks fees). So pass on this one.

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