(Sun-Sentinel) — When it comes time to pay, more Americans are turning to prepaid debit cards. They look like credit or gift cards, can be re-loaded with money and don’t require the holder to keep a bank account. Many South Floridians say they like prepaid cards as a way to stick to a budget and avoid overdraft fees at banks. Some also find the cards better safeguard their funds and information when they buy online. But there are problems too. Some prepaid cards charge hefty fees. Some are inconvenient to reload. And the cards have less government regulation than credit cards, South Floridians say. Nationwide, the prepaid card business is booming, partly because rising fees on bank accounts are prompting customers to seek alternatives, said researcher Mercator Advisory Group of Boston. The amount of money that consumers loaded on their prepaid cards jumped from $12 billion in 2008 to $42 billion last year. It likely will top $70 billion this year, Mercator said.
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