Action News Troubleshooters: College campus debit card warning

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- As college students begin a new school year, a big question is how to manage money while on campus.

Many colleges and universities are partnering with banks to offer campus debit cards.

In some cases, it enables students to link a checking account right to their college ID card.

Villanova student, Melina Ronca said, "Definitely everyone in college wants to do everything that is most convenient."

It may be convenient, but beware the U.S. Public Interest Research Group warns it could cost you.

The card is offered by a bank that has a paid marketing agreement with the school.

"Villanova received $20,000 from Wells Fargo to up-market to students on campus and ultimately about half of the campus signed up for these cards," said Kaitlyn Vitez with the US PIRG.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group estimates 1.1 million students nationwide have a college debit card.

They said many of the students sign up during the flurry of move-in and registration.

"They might not be reading the fine print on these cards and signing up for something they haven't actually vetted," Vitez added.

PIRG warns that some cards can end up costing students unexpected, high overdraft and out-of-network ATM fees.

Based on 2017-2018 data, it named Wells Fargo the worst offender in the country.

"A couple of months ago, they announced that they were going to cut fees in half on student debit cards," said Vitez.

She adds, "But that still makes them one of the most expensive banks in the country for students to bank with."

Wells Fargo said it "stands behind the value we offer the Villanova community. Many of our Campus Card customers incur no fees. Wells Fargo has never charged a monthly service fee for an Everyday Checking account linked to a campus card. Wells Fargo has taken significant steps as a company to make things right and build a better bank."

Wells Fargo released this statment to Action News:

"The campus card data for 2017-2018 does not take into account important changes to Wells Fargo's Campus CardSM program that took effect in March and will reduce average reported costs.

While many of our Campus Card customers incur no fees each year, these changes will help students avoid fees that some customers who are new to banking may encounter.

The campus card report provides national data. Among Villanova customers who have checking or savings accounts linked to their Wildcard and use our banking services that involve a fee, the average annual fee for the 2017-2018 period was $29.33.
We stand behind the value of the banking services we offer the Villanova community at an average cost of less than $2.50 a month. It's important to note that Wells Fargo has never charged a monthly service fee for an Everyday Checking account linked to a campus card and that benefit is now available to all Everyday Checking primary account owners between the ages of 17-24.

Wells Fargo has taken significant steps as a company to make things right and build a better bank. We earn the opportunity to serve each of our customers and each campus community. We are proud that today 4 out of 5 Campus Card student customers maintain their relationship with Wells Fargo well beyond their college years."






Villanova said in a statement that they've "researched best options for students and Wells Fargo was the only bank willing to offer a staffed, on-campus branch, which students said was a priority."

Troubleshooter Tips:

-When looking for a debit card do not automatically go with the campus card. Instead, compare account fees looking for accounts that charge minimal or no overdraft or out-of-network ATM fees.

-Consider getting your student a credit card you can monitor. That will help them establish credit for the future.
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