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Prepaid debit and credit cards: How much will they cost you?

Wednesday - 6/27/2012, 8:39am  ET

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The card named the worst to use as a checking account alternative is the Account Now Visa Classic. The report says the average user of this card will pay about $30 a month in fees. (AP)

Michelle Basch, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Prepaid credit and debit cards are seeing an explosion in popularity, but with different usage fees and interest rates not all of them work well. A new report ranks cards according to how well they work for consumers.

The Mercator Advisory Group projects consumers will load $82 billion onto prepaid cards this year, a whopping 44 percent increase from last year.

And, they are expected to load $117 billion onto prepaid cards next year, making the increase 200 percent in three years.

CardHub.com's 2012 Prepaid Card Report examines and ranks 20 popular cards. The summary looks into whether the cards should be used as alternatives to checking accounts, whether they should be used for children's allowances and whether they are suitable alternative cash cashing tools.

For a prepaid card to use like a checking account, the report says the Green Dot Gold Prepaid Visa is best. Careful consumers can use the card without paying any fees. But, the report says this card, like most on the list, is not a suitable alternative to a check cashing tool.

The card named the worst to use as a checking account alternative is the Account Now Visa Classic. The report says the average user of this card will pay about $30 a month in fees.

Read the full report and cost breakdowns at CardHub.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)