SOURCE: Pennsylvania Treasury

Pennsylvania Treasury

November 07, 2013 11:33 ET

Treasurer McCord Introduces Mobile Applications and Other Improvements to Debit Card Program

Cardholders Paying 70% Less in Fees Under the New Program

HARRISBURG, PA--(Marketwired - November 07, 2013) - Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord today introduced improvements to the nationally recognized debit card program Treasury uses to disburse unemployment and workers' compensation payments. They include first-of-their kind dedicated Android and iPhone applications that combine multiple ATM networks to provide cardholders the ability to locate fee-free ATMs quickly.

McCord introduced Treasury's new debit card in January 2013 and projected cardholders would pay significantly less in fees than under the previous program. Treasury's monitoring finds average fees per cardholder have gone down 70%.

"I'm proud of the consumer advocacy work done under the McCord Treasury. Cardholders are seeing real relief in the fees they pay -- in many instances better than expected. These are funds that remain in Pennsylvania's economy and benefit those most in need -- the unemployed and injured workers using the card," McCord said.

McCord emphasized that while Pennsylvania's debit card has been recognized as offering one of the least expensive fee schedules in the country, it also offers perhaps the best ATM network based on the number of free ATMs and the geographic distribution of those machines.

"A great fee schedule is completely meaningless if cardholders aren't located near -- and can't easily locate -- their free ATMs. We've continued to build upon the amazing features in our program by now making it even easier for cardholders to locate their closest ATM and avoid paying unnecessary fees by using the device many of us carry in our pocket or purse -- our smartphone," McCord said.

The National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that has become the recognized leader on the increased utilization of prepaid debit cards, issued a report in January that recognized Pennsylvania as one of only three states to earn its highest "two-thumbs up" rating. Lauren Saunders, Managing Attorney with the NCLC and co-author of the report, commended Treasury for its continuing commitment to helping cardholders avoid fees.

"On top of the state's terrific work to reduce prepaid card fees, Pennsylvania is now the first state to offer workers a robust mobile app designed specifically for benefits payments where they can find every free ATM near them, not just those of the bank that issues the card. Every dollar counts when you are unemployed," Saunders said.

Treasury's debit card program includes unlimited cash withdrawals from 3,800 in-network ATMs in Pennsylvania belonging to six financial networks, an increase of nearly 600 machines since program launch. Under traditional debit card programs, cardholders needed to visit the ATM locator website of each financial network in the program to determine the closest ATM. Treasury proposed and secured a consolidated ATM locator website -- believed to be the first such website in the country -- that aggregates the data of all six of the financial institutions under the Pennsylvania program to allow cardholders to locate ATMs with a single search. Treasury has now extended those services to cardholders away from home via mobile web and dedicated Android and iPhone applications.

The dedicated iPhone and Android applications allow cardholders to utilize a single query on their smartphones to find in-network ATMs at any location. The application then displays a map and listing of ATMs, and can generate directions. Cardholders can now download the applications through links on Treasury's website or by searching for "PA UCard" on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Other recent improvements include the introduction of a dedicated TTY service that allows the hearing impaired to communicate directly with Chase customer service. Cardholders can call 866-650-8275 to speak directly with a Chase TTY advisor, which provides enhanced privacy and security over an outside TTY service.

Treasury and Labor & Industry partnered in 2012 to obtain competitive proposals to support a debit card payment option for unemployment compensation and state workers' insurance fund payments. JP Morgan Chase was selected as the vendor, with funds going to the new cards beginning in March 2013. Direct deposit remained a payment option.

Treasury designed its debit card program to offer cardholders access to funds and account information without a charge, regardless of their location. Chase cards can be used with no fees or surcharges at 3,800 in-network ATMs familiar to Pennsylvania residents and elsewhere: Susquehanna, Santander (formerly Sovereign), First National Bank of Pennsylvania, and Chase banks, along with MoneyPass and Allpoint ATMs located at popular retail establishments. Cardholders can also obtain free cash withdrawals from any bank teller window that accepts MasterCard and at establishments that offer cash-back at time of purchase, such as pharmacies, general stores, and post offices. For maximum convenience, cardholders can obtain two free cash withdrawals each month outside the ATM network; however, surcharges may apply to out-of-network ATM transactions. Balance inquiries are free at any ATM and detailed account information is available without a fee by visiting or calling Chase customer service at 866-586-1706.

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