Troubleshooter: Prepaid debit card

December 17, 2010 3:40:03 PM PST
John Anderson doesn't use credit cards. He says he tries to be responsible with his money and only buys what he can afford.

So, he saved for a year to pay for a trip to England to visit his three young daughters.

In addition to the cash he took with him, he loaded $2,000 on a PayPower prepaid debit card to use when the cash ran out.

Before leaving, Anderson used the card to book his plane ticket, but things didn't go as well when he got to the United Kingdom.

"Went there to try and withdraw cash from the machine and said it was denied," he recalled.

Despite a balance of $1,300 in the card's account, he was denied any withdrawals.

Anderson said he called the help number on the back of the card right away.

"They said the hold should be taken off within a couple of business days," he said.

But, Anderson said after waiting a couple of days, the hold that barred him from getting cash was not removed.

"I didn't have any money," he said.

Anderson said he was frustrated because he purchased the card specifically to use it overseas. On PayPower's website, it explains that the prepaid cards can be used anywhere that Visa debit cards are accepted. Because the cards are prepaid, there are no overdraft or interest fees.

"The whole purpose of me going over to England was to see my children," said Anderson. "That was the money I had earmarked to take my daughter shopping, and I couldn't use it over there."

"Very frustrating," he continued. "I'm in another country. I've got people I owe money to that I don't know. I didn't have another dime, pound, or pence to even make a phone call."

Anderson said he finally got a representative from PayPower to respond.

"They called me up and said they were going to close my account and mail a check back to my home address, and I told them that wasn't going to help me as I was stuck in England," he said.

Anderson's home is in Tennessee. But when he returned to the United States, his first stop was Raleigh because he had business here.

He expected that the check promised by PayPower would be waiting at his home.

"When I got back into the country, I thought the money would be there and I could have my dad Western Union me the money. But I found out that didn't happen, and they issued me a new ticket to handle the account," he said.

So Anderson's money was still tied up and he had no access to it. He said all he could do was call PayPower and wait for a response.

"You're giving good faith to a company to be able to use the cash that is yours, and then from my perspective, they aren't responsible enough to have someone call me where I was," he said.

So Anderson contacted ABC11 I-Team Troubleshooter Diane Wilson.

"Once I told them I was going to talk to the news about it something happened," said Anderson. "All of a sudden I started getting phone calls."

Anderson got word he'd get his money.

"They just released the money 30 minutes ago," he said.

Anderson said he now has his money, but said it was a long ordeal, and he wasted countless hours trying to get it.

"The whole purpose of me going over to England was to see my children, and I missed three days out of the ten that I could have been with them," he explained.

A customer relations manager with PayPower told ABC11 that because of bank privacy laws, it's not able to discuss the details of Anderson's case.

But the company said the customer's best interest is considered in all customer related issues.

Anderson said the best advice he can give based on his experience is before you get a prepaid card for travel, be sure to ask if you can access your cash while overseas.

He said he believes that's what started his problems.

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