Students getting financial aid at Miami Dade College get debit cards automatically in the mail. The cards are the way the college deposits money for student aid.
The college and the bank company that sends the card benefit from greater efficiency and new profits. For the students, it is a faster way to get to their money.
There is a catch. The bank charges the students service fees. These include fees for:
- Each debit purchase
- An inactive account
- Using out-of-network ATMs
Students can also use the cards as credit cards.
Schools throughout Florida are turning to bank companies for this service. In the case of Miami Dade, the company, called Higher One, also contributes money to the school’s charitable foundation.
Consumer advocates say the students are being lured into additional expenses.
Higher One defends its fees as being reasonable and not hidden. It also says it saves students the expense of using check cashers.
The college says it gives students a “starter bank account.” It also said Higher One is phasing out the inactivity fee.
Students like the card, even the way it looks. About 80 percent activate their cards after they receive them. At the same time, one said, “It is ridiculous, college students have to deal with enough expenses. It is like fees on top of fees.”