Check balance on a loaded prepaid card before vacation

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An Apache Junction woman says her vacation was nearly ruined because she wanted to use plastic to pay for it. She's learned balances on prepaid cards should be checked before any getaway.

Prepaid cards can be good for people who don't have checking accounts and need to use them to pay bills. But they can also be loaded and used for vacations to make sure you stay on budget. You just better check your balance before you leave.

Linda Bock says she didn't want to overspend on her Grand Canyon vacation or carry cash. So, she decided to visit a Mesa Walmart and pre-load a Green Dot debit card with the amount she'd need.

"You go to the register, you give it to the girl, you tell them how much you want on there, they put it on there," Bock said.

Bock says the cashier took $450 out of her checking account and swiped it onto her Green Dot card. She got a receipt showing both transactions. But days later, when she tried to pay for lunch on vacation, the card was denied.

"I went and called them and they told me I did not have one penny on there," Bock said.

The receipt Bock had as proof the $450 was applied to a card didn't seem to matter, Green Dot insisted the money wasn't there. She says she had very little cash on hand for the rest of the trip.

"It kind of made me nervous whether we'd have enough money for food and the hotel," Bock said.

After the trip, she went back to Walmart for help. Bock says Walmart told her the receipt proved the card was loaded. She went back to Green Dot again but they wouldn't budge.

"They say I did not put the $450 on there, they didn't get it, so I don't have any money," Bock said.

So, what happened here? The receipt did show a card was loaded at that Walmart register, but it was not the Green Dot card in question. The cashier applied the $450 to Bock's Walmart-branded Mastercard credit card instead. Why did that happen? After Walmart and Green Dot did a thorough investigation, it turns out Bock actually handed the Walmart cashier the credit card by mistake. It looks very similar to the Green Dot card. The transaction paid down her credit card balance but put no money on the Green Dot card which was never swiped or loaded.

So, it wasn't a Walmart or Green Dot problem, it was Bock who made the mistake. And that's a perfect example of why it's so important to check the balance on any prepaid card before you leave for your trip.

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Dave CherryCBS 5 Advocate Dave Cherry works to resolve your consumer problems and protect your money. If he can't help, he'll do his best to point you in the right direction.

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Dave Cherry
CBS 5 Advocate

Dave was born and raised in Philadelphia and considers himself one of the biggest Philly sports fans. At 6-feet, 5-inches, he's probably right! Dave started on a different career path before fulfilling his lifelong dream of reporting the news and helping consumers. Dave graduated from Philadelphia University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting; he later earned an MBA degree in Finance from Temple University in Philadelphia. Dave also spent ten years as Vice President and Director of Sales and Marketing for two of America's leading real estate franchise companies. Dave started his 21-year news career at WHP in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as news anchor and reporter, then moved to KOLD in Tucson, as the morning news anchor. From Tucson, he went to KRON in San Francisco as a freelance news reporter before moving east to COMCAST in Philadelphia as a general assignment reporter. In the fall of 2003, Dave moved west and joined KPNX in Phoenix and spent nine years as the station Call for Action Consumer Reporter. Through his on-air advocacy work in 2011, Dave and his team were able to help consumers save more than $1 million. Dave joined CBS 5 News as our CBS 5 Advocate in December 2012. Dave is a vegan and likes to eat the amazing vegan food prepared by his lovely wife, Carmen. Dave's also a big Bruce Springsteen fan (he's seen more than 70 shows!), the man who inspired him to learn the guitar. Besides playing many of the boss' songs, Dave writes and sings his own songs and recorded a CD of original music.

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