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Senate President Richard J. Codey testifying at the Senate Education Committee’s hearing on underage drinking on college campuses.

TRENTON — A bill sponsored by Senator Richard J. Codey and Senator Sandra B. Cunningham protecting consumers against hidden pre-paid debit card fees cleared the Senate Commerce Committee today.

Consumer interest in pre-paid debit cards is rising in the country, but most consumers are largely unaware of the fees connected with the cards. In 2012, consumers loaded $64.5 billion onto these cards, up from $28.6 billion in 2009, according to a recent report by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Pew reviewed 66 of the most popular pre-paid debit cards and found that some failed to disclose any fees, while most failed to disclose at least one type of fee. The list of fees includes things like monthly, acquisition and ATM withdraw fees, according to the report.

“These cards have more hidden fees than Heinz has pickles,” said Codey. (D-Essex, Morris). “Pre-paid debit cards have proven wildly popular with consumers, but we must ensure they know the costs before they purchase the cards.”

Under the bill, S-595, debit card issuers must disclose all fees and charges connected with the card in a clear manner on the card’s package.

“Consumers want to compare costs when they make a purchase, but that’s impossible to do now when purchasing pre-paid debit cards because most of the fees are hidden,” said Cunningham, (D-Hudson). “This bill changes that by providing common sense protections for consumers.”

The bill was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee today in a 6-0 vote.