What is a Payroll Card?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 January 2020
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Payroll cards are financial cards that make it possible to access wages and other earnings issued to the cardholder by an employer. The use of a payroll card service makes it possible to eliminate the need for a direct deposit into a checking account as well as the necessity to manually deposit a paycheck into a bank account. With a payroll card, the employee can withdraw money from any automatic teller machine, or use the card in the same manner as any debit card.

Employees find that a payroll card approach carries several advantages. First, most programs make wages and salary available on the same day the employer issues the payments. That means there is no need to wait until the next business day to withdraw funds, as is often the case with a direct deposit to a bank account. This quick access to employer-issued compensation also means that employees do not have to rush to the bank in order to deposit a check before a particular time in the afternoon in order to have the funds posted to a checking account that same day.


Employers may also benefit from the use of a payroll card service to pay their employees. The process does not require any more steps than handling a direct deposit, and often simplifies the related processes of issuing receipts that detail the disbursement of the pay for the period cited. Employees can go online to view balances and also get a detailed report of withholding and distribution of the net pay with ease. This means less paperwork to generate for the employer.

While a payroll card does have a number of benefits, it is important to note that not all programs of this type function in the same manner. There are many different types of fees that may or may not apply, depending on the program. For example, the payroll card setup may allow for the deduction of a monthly usage fee, a per transaction fee for any purchases made at stores using the card, ATM withdrawal fees, and card replacement fees. There is also the chance that a load fee will be charged each time funds from the employer are posted to the card. If the payroll card program allows employees to spend more money than is currently in the account, the card provider will charge an overdraft fee, similar to a bank overdraft fee that is incurred when a balance is overdrawn on a checking account.

While a payroll card program does provide many of the services and protections associated with a debit card connected to a checking account, the program may charge fees for transactions that are conducted at no charge when using a bank issued debit card. Depending on the particular payroll card program, the suite of services may not be comparable to using direct deposit to a checking account and accessing the funds via a debit card. For this reason, it is important to ask many direct questions before signing up for a program of this type. Failure to do so may lead to incurring a range of fees that were not anticipated and cut into the available income significantly.


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Post 2

I suppose, however, for people who either don't like having checking accounts or for people who don't use direct deposit for whatever reason, it may be better than the alternative of collecting a paper check every pay day and having to find someplace to cash it. Most of those check cashing places charge fees too, so for people in that situation, it's a bit of a pick-your-poison proposition.

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