News Column

EDITORIAL: Debit card paychecks

February 12, 2014

The Frederick News-Post, Md.



Feb. 12--While we understand the resistance among some county workers to the proposal that paper paychecks be discontinued, we can't see any serious downside to the idea.

The Frederick County Commissioners requested that the local delegation introduce a bill in the General Assembly that would permit the county to disburse pay via a debit card. If passed, that would give workers an option between the cards and direct deposit to a bank account.

Several organizations were on hand in Annapolis last Friday to speak against the idea. Robin McKinney, director of Maryland CASH Campaign, warned of the expenses that are often associated with debit cards, such as activation, balance inquiry and statement fees.

But Frederick County's acting finance director, Erin White, countered that the fees for the proposed debit cards would be minimized via an agreement between the county and Bank of America, which would issue the cards. ATM withdrawals from BofA's ATMs would not involve a fee, nor would using the cards anywhere Visa is accepted.

Clearly, it is in the county's interest to make this change. While the annual saving of up to $14,000 isn't huge, it's still $14,000. And as White pointed out, the cards would also permit the county to issue checks under any conditions, including weather events that can cause a delay in issuing paper checks.

We suspect that a lot of the opposition to this proposal is simply because it involves change. Some workers like the idea of getting a paycheck that they can hold in their hands, read, and take to the bank to cash or deposit. That's understandable. We can imagine how much resistance there was to paper checks when they began to replace pay in the form of cash, which was often disbursed at a cashier's window on-site.

We think workers would soon get used to being paid through a debit card, and would even come to prefer it, as it bypasses the process of physically depositing a paper check. The money's already in the bank.

McKinney did make one point that we think is worth attention. She feared that even though the initial agreement with BofA might be fine, things could change. That's a valid concern. It would be unfair to employees if, down the road, additional or higher fees started showing up for their debit cards. To the degree possible, protections against such a possibility should be built into this legislation.

For many workers, this is a non-issue, because they have elected to have their paychecks direct-deposited into their bank accounts. For those who would be affected, it might take a little getting used to, like those paper checks did way back when cash was king. But who today would choose to stand in line at the paymaster's window, waiting to be handed their pay in cash?

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(c)2014 The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.)

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Source: Frederick News-Post (MD)


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