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Store brand debit cards from popular retailers such as Nordstrom, Target, and Disney are the subject of a new class action lawsuit investigation.
The store debit card investigation is looking into allegations that stores like Nordstrom use unfair and deceptive practices by charging customers returned payment fees.
For many consumers who shop regularly with a particular retailer, an in-store debit card seems like a great idea.
But those consumers may be surprised to discover returned payment fees charged to their accounts when they were certain they had enough funds to cover the transaction.
In-store debit cards allow consumers to receive the same perks as many store brand credit cards. Nordstrom brand debit card holders receive two reward points for every dollar spent on a Nordstrom debit card, and once they reach 2,000 points they’ll receive a $20 gift card good for one year.
Nordstrom in-store debit cards can only be used in the retail store.
While the in-store debit cards are often promoted as the equivalent of debit cards issued by the bank, the Nordstrom debit card doesn’t directly link into the customer’s bank account.
Instead, it triggers the type of transaction that is used for online and recurring payments. Because of this, transactions made with the in-store credit card can take longer to clear than a normal debit charge.
Credit.com’s consumer credit expert notes that while many consumers believe the card acts as a debit card, it’s more like writing a check. The lag in transaction time can trigger insufficient funds fees or a returned payment fee.
These fees can cost consumers as much as $30 per transaction. Consumers who incur these fees likely had sufficient funds in their accounts when they made a purchase, but by the time the transaction was processed their account balance had insufficient funds.
Many Nordstrom debit card holders are shocked to find that their in-store debit card will allow them to overdraw their account.
According to federal law, banking institutions that issue debit cards must receive a consumer’s express consent in order to authorize overdraft protection services. Consumers without overdraft protection who try to make a transaction that exceeds their account balance will have the transaction denied.
In-store debit cards are not bound by these same federal banking laws. The cards are not issued by a bank or credit union, and the fees associated with the cards are not overdraft fees but a returned payment fee or an insufficient funds fee.
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