Vanessa’s story on payroll debit cards

CCI Action member Vanessa Marcano-Kelly has been paid with a payroll debit card – experiencing this unjust and unfair treatment of workers. Read her story in this letter to Iowa Representative Forristall.

Dear Rep. Forristall,

My name is Vanessa Marcano-Kelly, I live in Des Moines, Iowa and have been living in Iowa for 3 years. I am writing you because I am very interested in the passage of a measure to inform our community and workers about payroll debit cards and the possible shortcomings that this pay method has.

At the end of 2013, I was looking to make a little extra cash over the holidays so I took a part-time job at Bath and Body Works. I went through the training, was told about different company policies (such as being subject to a pat-down after every shift, or being expected to massage lotion into customers’ hands if they wanted to try it out — as part of the shopping experience) and was told how often we’d be paid. After finding out that I’d only be making $7.25/hour, and the extra cash wouldn’t be worth putting in the extra hours and gas, I decided to leave the job.

About a week later, I received a strange packet of information in the mail, and a debit card marked “Bath & Body Works” with a Visa “Debit” logo on it, and a Citibank check. It was how all workers are paid. I had never seen anything like it, and decided to read through all the fine print, and was very angry about what was happening. 

First of all, being paid on this debit card did not allow me to easily see how many hours I was being paid for, so I never could know if I was being paid less than the hours worked. I had to have Internet access and log on to a complicated website to see this.

Then, the fine print said that I only had 1-2 attempts to take my paycheck out through an ATM before I started being charged for each transaction. Also, it said that I would be charged every time I used the card as a Debit card to pay for any purchase. It would not charge if I used it as Credit, but the card itself is marked “Debit”. That seems tricky.

Each transaction charge ranged between 50 cents to $1.00. It may not seem as much, but when you are making such little money, and making several transactions just to get the money you earned, it really adds up!!

I was never told I had a choice in getting this card or having direct deposit or getting a paycheck, and nobody explained all the fees or how to use the card, or anything. After some reading online, I found out that this is happening to retail workers across Iowa and the US, and people are getting nickled and dimed with these fees. 

Iowa workers need to be protected and informed about the way they are getting paid, and the options they have to receive their paycheck. I don’t want any of my wages going to banks or big retailers, when they didn’t earn it!

If it were up to me, this sketchy form of payment would not be permitted in Iowa, or it would be highly regulated and all workers would be informed about how much on average they would get charged on fees.

Thank you for reading my story, and I hope that the Iowa legislature will do something positive for all workers. 

Read more on payroll debit cards, and a bill to change this unjust treatment of workers.

Check out our take on the legislation of the 2015 session.


Join the Fight