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Dr. Don Taylor, CFA, advice columnistOne card best for disabled son

Dear Dr. Don,
I have a 31-year-old son with mental disabilities. He is capable in many areas, but money isn't one of them. I am his representative payee. In lieu of giving him spending cash, I recently opted for a debit card that I can transfer money into as needed. He can use the card for credit at stores where debit is not accepted.

These credit charges show up one to two days later and there is not enough money in the account to cover them because I was unaware of the charges. As a result we are getting bank charges left and right at $25 per overdraft. Needless to say, this is not working. Is there a card out there that I can transfer money into and when the money isn't there he simply can't complete the transaction? No credit options, no cash advances associated, no overdraft. Thanks for responding.
-- Eileen Elicits

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Dear Eileen,
The Visa Buxx card is designed to work as a debit card, and when there's not enough money loaded on the card, the merchant will decline the card. However, if the merchant doesn't get preauthorization on the card there is still the possibility that the card will be accepted and the account will have a negative balance.

Here's what Visa's Web site says about this situation:

Occasionally, a merchant does put an item through without prior authorization. If the purchase exceeds the available balance, the cardholder's account will have a negative balance. In these rare circumstances where an overdraft occurs, you would be notified to load more funds onto the card.

The site's FAQ page has a lot more information about the program. Visa's zero-liability policy for lost or stolen Buxx cards should also provide you with a measure of security about your son carrying this card.

The parent has the choice whether or not the card is accepted at ATMs. Since banks tend to be a little loose on available balances when it comes to cash withdrawals, hoping to pick up some overdraft income, access to automated teller machines isn't a great idea for your son.

To ask a question of Dr. Don, go to the "Ask the Experts" page, and select one of these topics: "financing a home," "saving & investing" or "money."'s corrections policy -- Posted: May 2, 2006
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