A recently conducted study suggests that big changes are in the air.

For many young consumers, and also those who are unable to get a bank account or choose not to get a tradtional credit card, prepaid credit seems like the solution and it is one which is growing in popularity every day.

Sales of prepaid debit cards are on the increase while the number of consumers in America who have credit cards, checking accounts or bank debit cards is dropping steadily.

These days, prepaid cards are being very heavily advertised and they are particularly easy to get a hold of, with most drugstores, grocery stores and department stores selling them in one form or another.

The latest research conducted by the Pew Trusts has revealed that the majority of consumers in the United States have identified prepaid cards as the perfect way to control their finances.

It seems that on the whole, we are more inclined to pay between $3 and $5 to load or reload a prepaid card than we are to pay an overdraft fee or interest charge. With some banking fees costing as much as $35, it is easy to see why this shift has occurred. One participant in the survey said,

Compared to my situation, I went through a lot of late fees with the credit cards, extra fees with the checking accounts. I was paying monthly between $35 to $50 in fees compared to $3.99 that I pay for a maintenance fee to get a card.

This conclusion was also supported by a survey carried out by San Francisco based advocay group Consumer Action who warned,

Many of these prepaid cards are filled with fees. Now there are ways to avoid the fees and there are cards with just a few fees. But you’ve got to watch out for the fees, because some of them are loaded with ‘gotcha’ fees,

said Ruth Susswein. The survey looked at 28 diffferent prepaid cards from 11 different issuers.

In regard to fees, there were charges for reloading the card, making ATM cash withdrawals, balance enquiries and attempts to make purchases without enough funds on the card to cover it. However, the fees varied a great deal from card to card – even those provided by the same issuer.

Closing accounts and account inactivity also carries a fee in some cases. The majority of prepaid cards do also charge a maintenance fee every month. However, there are cards out there which allow consumers to waive the monthly fee by retaining a specified minimum balance on the card at all times.

In short, will prepaid cards can be a great resource when it comes to money management, especially those in need of some additional discipline, you cannot spend more than you can afford to load onto it. You also need to shop around to find the prepaid card which best suits your own individual needs.

If you fail to do so, then the fees may quickly mount up and end up making the card more expensive than regular credit cards. The other key point to remember if you are thinking about switching to prepaid cards instead of credit or debit cards is that they do nothing to build your credit rating because the transactions are not reported to the credit bureaus.

According to Pew Trusts, the prepaid industry continues to grow at a staggering rate. In 2009 the re was $28.6 billion loaded ontoprepaid cards in the United States. According to the Mercator Advisory Group this figure is set to increase to $201.9 billion by the end of 2013.