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Oklahoma Tax Refunds Going Plastic

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TULSA COUNTY, Oklahoma -

Oklahoma's economy gets a boost every spring as people spend their tax refund dollars.

For the first time, the state is issuing debit cards instead of paper checks, but does going green come at a cost to you?

Many people choose to direct deposit that money.

The debit cards are an option for people who don't have back accounts, but beware there are fees associated with those cards that you need to know about before you pay off bills or make a big purchase.

The Oklahoma Tax Commission is going paperless and going green said Bruce Smith of the Oklahoma Tax Commission.

"The debit cards are more convenient and they're also safer than the check because to activate the debit card, there's certain information you'll need to know off the return."

Once the card is activated, it can be swiped just like any other debit card at stores and ATMs, or you can trade it in for cash.

"You can take it to any bank or credit union that handles MasterCard, present the card and some identification to the teller, and they can give you all the money back for free," Smith said.

But, Smith said, people need to be aware the debit card company does charge fees.

If you go online to transfer the refund money to a bank account, that's a 75 cent fee. You'll be charged an inactivity fee of a $1.50 if you don't use the card for 60 days. And there will also be a service charge for using the debit card at some ATMs.

If you use your cell phone to check the balance more than twice, you'll be charged 35 cents per call.

People can sign up for mobile balance alerts. The first one is free, the rest are 10 cents each.

Finally, there's a foreign currency conversion fee of two percent.

These fees may sound very small, but the Oklahoma Tax Commission wants to make people aware so no one is caught off guard.

"Depending on how they use the card, when they use the card, where they use the card, they can avoid all the fees altogether," Smith said.

Smith said these debit card fees are actually less than what someone without a bank account would pay to cash the old-fashioned check.

The tax commission suggested when you've spent all the money on the card, you shred it just like any other credit card.

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