MasterCard released new standards that require companies that use payroll cards to provide educational resources, increased fee transparency and allow free access account information.

The card network worked with a wide variety of community organizations, including national Latino, African American and labor groups to local community groups that represent a high percentage of members who are financially underserved.

"Payroll cards serve as one way to bring the traditionally underserved into the financial mainstream," says Ron Hynes, group executive for global prepaid solutions at MasterCard, in a Dec. 13 press release. "These standards will help ensure that employees not only understand the choices available, but allow them to take advantage of benefits like direct deposit, online shopping and bill payment that have not been traditionally available to them."

All new MasterCard payroll card programs are required to meet these standards as of July 1, 2014. Existing programs will have until October 1, 2014 to make any necessary adjustments.

The MasterCard payroll card standards enable workers to choose how they are paid—card, direct deposit or other means; access to wages for free at least once per pay period; free access balance information via online or mobile; information on the features of payroll cards; a disclosure table; and coverage by MasterCard's Zero Liability anti-fraud program.

Stored-value cards represent an opportunity for employers to provide automated payroll services, and are drawing attention from companies such as KeyBank and TSYS' NetSpend unit.

The cards also face regulatory scrutiny and consumer backlash over fees employers charge their workers to access wages. 

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