Five Ways to Maximize Your Tax Refund

an ATM fee of $1.95 per transaction
a $2.50 inactivity fee if card isn't used for three months.
a $10 replacement charge if the card is lost or stolen
the balance on the card cannot be redeemed for cash

H&R Block responded, saying there are minimal fees associated with its prepaid debit card. The company provided "GMA" with a list of fees and benefits associated with the card:
no fee to receive a card or to set up the card
no fee to receive payroll direct deposit on the card. This feature allows people to avoid paying to have payroll checks cashed, saving them, on average, $360 to $500 a year
no point-of-sale transaction fee
no monthly fee for active cards. If there is no activity on the card for three months, beginning in the fourth month, the client will see a $2.50 monthly inactivity fee. However, there is no fee to cancel the card, so that would be a better option
a $1.95 ATM fee; however, we educate all of our clients on ways to avoid this fee, which is especially important for clients who are new to banking. We give them instructional materials that let them know that many grocery stores, drugstores, etc., will let you get cash back with a purchase for no fee
no fee for VRU to check their balances
no fee for a personalized card. Clients can request one for free and are automatically sent a personalized card after reloading money on the card four times
and, every Emerald Card comes with a savings account and there is no fee to open or maintain that. Clients have the option of splitting their refund -- part into the spend account, part into savings

Save Before You File: Increase Your Exemptions

Increasing your exemptions may lower your eventual refund, but it will increase your take home pay during the year. For example, in 2008, the IRS issued approximately 107 million refunds averaging $2,400, or a total amount of $256 billion.

When you get a refund, it means you overpaid your taxes and essentially loaned the government money during the course of the year, free of interest.

With an average refund of $2,400, you could be entitled to three extra exemptions. In the 25 percent tax bracket, that could boost your take-home pay by $2,625 per year, and you'll have that money to use right away with every paycheck instead of waiting until the end of the year.

Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments in Chicago, is "Good Morning America's" personal finance expert. Click here to visit her Web site, www.arielinvestments.com. Amar Parikh contributed to this report.

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