A Tool for Getting By or Getting Ahead? Consumers’ Views on Prepaid Cards

credit-debit-card-20232185This paper, which was presented by Jennifer Romich, Eric Waithaka and Sarah Gordon was at the Family Financial Security Symposium in April, 2010, summarizes lessons from interviews of 22 consumers who use general-purpose reloadable prepaid cards (PPCs), an emerging financial services product that provides transaction services not linked to a conventional checking or savings accounts.  A majority of interviewees used PPCs as their primary non-cash transaction tool.

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Prepaid clients appreciate both what the card can do for them (instrumental features) and the meaning of having an electronic payment card like those of more advantaged consumers (symbolic features). Prepaid cards are a helpful financial tool, but the product needs additional elements before it can substantially support customers’ long-term financial goals.