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NetSpend and Western Union Plan Prepaid Card

[Wednesday, May 7th, 2014]

Consumers who are not well served by traditional banking models will soon have another option available to them: a reloadable prepaid card from Western Union, co-branded with NetSpend.

Western Union is well known for their money transferring services and a wide range of financial products, including billing, payments, mobile and reporting capabilities. They also offer a MasterCard prepaid card, which has consistently won awards in the prepaid product space. The venture with NetSpend will be their first co-branded prepaid card.

Slated to be available later in 2014, the Western Union/NetSpend card will be available for purchase anywhere that Western Union services are offered, including banks, national retail chains, grocery stores and other independent sellers. NetSpend also has a network of 70,000 distribution locations across the United States. Prepaid cards will be available at any NetSpend location, and customers can reload the card at 130,000 locations in the NetSpend network.

Stay tuned for info on fees and features

Fees and features of the card will be announced after the card’s launch, but many prepaid cards offer things like bill payment, direct deposit, cash from ATMs, apps for mobile money management and even rewards points or special discounts for users.

Fees vary greatly for prepaid products. Some charge a monthly fee, which generally ranges from $1 to $5, and some have fees for things like loading cash onto the card, checking the card balance, or getting cash from an ATM.

Some prepaid cards waive fees for cardholders who utilize features like direct deposit, or who load a minimum amount of cash to the card each month.

Prepaid cards good option for people underserved by banks

The Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) estimates that 68 million people in the United States lack adequate access to traditional banks or are not well served by them. In 2011, almost 18% of households without bank accounts made use of prepaid cards to manage their money. That’s up 6% from 2009, when 12% of unbanked households had prepaid cards.

Prepaid cards can be used as an alternative to a checking account. They work by loading money onto a card, similar to buying a gift card from a store. They are not credit cards and people cannot get into debt by using them, making them popular among parents of teenagers and people shy about credit cards. Prepaid cards offer the convenience of a credit card without the possibility of accruing debt.

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