BillMyParents and MasterCard, who work together to provide prepaid debit cards to teenagers, have launched a new marketing campaign to convince parents that prepaid cards are an ideal way to help manage their children’s spending. Do they make a convincing case?
The ad campaign focuses on the realtime tracking capabilities of the card, which BillMyParents and MasterCard. The tagline for the campaign is “Keeping track of your teen’s spending with the BillMyParents SpendSmart MasterCard…Priceless.”
The prepaid card offers somewhat draconian oversight capabilities for parents; who can track their child’s purchases with the card, and can freeze and unfreeze the account via text message, on the website, or on the free iPhone app associated with the card.
The card also allows for regular allowance transfers from parents’ bank accounts to the card — on the 1st and 15th, as if the cardholding teen is getting a paycheck — and has built in safeguards to prevent teens from using the card at places like casinos or strip clubs, nor can it be used to buy alcohol, tobacco, or firearms.
It also offers instant transaction alerts that show “when, where, how much was spent and remaining balance [which] enable parents to take advantage of potential teachable moments in real-time,” says the press release. For parents who do not trust their children, this might be the product of the year. For kids who are savvy enough to take their card to an ATM — it only costs $1.50 to withdraw — it might be, too.
As we discussed back in July, the card does offer some advantages in a post-Durbin amendment landscape. That is, as banks start charging higher fees for checking accounts and debit cards associated with them, prepaid cards with lower fees will look more attractive to those — like teenagers — who likely have little use for a checking account. BillMyParents offers rates typical of prepaid cards: $3.95 monthly service fee, $0.75 card load fee, and $1.50 for domestic ATM withdrawal.
So, no, it’s not “priceless;” the prices are quite real. But they may become competitive soon. For parents who don’t trust their kids, this just may be the future. For those who would rather not know about their offspring’s spending habits, there’s always cash.