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The irony of it all. Financial personality Suze Orman’s new and controversial prepaid Approved card has a glitch that few in the media have reported on: In order to load the card with your money, you need to already have another form of plastic.
Her prepaid Approved card has generated gobs of press and decidedly mixed reviews, mostly over its fair-to-middling fee structure.
But this one aspect of the orange-hued celebrity’s purple-hued card launch irks me: the discussion of whether it has the potential to do a noble deed — helping those with no bank account (aka “the unbanked”) get a credit score. If you have to have a card to get the card, it’s highly likely you’re already “banked” and the point is moot.
Orman got the credit reporting agency TransUnion to agree to gather data on the transactions for a year or two, and then evaluate it, according to the press release, “to determine whether including this data in a credit report should impact access to credit products.”
She trumpets this aspect of the card as a potential game changer, a helpful tool to get more people credit scores, and therefore access to credit.
“The majority of people who have these cards are called the unbanked and the underbanked,” she told Good magazine. “They do not have a bank account at all — unbanked — and even if they do have a bank account, what’s then happening is that they’re not using all the services that the bank is providing.”
She expanded on that point in a TV appearance last week on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, “You have to understand that if all you ever want to do is spend money on a debit card or spend cash, that does not report to the credit bureau. If it doesn’t report, you don’t have a score. If you don’t have a score, your car insurance premiums are higher, landlords may not rent to you, employers may not hire you.”
Pretty much bogus, too, because the only way to get an Approved card is to have another card already.
I went through the application process, all the way to the point where you fund the card.
And that’s where it requires a Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express card number (click the screenshot above to enlarge). If you have one of those cards, you’re already “banked” — with the exception of a very few cards that aren’t connected to a bank. And if you’re using a credit card to open your Approved card account, you also already have a credit score.
So to get an Approved card, you already have to have a credit card, in which case you already have a credit score, or a debit card, in which case you already have a bank, or you’re one of the small fraction of people who already has a prepaid card, in which case you’re just trading brands for a card that has a so-so set of fees.
And because most of the people who can get it already have banks, or credit scores, or both, the data generated by that set of people won’t tell you much.
I don’t have anything against Orman cashing in on her celebrity with a financial product, but an altruistic game changer, this isn’t.