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Prepaid cards glitter in gloomy economy

Tyler Metzger

As the economy nosedives, consumers are looking for new ways to manage their finances. One of those ways is with a prepaid debit card, which gives its users some of the benefits of having a bank account with none of the strings attached.

Leading the pack in the prepaid card market is UniRush’s Prepaid Visa RushCard, also called the Baby Phat Prepaid Visa RushCard. The issuer, a brainchild of entrepreneur and film producer Russell Simmons, is doing well in today’s sliding economy — the company announced yesterday that it has managed more than $2 billion in deposits and spending transactions since its inception five years ago.

According to the press release, UniRush maintains its success by targeting a large group of Americans who either can’t qualify for a bank account or just choose not to use one. They call this trend a “growing movement of the empowered,” and say the ability to manage your own finances responsibly is a basic right everyone should experience.

In addition, the company says its new tools — including Spend Tracker, which allows users to monitor their financial choices, and RushPATH to Credit, which allows members to build credit — have helped boost its use. It also helps that there is no credit check or employment verification.

The RushCard works by letting its users load money on it by direct deposit of their paycheck, government benefits or other funds. Money can also be added from MoneyGram and CheckFree locations across the U.S. The card can then be used anywhere that accepts Visa debit cards.

Simmons’ card isn’t alone in the prepaid, celebrified card market. An almost identical card, marketed by Tariq Alexander, president of the Ruff Ryders Records‘ film division, is trying to get a piece of the market by offering an interesting combination of broad acceptance with a little bit of exclusivity.

The Tariq MasterCard works the same way the Rushcard does: It is charged via direct deposit or other money services, such as MoneyGram, and is used just like a debit card. There is also no credit check when someone applies for the card.

But the Tariq card is offering more than just a financial alternative. It’s offering glam to its cardholders.

Alexander also runs the production company The System Within, which produces films and reality shows and scouts for new talent. And he wants people to know it. His face is on the card, along with his production company and the sentence “Tariq says, ‘See you in the movies.'”

An ad for the card, which I found in an issue of the hip-hop magazine The Source, shows Alexander holding the card in front of a glittering Bentley next to the words “No credit check.” Do you know anyone that owns a $250,000 car and wouldn’t pass a credit check?

The Tariq card that targets folks who will likely never come close to owning a Bentley. It attempts to offer brand prestige without a high income requirement. Or maybe it’s just a way to set it apart from the RushCard and other prepaid cards in a growing market.

Either way, whether you drive a Benz or a Geo, there’s nothing wrong with dreaming about something else besides your current financial situation.

See related: All about the Baby Phat Prepaid Visa card, Why celebrity credit cards fail

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  • Anonymous

    “The System Within” was a very good movie. It’s powerful to know that a black male can beat the odds and survive adversaries.
    Anonymous Auditomer Who May Have
    Ruined A Great Opportunity