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Prepaid cards: a maturing market?

It seems that there are over 100 million ‘selfies’ (people posting pictures of themselves) on instagram – a trend that is continuing to rise. The prepaid card is also growing with its own version of the selfie, with a half the US adult population having bought a prepaid card and an increasing number for their own use, showing the market has created a new segment over and above gifting.

According to Mercator Advisory Group, 53 per cent of consumers could recall buying a prepaid card – up from 47 per cent in a similar survey last year. This is hardly surprising given the amount of growth we’re seeing in the sector.

As we saw recently, the World Payments Report 2013 from Capgemini and RBS shows the prepaid cards market is one of the fastest growing non-cash payment methods. Moreover, this study showed that rising levels of prepaid card use globally is being driven largely by the US market.

What is interesting, however, is the changing and indeed maturing way prepaid cards are being deployed. The title of the report, Prepaid 2013: U.S. Consumers Buying More Prepaid Cards for Own Use, tells the story.

While most consumers continue to buy prepaid cards as gifts, the Mercator survey reveals that the percentage buying for self-use is rising. And this trend is even more apparent for virtual cards, which are increasingly delivered by mobile device, either by text message or through a mobile app. Researchers found more than one in four consumers bought virtual cards within the year preceding the survey. Tellingly, half were purchased by people as gifts, half for their own use.

So what’s driving this change? Karen Augustine, the author of the report, suggests that as new US banking regulations force many banks to raise their fees on normal accounts, many in the banking and payments industry are looking to prepaid cards to gauge their use as a preferred payment tool.

Technology is also playing its part: prepaid buyers are more likely to be younger, mobile-enabled, and buy cards for their own use, according to Augustine, who says prepaid cards are becoming “more of a primary payment method and not relegated only for gifts”, and it would appear we all need to treat ourselves sometimes.

 

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