Last week, T-Mobile announced that it was 'taking on the US banking market' with a mobile app and a prepaid card. The story stated that the company was targeting this service at the 68 million Americans that do not have traditional banking accounts, many
of whom rely on expensive alternatives like payday lenders. The account boasts no minimum balance requirement and no charge for activation, monthly maintenance, or for replacing lost or stolen cards.
Reading this story, I wonder if T-Mobile has missed a trick. It is widely accepted that consumers need more than just a new facility if they are to ‘go mobile’ with their financial behaviour and the provision of value added services (VAS) are commonly cited
as the bonus that can trigger the change. Had T-Mobile taken the step to link their customers' accounts to a rewards or incentives programme that would generate cash back and receive discounts at popular stores, as some of the best e-money providers do, its
offer to this demographic would be enhanced greatly.
Prepaid cards are nothing new and the global e-money industry has been working tirelessly over the years to support the unbanked by providing a sustainable alternative to the recent flood of sub-prime financial providers, such as pay-day lenders. Waiving
the fees is a good move but in the absence of additional incentives, it will be interesting to see how many people adopt the solution. Having invested the time, energy and money to bring this product to market, one wonders why they didn't go the extra mile.
This is a project to keep an eye on. It will be interesting to see if T-Mobile publishes adoption figures in the months to come and also how it develops the solution in order to catch up with the most innovative and comprehensive prepaid providers in the