Celebrity personal finance expert Suze Orman, who has appeared widely for NCUA on behalf of credit unions, has launched a prepaid debit card which, if it becomes truly popular, could wind up costing credit unions significant amounts of money.
Unlike traditional debit cards which make their issuers, such as credit unions, a small amount of money from card interchange whenever they are used, decoupled prepaid cards rely on ACH transactions to move money from card holders' deposit accounts with financial institutions. Orman's Approved Card may also be funded through direct deposit and cash deposit, but to the extent that it is run as a decoupled debit card it will take money away from CU and bank debit card programs.
There is also a question about whether the card will actually earn some interchange revenue. One of the benefits that Orman touts for the Approved Card is that cash deposited on the card is insured by the FDIC. It carries that insurance because the card is issued by Bancorp Bank, a leading issuer of different types of credit and prepaid cards and which almost certainly participates in the interchange system. Card organizers have not yet replied to a request for further information about the card.
The card has debuted to mixed reviews. Ondine Irving, founder of Card Analysis Solutions, worked with Orman from June to October 2010 and said she does not back the Approved Card.
“I am not a supporter of the card and time will tell if the public accepts it,” Irving said. “Based on the feedback on Twitter and Suze's Facebook page, her followers are disappointed in her decision to peddle yet another product, but this time with her name on it. The $36 annual fee, collected at $3.00 per month is not sitting well with consumers.”
She also noted the card does not introduce unbanked card holder to the banking system. “The Suze Orman prepaid card does nothing to establish a full service banking relationship,” Irving observed. “And as much as people may have hatred for banks and less for Credit Unions, the fact remains lending is a part of the American way of life. Credit Unions establish and foster lifelong relationships with members to service all of their financial services needs- and a prepaid card is a stop gap measure and in no way will ever replace full service relationships.”