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7 Ways Prepaid Cards Infiltrated the Banking Industry

(Image: ShutterStock)

NetSpend NetSpend

"They're starting to go after the banks," TSYS CEO Phil Tomlinson (pictured) said when announcing the company's purchase of NetSpend. "We have several mutual customers today."

Green Dot Bank Green Dot Bank

Though Green Dot still tries to cast itself as a disruptor with products such as its "name your own fee" GoBank account, the company became a bank-industry insider when it bought a Bonneville Bank in 2011. (Pictured: Green Dot Chairman and CEO Steve Streit)

Amex Amex

Incumbents like Amex find themselves leaning on prepaid products such as Green Dot's MoneyPak cash-loading card. "Our only cash inflow [method for Serve] is actually enabled by what we used to think of as a competitor," Amex's Stefan Happ said last year. Amex also cited its work in prepaid as one of the many factors behind the layoffs it announced in January.

Plastyc Plastyc

Prepaid cards offer a lot of the same features checking accounts do, but many lack mobile check capture. Plastyc this month added this feature to its prepaid card accounts, making them look a lot more like mainstream bank accounts. (Image: ShutterStock)

Fee to Be, You and Me Fee to Be, You and Me

Was 'free checking' ever such a big deal? Prepaid cards are proving it isn't. As banks still play up the ways they can waive fees for customers, prepaid card companies are winning customers without making any attempt to downplay their costs. UniRush founder Russell Simmons eagerly admits the $120 annual price tag his cards can carry.

Chase Liquid Chase Liquid

Banks are taking baby steps in imitating the success of prepaid cards. Chase may seem to be ahead of the pack with its Liquid prepaid card, but this is clearly a bank product. To get Liquid's monthly fee waived, users have to link it to a Chase checking account.

Fifth Third Access 360 Fifth Third Access 360

Fifth Third Bank's Access 360 prepaid card, like Chase's, shows its banking roots in the fine print. Consumers that link the card to a Fifth Third bank account lower its monthly fee to $4 from $7.

When TSYS announced its purchase of NetSpend this week, it seemed like an odd fit for the 30-year-old processor. But NetSpend isn't just some tangential business line at some point, prepaid cards (and the companies that offer them) became a very real threat.

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