7 Ways Prepaid Is Transforming the Payments Industry

(Image: ThinkStock)

1. Amex's New Groove 1. Amex's New Groove

American Express cited many factors for the 5,400 layoffs it announced Jan. 10, including technology advancements, changes to its travel business and a greater attention to prepaid. The company's Serve digital wallet and Walmart Bluebird card are among its recent pushes into the prepaid market. (Image: Bloomberg News)

2. Unexpected Ally 2. Unexpected Ally

Products like Green Dot's MoneyPak cash-funding card are proving useful to conventional payments companies. For Amex Serve, "our only cash inflow [method] is actually enabled by what we used to think of as a competitor," Amex exec Stefan Happ said last year (he did not mention Green Dot by name). (Image: ThinkStock)

3. The Price Is Irrelevant 3. The Price Is Irrelevant

Banks balk at prepaid cards' pricing, but prepaid marketers are proving that consumers value transparency over price particularly consumers who felt burned by surprise overdraft fees on their "free" checking accounts. (Image: ThinkStock)

4. Who Needs Branches? 4. Who Needs Branches?

Even if the mega-retailers don't ever become true banks, many consumers can go to them to pick up a variety of prepaid cards and to reload those cards when the accounts run dry a process that sounds a lot like the average bank branch visit. (Image: ThinkStock)

5. Mobile Wallet Building Block 5. Mobile Wallet Building Block

Most major mobile wallets have a virtual or physical prepaid card attached to them. These accounts allow consumers to transact with their phones even when their banks aren't yet on board with the latest mobile payment technology. (Image: Bloomberg News)

6. Youth Market 6. Youth Market

"Student Checking" is no longer the only option for minors looking for a place to keep their cash. BillMyParents is drawing attention for signing Justin Bieber as a sponsor, but many like-minded prepaid card companies are fighting to be a teen's first financial relationship (Image: Business Wire)

7. Bringing in Bitcoin 7. Bringing in Bitcoin

The digital currency Bitcoin's design makes it hard to use by anyone but tech-savvy enthusiasts, but BitInstant last year announced plans to make Bitcoin usable at the point of sale by using what else a prepaid debit card. (Image: Fotolia)

Bonus: Kardashian-Free Zone Bonus: Kardashian-Free Zone

It seems like Kim Kardashian has pervaded every area of modern life but her prepaid card failed so spectacularly that she has never returned to the payments world. Today, when the Kardashians have their faces on every product from beach towels to yo-yos, prepaid cards have seemingly done the impossible by scaring Kim off. (Image: Bloomberg News)

There's no turning back prepaid cards have left a permanent mark on banks, card networks, alternative payment providers and more. Some might consider that mark to be a scarlet letter, but many now wear it as a badge of honor.