UniRush is finding that the audience for prepaid cards is going well beyond the underbanked. The company, which offers the prepaid RushCard, is responding with a new approach to better appeal to this new audience.

"Ten years ago, prepaid was mostly for consumers that didn't have access to mainstream financial services. It was a safe harbor for them," says Amy Giddon, president of RushCard. "Today interest in prepaid cards has extended beyond its core customers. There are more bank customers that are using prepaid, as well as younger people."

UniRush's RushCard launched in 2003 and is one of the oldest Visa prepaid cards. The company is rebranding its product, partly due to its age and partly due to the changes in its use cases, Giddon says.

UniRush has overhauled its RushCard website, and is adding many new features. The company is also putting co-founder Russell Simmons to work as a promoter. Simmons, a famous hip hop producer and entrepreneur, is appearing in television ads as a doorman and cab driver, talking up the product to potential clients.

The new website behaves more like an online banking site, with single-click navigation to information about loading funds and tracking transactions, Giddon says.

"It's still a primary financial account for some, for others it's a way to compartmentalize their transactions and the RushCard is one of a fleet of products that they hold," Giddon says. "Others are using the card to do their banking transactions digitally."

While the company would not say how many of its users also have bank accounts, it has noticed an increase in bank customers buying its cards and using them to manage budgets for certain types of transactions.

Under the tagline "Pay Your Own Way," the redesign includes a new indigo color palette for cards that will debut in the fall. The designs will feature imagery of skylines at sunset, a nod to the card's largely urban-dwelling users. The company's Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter pages are also being replaced.  UniRush engaged Merkley + Partners in its rebranding efforts and The Archer Group for Web development.

The RushCard website now includes many photos of families—particularly parents with small children. The imagery also suggests a higher-end set of users.

UniRush has also updated its fee disclosures, including information on the different options for how consumers pay—as well as calculators that inform how users choose fee plans based on their anticipated use of the card.

"We're one of the few prepaid companies that allow customers to provide information about how they tend to use the card, and the calculators will provide the fee plan that makes the most sense for the user," Giddon says.

The types of consumers who use prepaid cards are changing dramatically, says Madeline Aufseeser, a senior analyst at Aite Group who covers debit card issuing, marketing and processing.

"Prepaid debit cards are much more mainstream and mass market oriented, so it's not just the banked and underbanked," she says.

The median household income for prepaid debit card users is above the national income level, which is about $50,000, she says. The level of income for prepaid card users is far higher than just five years ago, says Aufseeser, who is working on new research on prepaid cards that's due out in the fall. Also, more than half of prepaid users are between the ages of 18 to 47, Aufseeser says.

The evolution of prepaid card users warrants a change in how the cards are marketed, Aufseeser says.  Prepaid cards have leaned heavily on celebrity promoters with niche appeal to market the cards, but should approach a mass market in the future, Aufseeser says.

"The consumer today as a higher level of education and they will be looking at these cards differently," Aufseeser says. While Russell Simmons has appeared in RushCard's ads for years, he is different than other celebrity endorsers because Simmons maintains a management role with UniRush. 

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