Necessity was the mother of invention for a card aimed at new mothers in the United Kingdom.

 Altair Financial Services PLC, a card processor, and Blueberry Card Services LTD., a prepaid card manager, announced May 16 they have launched the BaBee Prepaid MasterCard.

 Mothers receive discounts when using the card at selected retailers online, says Gemma Johnson, Blueberry CEO.

 Johnson created the card while she was pregnant.

 "I was looking for a way for my family to contribute to the birth of my son without buying me duplicate things," she says. "I wanted to create a portal where other mothers could make the most of their money when they needed it the most."

 The BaBee card may be the first card aimed at new mothers, Doyel Maitra, a MasterCard Europe spokesperson, says in an e-mail message.

 Other cards offer discounts for specific merchants, such as the Maestro card that the Aspinall Foundation announced in March, Maitra says.

 The Aspinall Foundation breeds endangered species in wild animal parks in Kent, in the United Kingdom, and reintroduces them to their natural habitats, according to the foundation's Web site. Half of the profits the card generates go to support the foundation. Using the card also gets consumers discounts of up to 25% with certain retailers and at the Aspinall Foundation's shops and in its parks, according to a the foundation.

 Blueberry's Babee card costs $29.11 and can be reloaded for free using the Internet and automatic fund transfers, Johnson says.

 Mothers buy the Babee cards online and receive a personalized card in the mail within two to three days, she says.

 Consumers can reload the card through text messaging for $2.36 or with top-up cards that cost $9.72, Johnson says.

The top-up cards and text messaging enable consumers other than the cardholder to contribute funds to the card, she says.

While mothers cannot use the cards in stores, they can purchase vouchers to use in stores, she says.

 Mothers can buy vouchers  for grocery stores at an 8% discount, and receive them in the mail a few days after buying them, Johnson says.  The vouchers work like a gift certificate or gift card.

 Blueberry plans to offer in-store discounts for the cards, she says.

 H. William Baustein, senior vice president of client services and new business solutions for Stored Value Solutions, a subsidiary of Ceridian Corp. based in Louisville, Ky., says marketing to certain demographics brings higher response rates for retailers and manufacturers who use closed-loop cards to promote certain products than mass promotions.

 At least five of Stored Value Solutions' customers offer cards that enable someone other than the cardholder to load funds onto the card. Baustein says those cards are most popular with parents with children off at college, and he says a system such as the Babee Card where multiple consumers load funds onto one card could be easy to create.

 "All I'm aware of from our base is two cards–that's not to say you couldn't have three or four cards tied to the same account number," Baustein says. "I think one of the reasons it hasn't been done is it has been very easy to do a double card where you just snap them."

 Right now, a new mother has to buy the card herself online so that the issuer can verify personal information about the cardholder. But Blueberry is setting up a system to enable consumers to buy the card as a present and several gift givers could contribute, Johnson says.

 The cards expire after one year, and a cardholder would need to buy a new card to continue getting the discounts, she says.

She predicts the names on the Babee cards will change, but the cards themselves will remain popular.

 "There is a very niche market, but a very renewable market" for the Babee card, Johnson says.

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