FONU2 Inc. is gearing up to launch a prepaid debit card consumers worldwide may use to pay for local services and goods using a Facebook application on their computers or mobile phones when the company rolls out its online buying-and-selling website.

The launch could come “in as little as 90 days,” says Jeffrey Pollitt, the company’s chairman and CEO. The Visa- and MasterCard-branded cards are designed as an alternative to traditional prepaid cards for consumers–often the unemployed or underemployed–who don’t qualify for credit cards or traditional debit cards issued by banks and tied to checking or savings accounts.

FONU2 is negotiating with banks to issue the cards.

The prepaid market is a lucrative one. Mercator Advisory Group estimates the total prepaid market size in 2012will reach $549.7 billion.

Fees for the FONU2 cards will be “competitive” with other cards, with an activation fee between $5 and $7 and monthly fees that depend on card balances, Pollitt says.

Based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., FONU2 is a consumer financial services company that functions like an order-reservations and booking system. Through the company’s Card Community Network, sellers will list their service or item price on FONU2.com, and buyers can search for local merchants for the goods and services they want. All orders and payments will be done through mobile phones or computers.

Consumers searching on Google online for items and services, for example, would be linked to sellers on the FONU2 network. The shoppers download the Facebook app and connect with the sellers. Signing up the FONU2 network takes about 30 seconds, Pollitt says.

Consumers who join the network will receive a plastic chip-and-PIN debit card that they can load via direct deposit of a paycheck, through a bankcard or some other source, but the card isn’t needed to complete the actual transaction. When sellers deliver a service or item, they tap a “delivered” button in the app on their phone, and the buyers pay by tapping the “pay” key in the app on their phones or computers. The buyer’s remaining card balance is displayed in their FONU2.com account.

In conjunction with the product launch, FONU2 plans a “blitzkrieg” of social-media campaigns on Twitter and Facebook to attract Gen Y consumers ages 30 and younger, who tend to be heavy users of prepaid cards and have grown up with social networking, Pollitt says.

Eight in 10 Gen Y consumers report having used a prepaid debit card, with frequency of use averaging nearly 20 times per month, Elena Dragut, FONU2 administrator and market analyst, said in a news release.

“Gen Y consumers may represent the beginning of the much-touted checkless and cashless society,” she said.

“Viral events” also are planned to coincide with the card launch to encourage FONU2 members to spread the word about its availability so other consumers join the network, Pollitt says.

The FONU2 app works with many aspects of Facebook, including the news feed, localization and notification functions, enabling the company to market its prepaid card through the social network, Pollitt says.

Sellers on the FONU2 platform have multiple ways to market themselves. Those who offer more than one service can create sub-pages in addition to their Facebook profile page listing the other services, the prices and when they are available for delivery, Pollitt says.

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