T-Mobile Makes a Prepaid Card Play with Mobile Focus

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T-Mobile is launching a prepaid card, aiming to use mobile account access as a selling point to attract underbanked consumers.

The reloadable prepaid Visa card, offered through T-Mobile's Mobile Money initiative, offers direct deposit, free in-network ATM withdrawals and mobile remote check deposit to woo consumers away from check-cashing stores.

The card's users can also reload the account from T-Mobile stores, a feature that turns the carrier's distribution network into a substitute for a bank branch network. Other retailer prepaid card programs, such as Walgreens' Balance Financial, treat the store network as a means to provide account services such as balance inquiries and reloads.

T-Mobile's card also supports loads through Reloadit Packs, Visa ReadyLink and MoneyGram.

"Millions of Americans pay outrageous fees to check cashers, payday lenders and other predatory businesses – just for the right to use their own money. Mobile Money shifts the balance of power for T-Mobile customers and keeps more money in their pockets," says John Legere, president and chief executive officer of T-Mobile, in a Jan. 22 press release.

T-Mobile is also a partner in the Isis mobile wallet venture, whose other participants are AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Isis users can open a separate prepaid card account, called Serve, through American Express. Consumers can also link some JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo cards to Isis to fund mobile payments at the point of sale.

The Bancorp Bank issues T-Mobile's prepaid Visa card, which is distributed and serviced by Blackhawk Network.

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