By Patti Murphy
Editor's Note: (This article was published by Inside Microfinance Oct. 6, 2010; reprinted with permission. © 2010 InsideMicrofinance.com. All rights reserved.)What does the credit card giant Visa Inc. see in markets where there are lots of unbanked and underbanked consumers? Transactions. With more consumers keeping credit cards out of their wallets more often, the card networks need to replace that transaction volume. After all, payments is a scale business.
There's plenty of data to suggest consumers are using debit cards more frequently than ever, in part because it helps ensure they only spend what they have. Debit cards are good budgeting tools. Ditto for prepaid cards.
So the card giant Visa decided it's time to hitch its brand to this trend and invest marketing dollars in promoting Visa-branded prepaid cards among the unbanked and financially underserved.
"The campaign is designed to reach financially underserved consumers in particular â€“those without traditional banking relationships, access to a payment card or mainstream financial services, and who rely heavily on cash for everyday transactions," the company said in a July 2010 press announcement.
Data collected by the consulting firm Mercator Advisory Group suggests that despite the popularity of prepaid cards generally, large numbers of underserved Americans aren't using the cards.
Mercator's Customer Monitor Survey Series revealed that, in 2009,Â "only a very small number of the unbanked and underserved" had purchased or reloaded general purpose prepaid cards in the previous 12 months, according to Tim Sloane, Director of Prepaid Advisory Services at the firm.
"This clearly indicates that the [card] industry has a significant opportunity to more strongly communicate the benefits of prepaid cards to consumers, as compared to alternatives that include cash and alternative financial services offerings," Sloane added.
Visa's multichannel campaign includes pages on Facebook and other social media websites, online display ads linked to participating card issuers, grassroots events, radio advertising, as well as in-store demonstrations, displays and promotions. The message: reloadable prepaid debit cards enable better money management and empower those consumers looking for an alternative to cash.
"Core to this campaign is Visa's ability to reach consumers who may not realize they can enjoy the benefits of a Visa product, and experience a better alternative to a cash-and-carry lifestyle," said Hyung Choi, Head of U.S. Prepaid Products at Visa. "The campaign builds upon Visa's long-standing commitment to extending financial inclusion to more consumers, while at the same time driving opportunities for Visa, our partners and clients."
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