Blackhawk Network, a leading provider of prepaid and financial payments products for consumers and businesses, today announced that GiftCardMall.com is the winner of a Stevie Award for Web Site or Blog - Financial Services at the 2010 American Business Awards.
"At Blackhawk Network, we are always looking to provide new and innovative gift products for consumers," said Talbott Roche, senior vice president of Blackhawk Network. "Our e-gift card and customizable gift card features on GiftCardMall.com have proven to be popular throughout the past year, and we look forward to continuing to find ways to enhance the consumer experience on the site."
Russell Simmons just scored a victory on Capitol Hill.
The hip-hop mogul, founder of Def Jam Recordings and vegan yogi also sells prepaid debit cards and has successfully lobbied for changes in the financial services reform bill and its regulation of credit card fees.
The debate over so-called interchange fees has brought out some big guns: merchants, including titans such as Wal-Mart Stores, that pay the fees on one side and large banks and credit card issuers that receive the fees on the other. Consumer groups cheered the agreement to bring oversight to the fees, saying the savings would be passed on to consumers.
Transaction Wireless, a provider of virtual and mobile gift cards, has launched a new gift card solution for social gifting. TW's gift card "store" built on Facebook Platform allows friends - especially ones who routinely count on Facebook's birthday reminders - to create customizable messages with instant delivery or a time-select option to arrive during a party, event or other special occasion. The card is delivered directly to the mobile phone and an email address for printing options.
TW's Facebook application is available immediately and is launching with Bass Pro Shops. Gift recipients don't have to be on Facebook to receive the card - delivery is made to mobile, email and via Facebook, simultaneously.
"Gifting on Facebook is super convenient and easy but until now the gifts have been virtual or a gift that must be delivered - taking days in the mail to arrive and with extra shipping expenses," said Bruce Springer, President and CEO, Transaction Wireless. "With our Facebook store offering, the delivery is instant, totally customizable with voice, video or text messages and, if you choose, you can announce to the rest of your friends on Facebook what you've just sent or received."
Swelling numbers of cards means more choices than ever. And that applies to fees, too. Depending on the card they choose, consumers can be hit with many fees that rapidly add up.
Most prepaid debit card fees are predictable, such as those for activation or reloading. But there can be unexpected fees too -- calling customer service, checking balances and even inactivity -- that can add up over time. That's why it pays to do some extra digging, says Michelle Jun, a staff attorney at Consumers Union.
"Fee structures aren't as simple as consumers expect," says Jun. "So they have to be aware." Between activation and initial load fees, consumers can pay up to $30 just to buy a prepaid debit card, according to Consumers Union.
Fee-hunting aside, some consumers can benefit mightily from the cards. They work much like regular debit cards, because they're reloadable and can be used to make payments or purchases. Spending is limited to the balance on your card.
So, the prepaid debit cards are well-suited to people who are locked out of traditional bank accounts, travelers, and parents who dish out allowances to their kids. People can also use the cards to shop online or pay bills. Spending is easily monitored because you're not paying cash. And most prepaid debit cards don't charge fees for card purchases, according to Consumers Union.
"The products are evolving in sophistication," says Elizabeth Robertson, director of payments research at Javelin Research & Strategy. "There's a broader array of alternatives." The research firm estimates that prepaid card usage will more than double by 2014.
Because the cards are typically co-branded with a major credit card company, she adds, you're probably protected from fraud. "The liability policies of credit card companies apply," Robertson says, "so that offers extra protection."
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville purchased a stake in Green Dot Corp., a provider of prepaid debit cards also known as general purpose reloadable cards.
According to a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on June 2, Wal-Mart purchased 2.2 million shares of Green Dot's Class A common stock, which is estimated to be less than 1 percent of the total available.
Green Dot is already an exclusive provider of Walmart MoneyCards, and that agreement was recently extended to May 2015. In the same SEC filing, Green Dot said it is seeking regulatory approval to acquire Bonneville Bancorp of Utah for about $15.7 million so that it can become more vertically integrated. The private company is also expected to offer public stock.
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