Credit unions can provide a useful debit alternative for every member

For most of us, the idea of not having an account for our money seems absurd. It’s just the way we were raised. It might shock you, but there are still consumers out there who choose not to have a share draft account. There are those among us who still believe in keeping their money in the mattress or a mason jar.

No, they’re not strange hermits living in the woods, wearing foil hats, fearing an economic crash and the pending arrival of the mothership. They simply don’t find share draft requirements comfortable with their lifestyle.

Last year the FDIC released a study that over 17 million Americans don’t have a deposit account at a bank or credit union at all, and another 51 million are “underbanked.” That means they use alternative financial solutions to manage their money.

It’s easy to make assumptions, but in truth, it isn’t always due to less income or poor credit. Many live on the road due to their employment, or find their income seasonally. It can make maintaining a minimum balance or transaction requirement difficult.

The problem is, in a world that’s rapidly going digital, that cash-only lifestyle is increasingly harder to maintain. The days of walking down to the phone company to pay your bill in cash are over. Buying money orders is an inconvenient and unnecessary expense. They should have the option to pay with a debit card without being forced into a situation they’re just not comfortable with. They deserve a safer alternative than carrying their savings in their wallet.

Credit unions, which live a mission to help their communities, cannot ignore these potential members.

There is an alternative: prepaid debit cards.

Prepaid debit cards function the same as traditional debit cards, and offer even more security because they’re not linked directly to a share draft account. They are easily reloadable, and cannot be overdrawn so they also work as a great budgeting tool.

“Our members travel a lot and we don’t have a regular debit card,” says Nektaria Felecos of Las Vegas UP Employees Federal Credit Union. Roughly 80% of their members are employees of Union Pacific Railroad, which offers the CUMONEY® Everyday Spend prepaid card from LSC®.  “A prepaid debit card works great for that purpose. Now they have the convenience of a Visa card for purchases, free bill payment, and access to cash at ATMs.”

Credit unions considering a prepaid debit card program for their members should look for cards that provide:

  • Safety: a program that offers Visa’s Zero Liability consumer coverage and mitigates risk for members
  • Security: cards that are not linked to your members’ personal information and provide the latest EMV chip card technology
  • Convenience: a good card program should provide a free companion mobile app and 24/7 online access
  • Reloadability: cards that can be loaded with a mobile app, at the credit union, on a member website, on a mobile app, at Visa ReadyLink locations, or even via an auto-funding feature

Prepaid cards are accepted everywhere traditional Visa cards are, but without the high interest of credit cards. Even members with share draft accounts and traditional debit cards are using prepaid cards, especially when travelling. It’s the perfect combination of convenience and security.

With a prepaid debit card, members can experience the convenience and comfort of shopping or paying bills in person, on the phone, or online even if they don’t have a share draft account.

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