Kardashian Kard aftermath a sign of improved financial literacy?

Written by Curtis Arnold
Posted On: December 16, 2010

We track plenty of prepaid debit cards and secured credit cards here at CardRatings.com, so it didn't seem too unusual when we heard the Kardashian sisters were planting their faces on a MasterCard aimed at young consumers. The fees were somewhat higher than many of the other prepaid debit cards on the market, but still nowhere near the worst our team has ever seen. You probably already know what happened next.

Researchers at the Pew Charitable Trusts have charted the impact of new federal regulations on debit and credit card issuers. The team behind the Safe Credit Cards Project looks for loopholes that allow banks to impose unfair penalties on consumers. They've discovered some interesting facts about families that rely on prepaid debit cards, such as:

  • As many as one in four Americans is either "unbanked" or "underbanked," relying more on retail stores than banks for crucial financial services.
  • "Unbanked" California families typically spend $700 a year in fees with prepaid card dealers or check cashing stores to avoid visiting bank branches.
  • Consumers responding to Pew surveys cited fears of hidden checking account and credit card fees as a reason they avoid traditional banks.

Fueled by the need to pinch pennies as the economy struggles to improve, Americans have entered a sort of post-recession personal finance renaissance. $700 might have seemed like the cost of doing business for many families a few years ago. Today, many of us want to learn how to really save that money instead of letting it slip through the cracks in our banking system.

While critics derided the Kardashians for targeting young people, more families have committed to developing their financial literacy. Whether it involves sharing stories from Sammy Rabbit's collection or playing Financial Football, parents are finding more ways to help kids understand how banks really work. Some of that learning must have taken root, since only 250 Kardashian Kard accounts were ever opened.

Some prepaid debit cards really do add value for their customers, without imposing the outrageous fees that attracted criticism to the Kardashian Kard. We have a list of the very best prepaid cards in our database. As other celebrities take back the spotlight from Kim and her sisters, it's important to understand the difference between a banking product that offers real convenience and a cynical scheme to strip consumers of their hard-earned cash.

About the author:
Curtis Arnold
Curtis Arnold, a nationally recognized consumer educator and advocate, has been educating consumers about credit cards since 1998. Curtis is the author of "How You Can Profit from Credit Cards: Using Credit to Improve Your Financial Life and Bottom Line" (FT Press, 2008). He is also the co-author of the upcoming Complete Idiot's Guide to Person-to-Person Lending (Alpha Books/Pengiun Group USA, April 2009), a contribitor to The Ultimate Allowance (InnerWealth Publishing, 2008) and is extensively featured in 42 RulesTM for Driving Success With Books (Super Star Press, January 2009).
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