New prepaid credit card schemes could help curb spending

15 May 2006
Companies launching new cards aimed at those with no bank account or credit approval have defended their products as risk-free, despite reservations from consumer groups.

A number of plastic cards are being launched on the market that can be used like a credit or debit card but 'topped up' electronically in the same way as a pay-as-you-go mobile phone.

The card companies advocate the use of the prepay cards such as 360Money and SNAP for Internet shopping in particular, as they will enable people who do not have a bank account, as well as those who do not want to entrust their credit card details to websites, access to online purchasing.

Newcomers from overseas, who may find it difficult to get a UK bank account straight away, and gap-year travellers, are also expected to be key customers for the cards.

The root of critics' concerns is that some of the cards are aimed at children and teenagers, who may be tempted into cashless spending without regard for what they can afford.

Despite this, speakers for the card companies have said it is not possible to run up debts using the cards, or face overdraft and interest penalties.

Although some of the programmes charge monthly fees to use a prepaid account, selected cards could be cheaper for people who are prone to overspending and incur regular penalties, as well as helping to set rigid limits and improve money management.

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