Yesterday on the tube to Brixton I saw an ad for a really exciting product: a prepaid MasterCard. The promise was the possibility to take part in financial transactions that require cards (phone/Internet shops) without having a bank account.
Which is a huge fucking deal. For me personally there are already two use cases that make it worth the fees:
- Having lots of cash but no bank account. Happens to drug traders and women traffickers, but also to people who move to a foreign country for a job. Especially when that country happens to have strict banking laws that make it notoriously hard to get an account.
- But more importantly (as I now have my account :), this solves privacy issues that used to be insurmountable. You can pay with your card without leaving traces that can be linked back to you. Most people don't worry about such things, but the few who do tend to be fanatics. I'm personally quite happy to pay in cash most of the time. Especially when I buy tracking devices such as the Oyster card...
Turns out my local off-license shop sells the card. So I bought one with £50 balance, plus £3 fee. Will now try it out in various situations.
Fees and Limitations
You pay £3 fee for getting a card, plus the amount of money you want to charge it with. The maximum charge is £100. You can't charge it again, instead you'll need to buy a new card. (Which means you might loose some money with each card you 'almost' discharged.)
There is a transaction fee of 2%, with a minimum of 50p and a maximum of £1.
But for me there are two limitations that bother me more than these fees. The first is that you first need to activate it via an 0800 number, which I have yet to do (I'm going to use a public phone), and which is an inconvenience.
The second is that according to their Terms & Conditions Internet and phone shopping will only work after registering the card (presumably because every MasterCard needs a card holder.) Registering happens either via the Internet or for a fee via the phone. I have yet to try this out.
Other than that it's imo the best thing that happened in the financial sector since we invented those little plastic cards. Looking forward to see this develop as competition evolves.
(I briefly mentioned this on the internal Last.fm IRC channel. RJ's comment: "ah yeah, kids are using them to buy online porn apparently..")