IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The use of prepaid cards for banking the poor


  • Prior, Francesc

    (IESE Business School)

  • Santoma, Javier

    () (IESE Business School)


Prepaid products can become an effective instrument for banking the poor, as they can be used for collecting microdeposits and so operate as a low-cost account. Prepaid platforms have characteristics that make them especially useful for developing low-cost microfinance business models. Indeed, customers using prepaid systems do not need bank accounts or debit or credit cards. Prepaid issuers do not need to develop or invest in new technologies, as this mechanism can be used on a range of platforms, including PCs, mobile phones, hand-held and set-top boxes. Furthermore, prepaid products are specially designed for offering services demanded by the poor, such as micropayments, microdeposits and even microcredits. Lastly, they allow users to monitor their cash flow by receiving statements (some providers offer this feature online, others provide physical statements) or accessing balances through PCs, mobile phones, hand-held and set-top boxes. Besides collecting microdeposits, prepaid products (or SVCs as they are called in the United States) offer other services that can be very valuable for serving the unbanked population. As explained in this paper, prepaid products generally lack the identification and credit requirements that effectively bar millions of individuals from opening traditional bank accounts, especially in the United States. Moreover, prepaid products can be purchased and reloaded at a growing number of locations other than bank branches, such as check cashers, convenience stores and other retailers. Prepaid instruments can also provide immediate availability of funds at a cost that, in some cases, is lower than other alternatives for unbanked consumers. Also, prepaid products are difficult to overdraw, thus reducing the likelihood of unexpected fees. Lastly, many prepaid issuers offer some sort of bill pay option, especially branded cards that enable signature-based transactions, and a significant number of them offer remittances.

Suggested Citation

  • Prior, Francesc & Santoma, Javier, 2008. "The use of prepaid cards for banking the poor," IESE Research Papers D/752, IESE Business School.
  • Handle: RePEc:ebg:iesewp:d-0752

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item


    Prepaid card; microdeposits; mobile phone; store value card; e-money; banking the poor;

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ebg:iesewp:d-0752. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Noelia Romero). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.