I Hate Checks But Don't Trust Cards: How Prepaid Cards Have Evolved

November 14, 2023
Colin Guan
Writing checks to pay participants is slow, clunky, and unnecessarily costly for nonprofits.

Every program manager has a story about losing half of their day to running around, making sure a paper check gets delivered to a participant. There’s a similar narrative with prepaid cards and gift cards, in the sense that they’re just not trustworthy and secure enough.

Given recent developments, that is quickly about to change.

“Prepaid cards used to be issued directly by banks to serve the general population. GiveCard makes it possible to safely distribute funds directly to participants, in that they purposely built their card issuing system to address challenges often encountered in social impact programs.”

We’ll explore the evolution of prepaid cards below, highlighting the common problems they used to pose and how innovative solutions like GiveCard are rewriting the narrative.

Then vs. Now

Prepaid cards used to be issued directly by banks to cater to the general population. Once nonprofits discovered that this made direct cash transfer programs possible, a new set of roadblocks emerged. Traditional issues such as activation problems, predatory fees, and lack of support have made cards effectively unusable, especially in the social impact context, where participants often live at the intersection of poverty, homelessness, and incarceration.

Since then, the landscape of prepaid cards has been redefined. Unlike its predecessors, GiveCard has strategically designed its card issuing system to address the challenges that often hinder the success of social impact programs.


Issues with activation

Activating prepaid cards can be cumbersome, requiring participants to navigate a maze of steps before their cards are usable. This not only created delays but also posed a barrier for participants who needed quick access to funds.

Predatory fees

The prevalence of predatory fees, including shipping fees, inactivity fees, and other restrictive minimums, created financial burdens for both the cardholders and the organizations distributing them.

Lackluster support

The lack of adequate support added an extra layer of complexity. Participants and administrators were left to fend for themselves when faced with issues, leading to frustration and even disengagement from the programs.

It quickly became apparent that a more user-friendly, transparent, and supportive approach was needed to harness the true potential of prepaid cards in the social impact sector.

What’s New

The activation process is NOT required

GiveCard’s cards come pre-activated, eliminating the need for participants to go through a time-consuming activation process. This simple yet impactful feature ensures that funds can be accessed instantly, fostering a sense of trust and reliability.

No Fees

Say goodbye to the days of being nickel-and-dimed by fees. Givecard waives shipping fees, inactivity fees, and other restrictive minimums, making the accounting side of social impact programs more transparent and equitable.

Support and Fraud is taken care of

GiveCard provides round-the-clock cardholder support, ensuring that participants have access to assistance whenever they need it. Additionally, the platform offers 24/7 fraud monitoring and resolution, taking the burden off organizations to manage these complex and time-consuming tasks.

You can make more data-driven decisions

Givecard offers anonymized reporting data on how cardholders spend money. This invaluable information empowers social impact organizations with insights into participant behaviors, giving them a snapshot of how their program is doing at any time.

By understanding spending patterns, organizations stay attentive to the needs of participants. Many organizations are also using reporting data to strengthen their grant proposals, conveying the idea that the org knows exactly where the money is going, and can re-assure donors and grantmakers that the funds will be spent effectively.

The Future of Prepaid Cards in Social Impact

Because of its rocky start in social impact, prepaid cards are still largely viewed as a source of frustration. However, it’s important to realize that it’s becoming a more viable solution for nonprofits, NGOs, and other organizations by the day, and will quickly become the catalyst for large scale direct cash transfers to return to form in the years to come.

To learn more about how GiveCard can help, email colin@givecard.io.

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