A Smarter Way To Bank

Seems like you can’t swing a cat without hitting a new prepaid debit card these days. But one new entry into the crowded market, called the Next Step Card, has a very specific clientele in mind: recovering addicts.

In some ways, the card is just like any other prepaid debit card. Family members and others load money on the card, which can then be used at any business that accepts MasterCard.

A new prepaid card for recovering addicts can't be used at bars, strip clubs or liquor stores.

But unlike other cards, the Next Step Card has special controls built in that will cause it to be declined at places dangerous to those trying to kick an alcohol or drug addiction, such as bars, casinos and liquor stores. To prevent users from circumventing the controls, they also won’t be able to receive cash back with purchases or withdraw cash from ATMs. Cardholders can also set up daily transaction limits and text alerts that notify them if the user tries to make a purchase at an unauthorized business.

According to Ben Wolford of the Sun Sentinel, the cost will be $9.95 to activate the card and $14.95 a month to keep it activated.

That may sound pretty pricey, but it’s a relative bargain when you consider the time and resources put into getting former addicts back on their feet, says Michael Gordon, executive director of Sunset House, a nonprofit halfway house in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

“We monitor what they’re spending. So the amount of time that we put into that, I see the $15 fee as being very reasonable,” Gordon says. “People go to (the Hanley Center) and do a month or 60 days there, and then they come to us for probably six months after. So we transition them back into getting a job, going back to school, and into those daily living skills. And budgeting is one of those big things that we try to work on with the guys.”

Gordon says having a card that allows easy monitoring could be a helpful tool for family members and halfway houses providing guidance during those crucial first months out of addiction treatment.

Still, while he sees the restrictions on where you can use the card as a possible benefit, it won’t be a silver bullet for avoiding relapses.

“Ultimately, somebody would be able to possibly go and buy something and trade it for drugs or alcohol. If they want to get it, they’re going to get it,” he says. “But it’s a good step in the right direction for holding somebody accountable.”

What do you think? Is a special prepaid debit card for addicts a good idea?