February 29, 2008

Related feature: Evolving Card Business Presents Opportunities and Threats for Banks

KeyBank ($97 billion in assets) has been courting the unbanked with its PayWorks payroll card product for more than eight years. PayWorks is an unbranded, PIN-based debit payroll card that employers can offer their workers.

The idea behind using payroll cards to reach the unbanked is to demonstrate the security and convenience of using cards. The payroll cards save these consumers money in check-cashing fees while eliminating the need for them to carry large amounts of cash, experts say.

"One point of entry for banks is to market the prepaid cards to those who may have previously been unable to attain credit," explains Theodore Gerbick, product manager, disbursement solutions, at Cleveland-based KeyBank. "By providing these individuals with a prepaid product, you are allowing them to build a history with the bank while limiting risk since there is limited exposure for the issuing bank. ... Prepaid cards are definitely a market of growth. Banks still have the opportunity to make a dent in this market because there are so many different growth areas."