Blackhawk Network has rebranded its reloadable prepaid debit products and cut many of its fees in an effort to increase market share.
The company's Visa-branded PayPower card, which it announced on Aug. 23, is now the centerpiece of its product line.
It also rolled out a prepaid travel card and a Spanish-language version of the PayPower card on Aug. 23.
Blackhawk, a unit of the grocery chain Safeway Inc., previously focused on promoting its Only1 prepaid card line. Those products are still active, but the company is offering cardholders the option of switching to its new PayPower card, Teri Llach, Blackhawk's group vice president of product development and marketing, said in an interview.
Llach said the new PayPower products are the result of Blackhawk's efforts to determine what features would work best in the reloadable prepaid space.
"Even a couple of years ago, [industry players] were trying to figure out what was the right product with the right features" that would increase cardholder retention, she said.
Blackhawk, of Pleasanton, Calif., has used customer feedback to make a number of changes to its prepaid products.
PayPower's purchase fee is $3.95, compared with $9.95 for the Only1 card, and cardholders pay a $5.95 monthly maintenance fee.
PayPower's reload fee also is $3.95. The Only1 reload fee varied by retailer, and it also carried a $4.95 month maintenance fee for users.
A new feature for the PayPower card is a free bill-payment service. Only1 provided a bill-pay service the offered one free electronic and check payment per week and charged cardholders $1 for each additional payment.
PayPower also features free direct deposit and free customer service.
The cards are issued by Metabank, a Storm Lake, Iowa, unit of Meta Financial Group; Blackhawk processes the card transactions.
Blackhawk now is competing with such established players as Green Dot Corp., the top prepaid card marketer, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which sells prepaid products.
Llach said the growing segment can accommodate several prepaid card providers.
"We think there is a big enough opportunity in this market as consumers continue to embrace prepaid," she said.
Llach acknowledged that Blackhawk needs to continue to develop and add more functions to its cards to differentiate itself from competitors. Besides exploring mobile features, the industry as a whole also should examine loyalty incentives, she said.
A growing number of prepaid card companies are including such features as bill payment, mobile and linked savings accounts to help stem churn.
PayPower cards are available at Blackhawk's Gift Card Mall — typically near cash registers in Safeway stores.
However, Llach said that the PayPower cards should be displayed separately from gift card racks. "We want to make sure customers know the difference between a branded gift card and a reloadable prepaid card," she said.
The travel card is a reloadable product that has a foreign-transaction fee that represents up to 2% of the transaction amount.
Other features include lost-luggage reimbursement ($250 maximum per trip, $1,000 maximum per cardholder) and travel and emergency service assistance.