MasterCard Inc. is trying to expand the market for payroll cards to include more small businesses and their employees through a partnership with the Better Business Bureau of Nashville.
The Purchase, N.Y., company plans to unveil a prepaid debit card today for businesses accredited by the Nashville bureau and some of its counterparts in other cities.
Ted Dargan, a vice president of U.S. market development at MasterCard, said in an interview last week that the card would be another step in developing the uses and appeal of payroll products beyond their traditional audience of government agencies and other large organizations.
"It's going to evolve," he said. "As the market matures, so will the prepaid card."
Kathleen Calligan, the chief executive of the Better Business Bureau of Nashville, said its member businesses had "concerns for their employees," some of whom were unbanked and were using check cashers. For employers, "payroll cost savings is a key motivator."
Mr. Dargan said that even employees with traditional bank accounts could use the payroll card. "It's not just meant for the underbanked. It's meant for professionals and consultants getting checks for other reasons" or on a semi-regular basis. "There are 14 million households that could potentially look at this product. It's not for everybody," but he expects it to appeal to "people looking for cost efficiencies, especially at this time."
The Better Business Bureau of Nashville developed the TrustCard payroll card with MasterCard and Verities Inc., a Clarksville, Tenn., prepaid product developer and marketer.
Palm Desert National Bank in California will issue the cards, and i2c Inc. of Redwood Shores will process them.
There are no up-front fees for businesses that use the cards or for employees who receive them. There is an average fee of $2.50 for cash withdrawals from automated teller machines, but there are no fees for point of sale transactions or money transfers from the cards to checking or savings accounts.
Ms. Calligan said that text-message transaction alerts have been built into the cards.
The Better Business Bureau of Nashville has about 5,200 accredited businesses, with an average of 29 employees each, she said. About 50 employers have expressed interest in the cards, and by the end of next month it expects to have issued nearly 5,000 of the cards.
Ms. Calligan intends to expand the program's reach across the nation. The Nashville bureau has made the cards available to Better Business Bureaus in DuPont, Wash., Minneapolis, and Jacksonville, Fla.
The four bureaus have a total of more than 25,000 accredited member businesses, she said.