For many unbanked consumers, getting a credit or debit card is challenging, if not impossible, so the only plastic in their wallets is a prepaid card. Now, as traditional credit becomes scarcer, even mainstream consumers are starting to use prepaid cards more frequently.

Many consumers turn to prepaid cards because they can't get traditional credit, says Steve Streit, the CEO at Green Dot, a prepaid processor in Los Angeles. "A lot of people want and need the power of plastic but they can't get or don't want the downsides of credit," Streit says. Fellow processors MetaBank, inComm and netSpend also say that they are seeing increased adoption among mainstream consumers, as well as increases in the dollar amounts being loaded onto the cards.

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