Bank Rhode Island Inc. of Providence has teamed up with another New England company to offer student travelers a prepaid debit card that is believed to be the first of its kind.
Though there are other prepaid cards for teenagers, including the Visa Buxx card, this one, created by FirstDebit Corp. of Weston, Mass., is specifically for high school students traveling domestically or abroad, and can be used to make purchases, obtain foreign currency, and phone home. FirstDebit provides host-based stored value products.
The sole current distributor of the MasterCard-branded EF Travel Card is EF Tours, of Cambridge, Mass., and teens can apply for it over the Internet.
It works like other stored value cards, giving users access to a predetermined amount of cash.
Bank Rhode Island issues the card, which has parents and teenagers as cosigners and is reloadable.
It hopes EF Travel Card is just the beginning of its involvement in the niche card business.
Merrill W. Sherman, the president and chief executive officer of $835 million-asset Bank Rhode Island, said card technology "allows you to design a card to fit almost any set of circumstances," and she said the bank plans to expand its card services so it can get more fee income.
The product was launched in the spring. It has not been a big money-maker, but, "We'd like to think this is a line of business that is going to have noticeable income," Ms. Sherman said.
FirstDebit president Robert Bickford said EF Travel Card is ideal for parents: It's more convenient than travelers checks, because users do not have to worry about exchanging currency, safer than cash, and better than a credit card because of the preset spending limit.
"We've really found that we've struck a chord with everyone," he said. "Kids love to have it and parents see it as a cash management tool while the kids are on tour, and when they get home as well."