The deciders of all things prepaid need to re-think how they speak about their consumer-facing communication tools - and it should begin with dropping the phrase "text message alert."
Text message alerts are generally used to alert a customer that he or she has just made a transaction. I enjoy the
experience. Often, I've received a text from GoBank or Balance Financial before I get up from the table. While any account can conceivably be set up to facilitate this service, I cannot currently get it on debit card purchases made in my Wells Fargo checking account. I can get minimum balance threshold, ATM withdrawal, and brokerage trade confirmations. But prepaid is all about the now, and the instant text is one element of that energy.
But I think those deciders would do themselves a regulatory "solid" if they re-named it. I think the text message alert should be re-framed as the "micro-statement." When you get right down to it, the term micro-statement is a more apt characterization of the need that is being met.
People want to know how much money they have on their card right now - not how much they had at the end of last month. Does it really matter how much you had on the 30th? It would matter if you had written several checks, if you had an outbound ACH waiting to clear, or if you had asked for a bill payment. But the only checks on prepaid are pre-cleared, in practice there are very few cards that have outbound ACH, and bill payment is a consciously-implemented event. So folks, your balance is your balance.
As my 9-year old girl says to me most every day when she quotes Queen Elsa:
"The past is in the past. Let it go, let it go!"
But don't wait to see Frozen. Just ask Dan Henry - he will be more than eager to tell you the same thing.
Empirically, customer use underscores how card users want to communicate with their program manager. I have heard that less than one percent of GoBank account holders have ever asked for a paper statement. Granted, I have never been able to get one myself because I've never downloaded the right PDF reader on my Android phone. But just as I am sure it is possible to do it, I know that hardly anyone ever feels the need to ask for a paper copy.
The new bottom line: a text message alert is a micro-statement.