Prepaid Card Provides Bridge to Credit for Recovering Addicts

May 13, 2013

Recovering from addiction can be a long, difficult process that doesn't end when a person leaves rehab. Learning how to function as a sober member of society can also be difficult to manage, particularly when it comes to managing finances. Now a group of recovering addicts has created a prepaid card that's intended help addicts learn how to manage credit and have financial independence in the real world.

The Next Step Prepaid MasterCard is not just a tool for recovering addicts, it also helps their families learn how to help their loved ones going through the recovery process instead of feeling like they're enablers. The card is particularly geared for those going through the early stages of recovery, who need strict structures and boundaries to help them learn to how to control compulsive spending that may either be at the heart of their addiction, or a manifestation that occurs when trying to curb one type of addiction.

Support is also another key aspect of this card program, as the card requires a virtual cardholder who controls the money limits on the card. The recovering addict is considered to be the "companion" on the account.

To open an account, the support person who will act as the primary cardholder orders a card through the Next Step website. That person then receives an e-mail confirmation with information on activating and registering the virtual card. The primary cardholder then activates the account and orders a companion card to be used by the recovering addict. This card also features a photograph of the companion cardholder to prevent him from selling or trading the card.

The primary accountholder can then load money onto the card through a credit or debit card, direct deposit, a checking account or by using a GreenDot MoneyPak, which is a way to add cash funds to a prepaid card without using a bank or credit card account.

Once the card has money on it, it's ready for use. The primary cardholder can customize a budget and set restrictions for the companion cardholder. Additionally, the card may not be used at a variety of establishments where the companion cardholder might be tempted to slide back into addiction. These include places where alcohol is primarily served or sold, namely bars, cocktail lounges, taverns, nightclubs and liquor stores. Also restricted are gambling establishments and transactions, escort and dating services, massage parlors, pawn shops and bail bond payments. The one caveat is that if a merchant categorizes itself as a "restaurant," yet serves alcohol, the companion cardholder may still be able to purchase it. Next Step Network, LLC, cannot be held liable in case an alcoholic purchase does occur at an establishment that's classified as a restaurant.

The card also restricts the companion cardholder's access to cash, which is intended to help curb habits related to compulsive spending. The card may not be used at ATMs to withdraw money, and cardholders may not ask for cash back when making a purchase.

The account cardholders then can work together to establish spending limits and budgets that will give the companion cardholder the freedom to spend money yet learn to spend it wisely. The virtual cardholder is the only one allowed to set and change limits on the account, and he can set daily spending limits and monthly spending by category or number of transactions. The card can also send alerts to the virtual cardholder's e-mail or phone so they may stay on top of the companion cardholder's spending and, if necessary, block transactions from happening.

Next Step does charge to use its card. It has a one-time enrollment fee of $9.95, which includes the primary virtual card and the companion card. It also has a $14.95 monthly fee.

The company hopes that its card will help recovering addicts be able to transition toward successfully managing their own money and spending. Its website also has a section on money and addiction, with blog posts about different aspects of addiction, how it can affect a person's attitude toward money and how recovering addicts can learn to manage their finances.

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