Since recovery from recession has been slow and as financial health has become more top-of-mind for most Americans, trying to make less money pay for more — financial technology has helped some to move forward.
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Mobile banking options have become appealing to a large swath of Americans, who want to access funds instantly, without having to wait, or who simply want to avoid late fees, hidden fees, and overdraft charges.
Card.com was founded in January 2012 by Ben Katz in Los Angeles. The startup is an online bank — where a debit card and your mobile phone are all you need to maintain an account.
“We’re the card that cares. Banking and the overall banking system is made for people with big savings. Not everyone has tens of thousands in savings. We focus on 90% of people out there,” Katz said.
“We are a safe and secure place to get your paycheck. Our users can bank from the palm of their hand.”
Katz was previously a Senior Director at Green Dot, a Pasadena, California-based financial tech company that offers pre-paid debit cards.
“While at Green Dot, I worked on online partnerships. I noticed it was very hard to convince someone to order a Kmart-branded card. I thought: What if you offered people awesome brands? Brands they love,” he said about the beginnings of his idea for Card.com.
Katz also previously founded Coveroo, the second largest seller of iPhone cases on the Internet. Many of the cases donned people’s favorite sports teams and colleges.
“I knew how to offer logos and brands to fans. People want tricked out, they want style, and they want to self-express,” he said. “Now we do that at Card.com with Visa cards. Through the branding, we hope to have a life-long relationship with our customers.”
Popular branding on the cards — the startup offers over 2,000 designs — Katz believes builds brand affinity and makes banking a bit more fun.
To get started with Card.com, their process is simple. To get a card, there is no credit check (as long as you present verified I.D.), and there is no sign-up fee. To begin, you choose a card you like (that could be a Van Gogh painting or Care Bears or Star Trek, or almost any pop culture icon) from their website.
You enter your Social Security Number, telephone number and address. Your new card is mailed to you within three to seven days (depending on which coast you live on).
Users can begin uploading money onto the card (by taking a photo of a check or linking your direct deposit from work to your Card.com card).
The card can be used anywhere Visa is accepted (just like a debit card). There are no overdraft fees (if you go over the amount of money on the card, the card simply will not work). There is also no minimum balance you have to keep on the card to keep the account.
Card.com cards are free, if customers deposit at least $800 into their account each month. If less than $800 per month is deposited, there is a $5.95 fee.
“Our customers are 25 to 55 years old. They are both male and female. They are people with jobs. It typically has to be someone who trusts their mobile phone,” Katz said about Card.com’s average customer.
“We focus on the average working person who knows how to use their smart phone really well.”
In 2014, Card.com will be launching many new initiatives. Some of them include:
- Money Transfer. “We’re adding money transfer, so you can send money to a foreign country. Or anywhere in the U.S.”
- User-uploaded Art. “This allows you to take your Instagram, Facebook, or phone photos and put them on your card. We want to make finance fashionable.”
- Credit Cards. “The reason we got into credit cards is our number one customer service request has been: ‘I wish you offered credit cards.’” The startup recently raised $3 million in Series A funding to help them focus on offering credit cards. The round was led by QED Investors, a private fund of Capital One co-founder Nigel Morris. Santa Monica-based Anthem Venture Partners also participated in the round.
Overall, Katz is hoping to making people’s financial lives something they enjoy more.
He described a customer signing up for an Elvis Presley-branded card, and then that customer enjoying “Jailhouse Rock” as their hold music, when they call into his company.
“We want to support personalization,” he said. “We win more former customers from the big banks than anyone else.”
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