In February 2009, Prepaid Solutions USA and video game publisher Capcom Entertainment unveiled the Capcom Unity prepaid card. It's an open-loop, Visa Inc.-branded card targeted to gamers who play such popular Capcom video games as Resident Evil, Bionic Commando and Street Fighter.
Doug Bobenhouse, Director of Business Development, Prepaid Solutions USA, said the prepaid card program leverages Capcom's social networking community Web site, Capcom-Unity.com, to offer gamers additional incentives to use the card as an alternative banking tool.
"We see an opportunity for consumers who want to earn points and want to leverage their everyday spend - the everyday spend you see for bill payments and buying groceries and going out to dinner and paying for your dry cleaning, whatever you've got to do," Bobenhouse said.
The Capcom Unity card has three main components: discounts, rewards and access. When cardholders use their Capcom Visa cards to make purchases from Capcom's online store, they get a 15 percent discount.
On the rewards side, cardholders receive 0.5 percent back of the purchase when they use their cards in online or brick-and-mortar stores. West Suburban Bank, the Capcom Unity card issuer and parent company to Prepaid Solutions USA, is funding that 0.5 percent from its interchange fee revenues.
The final spoke in the program is access. Prepaid Solutions USA partnered with rewards network provider BSP Rewards to assemble a merchant-funded discount network of 750 online merchants accessed through Capcom's portal.
"So if you shop through that portal, you'll earn between 1 and 15 percent back in reward value," Bobenhouse said. "And that's funded by all those merchants. ... If I go to Best Buy, for instance, through this portal, I might make 2 percent back. And so after my transaction clears with Best Buy and they verify the transaction actually happened, they will settle 2 percent back to the consumer."
Capcom's social network relies on in-house credit called Unity points. When gamers accumulate a certain number of points, they can redeem them for gaming tips and tricks, for instance, or blog space.
But the addition of the Unity Visa card allows for greater synergy between Capcom's gaming universe and the real world, Bobenhouse said.
"If [cardholders] sign up for direct deposit, they'll get 500 unity points for every direct deposit transaction that hits their card," he said. "And they'll get five unity points for every dollar that gets loaded on the card no matter what. So that's pretty cool if they're really into [gaming]. It's relevant to that consumer base."
Along with direct deposit, the Unity card can be set up for money transfers, text message alerts for low balances and "all kinds of different tools like that so that you can really manage your day to day monetary life with the card," he said.
Since the cards are Visa-branded, cardholders can access cash wherever Visa cards are accepted for payment. Additionally, the cards can be reloaded at thousands of Visa ReadyLink locations.
The card is designed to appeal to teen and young adult consumers - individuals who may be disillusioned with traditional banking, Bobenhouse noted. If they are experiencing low or negative balances on their demand deposit checking accounts, they are likely being charged high fees by banks.
Thus, an alternative service such as the one provided by the Capcom Visa card may suit young consumers better. "We're basically saying to people, 'Hey, this is a better money management, better value for you as a young consumer than a retail checking account,'" Bobenhouse noted.
The market for Capcom games is huge; Bobenhouse said 14 million Capcom games are sold every year. Bobenhouse wants to tap that large consumer base. Ironically, the card program designed to lure disaffected consumers away from banks may in the end funnel them back to West Suburban Bank.
Bobenhouse said the bank comprises 35 branches in the Chicago suburbs, with approximately $2 billion in assets. He hopes the Capcom Visa card will help grow the bank's deposit base.
"From our perspective, this allows us to actually leverage the brand power of somebody like Capcom, drive enrollment and drive deposits into our institution, and basically [take advantage of] the lower overhead costs with managing a prepaid account versus managing a checking account," Bobenhouse said.
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