Campus finance offers evolve

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Campus finance offers evolve
Campus finance offers evolve
“We've consistently reached out to young people with personal finance education tools that are transparent and intuitive,” said Donna Wells, CMO of Mint.com. “As students head to college, they are faced with one of the biggest financial decisions with very little education. For many, it's the larg­est amount of debt they will incur until they consider buying a house.”

Mint.com received more than 1 million page views in August and had nearly 50,000 new members sign up that month, all of which has been organic growth, according to Wells. The company has an RSS feed on its blog, optimizes its content for search engines and sends out weekly e-mail blasts that have an “invite-a-friend” link.

Increased vigilance from consumers, schools and consumer protection groups has also forced financial services companies to draw in young customers in new ways. Many companies now push prepaid debit cards, rather than credit cards, to college students. Prepaid cards don't allow students to spend more money than is placed in the account, eliminating the possibility of debt; however, they also don't allow students to establish credit histories. Prepaid cards also often carry daunting withdrawal and non-use fees, but few hold these cards to the same scrutiny as loans and credit cards.

“I don't think there's any direct connec­tion between debit cards and student loans — they're two totally different things,” said Scott Galit, EVP of MetaBank, though he agrees that many prepaid debit cards, like student loans, target the college student market. “It enters into the debate of how you balance getting people into the credit system so they can build credit responsibly, while not getting them overextended and not having anything that is abusive being marketed to them,” he said.

This summer, MetaBank launched Face­card, a prepaid card that targets young con­sumers with a Facebook page and a Web site at Facecard.com. It is being promoted at 50 colleges this fall. Fees include $1.50 for ATM withdrawals and $4.95 per month if the card is inactive for more than 90 days. Facecard also offers monetary enticements, called “Prewards,” that encourage card­members to shop with Facecard's market­ing partners.

“Anytime we market anything to any­body, it's important to just be completely transparent about what's going on and how things are being handled in terms of costs,” Galit said. “The burden goes up with young people — the standards are higher, there's no question. That said, there are certainly some very exciting opportunities.”

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