Biz Bits: College students turn to prepaid cards for security, convenience

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Tip of the Week

A simple financial tool popular with college students is the prepaid card. These enable the user to easily receive funds (whether through wages or deposits), budget, pay bills, make purchases and withdraw cash. As the name implies, the funds accessible through prepaid cards are prepaid, so they help avoid debt and overspending.

The “student card,” offered by a financial institution through a relationship with a college or university, is a specific type of prepaid card that allows students to receive financial aid and student loans on the cards. Just like with any other prepaid product, laws and federal regulations govern student cards to ensure students and their funds are protected. Still, users should always read the full terms and conditions, paying particular attention to fees, before committing to any card or other financial account.

Prepaid cards are a safer option than carrying cash, and the zero liability policies of the payments networks apply if the cards are lost or stolen. But, when cash is necessary, student cards provide several ways for students to access cash without incurring fees, including through in-network ATMs, surcharge-free ATMs and free cash back with purchases.

The Network Branded Prepaid Card Association offers tips to help ensure a positive experience for college students considering student cards:

* Many cards offer free online balance inquiry, budgeting tools, text alerts and more. Take advantage of these tools as an easy way to learn to budget and spend money wisely.

* Take advantage of the fraud and loss benefits. Unlike cash, the value on a prepaid card can be replaced if the card is lost or stolen, according to the zero liability policies of the payments network.

* Make sure the card you select offers convenient access to fee-free ATMs. Student card programs should have ATMs located on or very near a school’s campus.

* Before opening a student card account, read the terms and conditions that outline the fees and other costs associated with the account. There should be no cost to open the account or initially receive a student card, but there may be other fees associated with its use.

— Brandpoint

BBB Watch

Get rich quick schemes promising high returns in minimal time are not a new phenomenon. But clever scammers are now promoting these “money flipping” scams on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to target a younger audience.

This “investor” tells you that it’s easy to get started. All you need to do is put $100 or more on a prepaid debit card from your local convenience store. The greater the value, the more money you can make. Then, share the card number and PIN, and the “investor” will do the rest.

Unfortunately, giving out the card number and PIN allows the “investor” to withdraw money from the card. Typically, the scammer drains the card and then blocks you from contacting their social media account.

— Better Business Bureau

The List

The National Football League’s most valuable teams, 2014:

1. Dallas Cowboys, $3.2 billion

2. New England Patriots, $2.6 billion

3. Washington Redskins, $2.4 billion

4. New York Giants, $2.1 billion

5. Houston Texans, $1.85 billion

6. New York Jets, $1.8 billion

7. Philadelphia Eagles, $1.75 billion

8. Chicago Bears, $1.7 billion

9. San Francisco 49ers, $1.6 billion

10. Baltimore Ravens, $1.5 billion

— Forbes

Number to Know

$1.43 billion: Average worth of a National Football League team going into the 2014 season, up 23 percent from a year ago.

— Forbes

Tech Talk

Aiming to bolster its video-streaming options, Amazon announced plans to purchase Twitch, a site offering live streaming of video games, for about $970 million in cash. The deal is the largest cash purchase in Amazon’s history.

Twitch is a video platform aimed at gamers, streaming live gaming footage and commentary. It includes 1.1 million unique broadcasters per month, with users spending an average of 106 minutes per day on the site.