Just in time for the holidays, Kim Kardashian and her sisters (best known for the reality show Keeping Up With The Kardashians) have launched their own prepaid debit MasterCard. Though it isn’t the first Kardashian-related business venture, the difference between this and past endorsements – a list that includes diet pills, sunless tanner, perfume, clothing, jewelry and the sisters’ Dash clothing boutiques – is that the card is being marketed as a way to teach teenagers as young as 13 how to manage their money.
And while it’s true that a prepaid debit card isn’t a bad way to show teens how to spend money (after all, they can only do as much damage as the amount their parents load onto the card), as MoneyWatch’s Faroosh Torabi pointed out, “Mixing pop celebrities with financial management is hardly ever a winning formula - particularly when celebs with zero financial credibility attach themselves to financial products.” She’s referring to younger sister Khloe Kardashian’s apparent back-tax problem, as well as an episode of the family’s reality show in which the family stages an intervention for Kim’s shopping addiction.
What the card does claim as a benefit is that parents can track their kids’ spending activity by viewing spending and card balances instantly on their cell phone via text message. Parents like prepaid cards because they don’t charge overdraft fees or interest (they just stop working when the money’s gone). And should your teen have wandered into, say, Dash and hit their limit, you can transfer money from a mobile account on to the card using your phone.
But if you invest in the “Kard,” are you really teaching your kid about credit, or just handing them cash in a form that will more easily fit in their tiny designer handbag? After all, a prepaid credit card doesn’t help establish credit for your child. This one will, however, cost parents a bundle in fees. Look at the small print on the Kardashian Kard website and you’ll see that the card costs $99.95 annually, or $59.95 for six months. After that, it’s $7.95 per month.
Doughroller.net publishes a list of prepaid cards, and we found plenty with zero fees – some even include the option of building credit as you use them. We checked in with Bill Hardekopf, CEO of LowCards.com (which also compares cards) and author of The Credit Card Guidebook, who said the Kardashian sisters as spokespeople for any type of card is concerning “because of their spendthrift image.” As he put is, “The issues of the card are obviously hoping that a significant of young people want this card to emulate them.”
Still, parents of young Kardashian devotees might get the pressure, come Black Friday, to invest in the Kardashian Kard for their little angels. Should you give in, or use finding an alternative card as a teaching tool?