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A third of UK consumers have not heard of pre-paid cards


Study reveals worryingly low awareness of the latest solution to consumer debt

London - 33% of UK consumers don’t know what a pre-paid card is, despite efforts to promote them as a solution to both debt and card fraud. New research released by TNS and commissioned by VRL today also reveals that more than a fifth (23%) of people who are aware of them do not actually understand how they work.

Although there are more than 25 types of pre-paid cards on the market in Britain, only 12% of people have actually purchased one for their own or family use, and half of these people purchased it more than six months ago. Those who are using them mainly acquired the card to make online purchases (45%). In line with industry attempts to provide a safer alternative to debit and credit cards, others use the cards to budget more easily (24%), spend money abroad (20%) and to manage the money they give to their children (8%).

“It’s surprising that although the two biggest issues in the financial industry are debt and fraud, pre-paid cards are not being promoted as a simple solution to help combat both issues,” said Waheed Aslam, Vice President Global Financial Services at TNS. “Because pre-paid cards have no direct link to your bank account and do not rely on credit (only the money you have topped up with) the pre-paid card is an excellent way of paying for goods more safely and without fear of overspending, especially online. A lack of awareness in the UK could also be due to the popularity of debit cards, and to the ‘credit’ culture we have got ourselves into, where we use credit to buy what we want, then pay back only what we can afford. Prepaid cards have the power to reverse this situation.”

With so many firms looking to enter the personal finance market including mobile phone and retail firms, who arguably have a larger customer base, it will be interesting to see the role that pre pay finance could play and how innovative their strategies really are.”

Although many pre-paid cards either have an initial fee or a monthly fee, most UK consumers are also unaware of these costs. Of those surveyed who had purchased a pre-paid card, nearly a fifth of people didn’t know what their monthly fees are costing them and 40% weren’t aware of paying any monthly fees.

The study, which is the largest ever undertaken on UK consumer awareness and usage of pre-paid cards, was presented at VRL’s European Prepaid Cards Summit, held in Rome from 12th to 13th November 2009. “Prepaid cards have become one of the world’s most dynamic and competitive payments markets”, said Manuela Andaloro, Head of Conferences for VRL. “While regulatory and cultural forces mean individual countries are at different stages of penetration, interest in prepaid across the world is booming.”

Now in its fifth year, Prepaid Cards Summit Europe provides analysis and intelligence on the European prepaid market. This year’s conference also featured speakers and case studies from across Europe, including Mattia Adani, Senior Adviser – Counsel of Experts, from the Italian Department of the Treasury. No more than 33 percent of registered delegates came from one country and globally 28 countries were represented.

For more information about VRL’s Prepaid Cards Summit conferences in Europe, India and the Middle East, please visit

Notes to editors:
TNS and VRL PrePaid Card Usage and Awareness Study:

UK: The online study surveyed 3000 people nationally representative by age, gender and geographic area. The fieldwork was carried out in July to September 2009.


About TNS

TNS, who recently merged with Research International, is the world’s largest custom research agency delivering actionable insights and research-based business advice to its clients so they can make more effective business decisions. TNS offers comprehensive industry knowledge within the Consumer, Technology, Finance, Automotive and Political & Social sectors, supported by a unique product offering that stretches across the entire range of marketing and business issues, specializing in product development & innovation, brand & communication, stakeholder management, retail & shopper, and qualitative research. Delivering best-in-class service across more than 75 countries, TNS is part of Kantar, the world’s largest research, insight and consultancy network. Please visit for more information.

The Kantar Group The Kantar Group is one of the world’s largest research, insight and consultancy networks. By uniting the diverse talents of more than 20 specialist companies – including the recently-acquired TNS – the group aims to become the pre-eminent provider of compelling and actionable insights for the global business community. Its 26,500 employees work across 80 countries and across the whole spectrum of research and consultancy disciplines, enabling the group to offer clients business insights at each and every point of the consumer cycle. The group’s services are employed by over half of the Fortune Top 500 companies. The Kantar Group is a wholly-owned subsidiary of WPP Group plc. For further information, please visit

About VRL

VRL is a modern cutting edge media publishing company delivering up-to-the minute news, analysis, in-depth reports, surveys and conferences. A well-known and trusted source to the finance services market, VRL constantly strives to deliver best-in-class content that challenges the status quo, enabling its readership to stay ahead of the game, keeping customers armed with knowledge and information. The organisation has a long established track record in delivering quality journals – in fact one of its publications ‘The Accountant’ was established in 1875 and is the profession’s oldest news source. Publications in its portfolio include: Cards International, Retail Banker International, Electronic Payments International, Life Insurance International, Private Banker International, The Accountant, International Accounting Bulletin, Leasing Life and Motor Finance.


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