Pre-Paid Kardashian Kard is Not Your Best Option

Last Updated Nov 11, 2010 3:29 PM EST

Kim Kardashian's family once staged a shopping intervention to slow her runaway spending. Even a reality TV star only has so many resources, it seems, and when you start carting away handbags that cost $30,000, well, it adds up.

Now Kardashian and her sisters Kourtney and Khloe are hawking a pre-paid MasterCard branded debit card that they call the Kardashian Kard. For teens that follow these sisters, I suppose this card will make Keeping Up With The Kardashians at the mall a lot easier -- at least until the card must be reloaded.

The Kardashian Kard is being marketed specifically to teens as young as 13. Let's call it a Kiddie Kard. The Kardashians are far from alone when it comes to cashing in on kids this way. There's a whole series of youth oriented pre-paid debit cards from MYPLASH picturing rockers, rappers and gamers. Vampires, too, which is especially fitting.

There is nothing wrong with a pre-paid debit card for young people. Pre-paid cards have a lot of advantages:
  • Kids can use a pre-paid card to shop online.
  • Parents get a detailed spending report.
  • Over drafting is not a risk.
  • Pre-paid cards are easy to re-load and thus are good vehicles for paying allowance, assuming no or low re-load fees.
  • Kids become familiar with plastic in a controlled environment.
  • In some cases, your child begins to build a credit score.
But all of those advantages mean little if the fees are outrageous, as they often are with pre-paid cards. On that front, the Kardashian Kard isn't terrible but it's not great either.

The worst feature of this card is probably that it glorifies glam at any expense simply because of the Kardashian name. Beyond that, though, there is the high cost to get started, $59.95 (this includes fees for the first six months); the $7.95 monthly fee; and the $2 per item charge when paying bills. You'll also get dinged up to $2.50 for every ATM withdrawal and $1.50 for every call to the service center.

Still, this Kiddie Kard compares reasonably well in other areas, most notably by not charging a fee at the point of purchase (a lot of pre-paid cards charge $1 or $2) and carrying a low re-load fee of $1, which makes it suitable for a monthly allowance of, say, $50 (which equates to a 2% convenience charge).

The Kardashian Kard is not your best option, though. Upside Edge from Visa is a teen card that costs just $29.95 a year, allows for free reloads from a parent checking account and gives cash back rewards equal to 1% of funds loaded. Wal-Mart MoneyCard is another smart option, though it is not a teen card per se. The MoneyCard costs $3 to open and $3 a month to carry. There's never a transaction fee and Wal-mart will waive most fees if you enroll in a direct deposit plan.

Of course, the Kardashian girls wouldn't be caught dead shopping at Wal-Mart. (Selling, yes; shopping, no.) Which is another valuable lesson for your teens, if they can somehow come to understand it.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Kalumba_joel_ego.
  • Dan Kadlec

    Daniel J. Kadlec is an author and journalist whose work appears regularly in Time and Money magazines. He is the former editor of Time’s Generations section, which was written and edited for boomers. Kadlec came to Time from USA Today, where he was the creator and author of the daily column Street Talk, which anchored the newspaper's business coverage. He has co-written three books, including, most recently, With Purpose: Going from Success to Significance in Work and Life. He has won a New York Press Club award and a National Headliner Award for columns on the economy and investing.

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