Note: Subsequent to this press release, AccountNow discontinued the credit builder feature and stopped reporting information to PRBC.
SAN RAMON, CA, November 15, 2005
– A new consumer credit builder tool specifically designed to help the millions of American who do not have traditional banking relationships build their credit rating has been announced today by AccountNow, Inc., a marketer of MasterCard®-branded and FDIC-insured stored value cards.
The free credit builder is a new feature of the AccountNow™ Pay Anyone Bill Pay service. It provides the millions of unbanked or underbanked U.S. consumers a credit builder product that allows them to demonstrate their credit worthiness by paying ordinary bills on time. The service is free of charge to all new and current AccountNow members who use the AccountNow™ Bill Pay service. The AccountNow™ Bill Pay service is the first such service of its kind.
As much as 17 percent of American households, disproportionately poor, minority, lower income and young, do not use banks or otherwise have a traditional banking relationship, according to a Survey of Income and Program Participation conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. For these households, the alternative to banks is typically high-fee check cashing services or, more recently, innovative prepaid stored value cards, similar to the AccountNow Vantage Debit MasterCard Card product.
Consumers can use the AccountNow stored value card to make purchases anywhere MasterCard debit cards are accepted. MasterCard cards marketed by AccountNow are issued by MetaBank (NASDAQ NM: CASH) through its Meta Payment System's division.
"It is extremely difficult to function in today's world without a credit history, particularly for those individuals who want to buy a house, a car or even rent an apartment," says Tim Coltrell, CEO of AccountNow. "We researched the market and found that most products available to help our target market build a credit history have expensive fees and are ineffective. Our goal was to be the first in the market to provide a credit builder product for our members that's free of charge and allows them to demonstrate their credit worthiness by doing what they already do today -- paying rent, electric, cable, insurance, and phone bills on time."
Unlike credit cards, stored value cards and debit cards access funds that the consumer deposits. However, since consumers are basically spending their own money they are not getting the opportunity of building a credit history as would be the case by using a more traditional credit card or repaying a bank loan in which payments are reported to credit bureaus.
To address this, Account Now has developed a relationship with PRBC, an innovative national credit bureau, to report commonly recurring bill payments to PRBC on behalf of AccountNow members who use the Bill Pay service. Accordingly, consumers leverage their bill payment history to build credit.
"When we searched for a credit bureau to report bill payments to we were very impressed with PRBC's business model and their pioneering solution to help us meet this very important need for our members," added Mr. Coltrell. "I am especially pleased that PRBC does not charge our members a fee to view their own data, and it is important to us that PRBC does not sell the names of our members to mailing lists, solicitors, or for research."
"PRBC's view is that all consumers deserve an equal opportunity to demonstrate their fiscal responsibility with the monthly bills they pay," said Michael Nathans, Chairman and CEO of PRBC. "Making these monthly payments on time should benefit them when they apply for housing, credit, insurance, utility hook-ups, and employment."
Stored value cards such as AccountNow Vantage Debit MasterCard Card have the potential to be an effective personal financial management tool for some people, and branded cards offer consumers who have been kept out of the credit card market with options to buy goods at places where major credit cards are accepted without incurring high-interest debt.
About AccountNow, Inc.
AccountNow, headquartered in San Ramon, California, is a leading provider of financial solutions for the 40 million US consumers who do not have established credit or traditional banking relationships. AccountNow’s money saving offers give consumers an alternative to traditional checking accounts by providing access to financial products and payment systems, including MasterCard and Visa prepaid cards, Pay Anyone Bill Payment, and FDIC-insured deposits. AccountNow’s prepaid MasterCard cards are issued by MetaBank: (NASDAQ NM: CASH) and AccountNow’s Prepaid Visa Cards are issued by Palm Desert National Bank. Visit AccountNow online at www.accountnow.com
or www.accountnowvisa.com. For investor relations, 925.498.1827
About Meta Payment Systems
Meta Payment Systems, a division of MetaBank, offers card issuing and program support to banks, processors, and third-party distributors seeking to develop, market and manage stored-value cards. Meta Financial Group, Inc. (: NASDAQ NM : CASH ) is the holding company for MetaBank. For more information, call 605.782.1712, or visit http://www.metacash.com
PRBC, a national credit bureau with a community economic development mission, is supported with a grant from the Ford Foundation and by Tier I Data Subscribers that include Citimortgage, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. PRBC is guided by an Advisory Board and a Technical Steering Committee that include consumer advocates, educators, faith-based leaders, and industry professionals. PRBC’s service is powered and secured by IBM, and can be accessed at http://www.PRBC.com