- - Thursday, April 6, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION

The second of three parts on what “Go Your Own Way” really means.

A new pre-paid debit card specifically for African Americans has the potential to empower people of color, put badly needed funds into the “frontlines” of our inner city church charities, give assistance to young African American adults seeking a better education or trade and spread the message to go your own way.

I concluded my last blog by stating that Halo4Empowerment, a company focused on creating brands and supporting brands that specifically support African American people, went out and interviewed U.S. pre-paid card companies with the idea to develop their own card for the large and a “badge of honor” for the African American demographic.

NetSpend, a subsidiary of TSYS (one of the largest card processing companies) in world, and one which boasts 4.7 million card holders, earned Halo4Empowerment’s business. It did so by giving and then giving a little more until the deal probably didn’t make a whole lot of financial sense to the credit giant. But the company clearly understood HALO4’s message and wanted to do the right thing.

For starters, NetSpend cut the per-customer cost of the card Halo4Empowerment wished to develop – the TRUTH Card — from $9.95 to $5.95 monthly. Cardholders can actually opt-in and earn cash rewards with the TRUTH Card each month, meaning it essentially can pay for itself.

Next, NetSpend structured a revenue-sharing deal where every time TRUTH Card holders use their card, a considerable amount of the gross revenue the card produces from interchange from the vendor’s is donated back to the cardholder’s church, or, if they don’t affiliate with a church, to a college scholarship/vocational fund Halo4Empowerment set up. The vocational/scholarship program is managed by endorsee CNBC (Conference of National Black Churches). Dr. James Perkins the president of PNBC (Progressive National Baptist Convention) stated, ”The Progress National Baptist Convention embraces brands that support and empower our people and The TRUTH Card represents the very foundation of our mission as a Convention.”

In addition, every time an account is opened with $50 or more, the TRUTH Card and HALO4 make an additional donation into that vocational/scholarship fund as well. That’s a powerful gift. These churches are on the front lines of charity. These are the churches too often grappling with families dealing with physical abuse, homelessness, drug addiction, and more. Bishop Reginald Jackson of the AME church says,” I fully and wholeheartedly endorse The TRUTH Card. It is a blessing to so many people. The Sixth Episcopal District is fully on board. I urge all to join in The TRUTH Card, it will set you free and enable you to be a better steward of what God provides.”

But the TRUTH Card offers numerous other remarkable of benefits: Everybody is approved who applies for a TRUTH Card (even those with a history of insufficient funds in the traditional checking accounts they once held); No credit check is required. Every account is FDIC insured for $250,000. And though the TRUTH Card does everything a normal checking account can do, there are no paper checks and no overdrafts.

TRUTH Card customers can walk into any of 130,000 NetSpend reload locations across America (Rite Aid, CVS, Dollar Store, Walmart, 7-11, and Walgreens, for instance) and load cash onto their card. Many of these locations are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also deposit a check simply by snapping a picture of the check and it will be credited as if you walked personally into the bank. There are also 24,000 affiliated ATM’s are available to TRUTH Cardholders at no charge.

But the most important feature is customers can simply arrange with their employers to begin direct depositing of their paychecks at no charge. For many of the new TRUTH Card members they will receive their funds up to 48 hours early. That’s a crucial offering in HALO4’s effort to break the advanced-check cashing cycle. Industry shows that 72 percent of all check advances are for 48 hours or less.

The TRUTH Card also is the only pre-paid debit card that incentivizes individuals to save a nest egg. Cardholders can earn 5 percent interest up to 1,000 in their savings account. Banks don’t offer rates like this, let alone any banking or savings incentives for this demographic and that’s the TRUTH. It’s an aspect of the card’s reward system that exists exclusively to teach individuals and families to learn to save for a rainy day.

Dr. Calvin McKinney, general secretary for NBC, USA National Baptist HALO4’s mentor on this project says, ”My endorsement of The TRUTH Card is a long overdue expression of my commitment to any enterprise that will improve the lives of the people I serve. My Faith-Calling demands the proper stewardship of all that God gives, little or much. The Truth Card is the ultimate tool, which will aid in the cause of leading all to become proper stewards. ”

With the TRUTH Card, who needs a bank? Or, more importantly, a check-cashing outlet? The TRUTH Card empowers members with a solution and alternative to the check-cashing and payday-lending option, with their high fees and vicious, never-ending lending cycle.

Clearly, the TRUTH Card also does more than simply supply financial salvation to African Americans and other people of color. It also gives back to the community that supports it.

As Halo4Empowerment founder Jeffrey DeHaven said, change takes place when doing the right thing by a community that is in need of hope. He sums up by saying that for a young African-American adult to have a MasterCard in his pocket with their name on it provides not just a means to participate in the global economy but a crucial sense of pride of ownership.

“It’s something he needs badly. Something that will teach that young person the value of saving money, of what a bank statement looks like, of how you can only spend what you have in your account, and preserving your credit today so that it is here for you someday when you will need it,” said DeHaven. “This is the ultimate financial tool for our youth. It also reconnects them to the importance of giving back to their communities.”

Read part three of my blog to understand how the cultivation of Halo4Empowerment’s Voice has led to a call to action that everyone can join.

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