What’s the Rush?
Success in business exceeds finding a solution for a given problem. Often it entails building upon an existing solution to reach a broadening demographic. The Rush Card is a prime example.
As credit granting became more marginalized, only including those with a consistent track record for repayment, products like secured credit cards emerged to assist the growing niche of consumers caught in hard financial periods. Usually for an annual fee and an initial deposit which is used as the card’s credit line, applicants struck by bad credit could begin to repave their credit histories. While this product helped many restore their financial trustworthiness, it was still restricted to the mildly credit-challenged. Those with severe credit problems remained financial outcasts.
Prepaid cards like Russell Simmons’ Rush Card take a good idea one step further. In a society where credit cards are needed at a minimum to reserve hotel rooms and rental cars, their use have become a necessity rather than a convenience. These prepaid cards offered by various banks not only allow for instant credit purchases without a credit check, they also function similar to a checking account allowing online bill-pay and direct deposit. Prepaid credit fees vary regarding activation, monthly and dormancy fees as well as features and funding convenience.
Not satisfied with appealing to those squeezed out of the credit loop, Simmons, through his partnership with Visa, provides access to special offers, sweepstakes, financial and tax advice, fee caps, referral incentives and optional credit reporting. The card also provides account access via telephone, Internet and cell phone-browsing. By offering credit reporting as optional, the Rush Card becomes more appealing to those looking for additional methods in finance control but who may not require additional reports to their credit file. For example, it may be safer and more convenient to carry a Rush Card than traveler’s checks or cash with the added benefit of no finance charges or monthly bills. If the card is lost or stolen then the thief, in terms of cash and impact to credit history, only has access to what is on the card instead of an entire credit line or check account balance.
From reviewing the RushCard.com website, it’s clear that UniRush Financial Services, Simmons’ financial arm, is appealing to everyone who may benefit from this product. The cards themselves come in a choice of sophisticated black or trendy pink, which also promote his Baby Phat and Phat Farm brands. However, consumers who follow those brands as well as his Def Jam musical empire are well-planted within the African American community, which has many, like Syracuse finance professor Dr. Boyce Watkins, criticizing the Rush Card for targeting lower income African Americans and gouging them with fees. While the fees involved for using and maintaining a Rush Card do not seem to surpass the industry standard, those outside the demographic are quick to accuse Simmons of taking advantage of the ignorance and/or misfortune that led his target market to require a Rush Card in the first place. Paying for convenience is nothing new. Additionally, charging what amounts to a surcharge in exchange for the risk of conducting business with those who failed to maintain or acquire traditional forms of credit is commonplace. Whether to use the Rush Card or not comes down to whether its benefits outweigh the costs and whether alternatives are available based on the given situation.
Major is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine.