To help addicts stay clean and sober, one prepaid card company is hoping to help them avoid a gateway drug: cash.
A new card called Next Step, scheduled to launch nationwide soon, is being marketed to those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports.
The MasterCard comes with built-in controls so that cardholders cannot use it at liquor stores, bars, escort services, casinos, tattoo parlors or piercing shops. It also prevents the holder from getting cash at an ATM or cash back with a purchase.
That lack of access to cash is meant to make it harder to buy drugs or engage in other activities that are forbidden to the recovering addict.
"We've eliminated cash from the equation," Eric Dresdale, 28, co-founder of the parent company Next Step Network and himself a recovering addict, told the Sun Sentinel. "Cash is a big trigger for people."
The G-rated debit card is aimed at not only helping those in recovery stay away from bad habits, but also at helping people start building good financial ones. Co-signers on the card -- often a parent or rehab sponsor -- can choose daily spending limits for the cardholder and limit the number of transactions per month. In short, the card will keep the holder's financial habits on a very short leash.
So is this just more marketing wizardry, or is this kind of controlled money management worth the steep price of the card? According to the Sun Sentinel, the Next Step card will cost $9.95 to purchase and have a $14.95 monthly maintenance fee, making it one of the most expensive prepaid cards on the market.
However, there is some science behind the card's basic premise. Research has shown that those with a history of substance abuse are less likely to use the problem substance when they outsource control of their money.
Next Step also underscores how commercialized recovery from drug and alcohol addiction has become. The cost of rehab can range from free to more than $2,000 per day for a stay with luxury accommodations at a place like Promises, Lindsay Lohan's alma mater. Wealthy recovering addicts can even hire sober coaches or escorts for between $450 and $1,500 a day to keep them away from triggers and bad habits (and presumably hold onto their wallets, too).
Of course, the effectiveness of a prepaid card as a sobriety and financial management tool depends on how merchants classify themselves, so that certain kinds of purchases are actually blocked. Rumors abound that some drug dealers and escorts are growing hip to mobile payments, whipping out a Square device to take clients' money. And let's not forget drug addicts are nothing if not creative when it comes to getting their fix.