5 Minutes With Spencer Schmerling
CEO, Cascade Card
Recently, we heard about Cascade Card, an FDIC-insured MasterCard prepaid card. The Cascade Card pays CrowdFunded CashBack to cardholders, a new innovation in the prepaid space. We talked to CEO Spencer Schmerling about how the Cascade Card works and its crowdfunding feature.
AH: What makes the Cascade Card different from regular prepaid debit cards?
SS: First, the Cascade Card works like a regular prepaid card to pay bills and to make purchases. What makes it different is it’s a social prepaid card. The first thing that you should know is that the card is available by referral only, so you have to have a referral code to get a card. When a cardholder tell his or her friends about the Cascade Card and those friends get cards, they become part of the referring cardholder’s CashBack Crowd. When those new cardholders make referrals, those new cardholders also become part of the original cardholder’s CashBack Crowd. So a CashBack Crowd is made up of a cardholder’s direct referrals and indirect referrals extending out six generations.
AH: So it’s like six degrees of separation?
SS: Yes, that’s right. When your direct referrals make their own referral, those new cardholders are part of your CashBack Crowd. This continues out for six generations of referrals.
AH: Is there a limit to the number of referrals and how would you know when to stop the line of referrals from a single user?
SS: There is no limit to how many direct referrals any cardholder can make. So a single user can refer 1 person, 100 people, 1,000 people, or as many as they want.
AH: What is the other step for cardholders to get paid cashback?
SS: The other step is to qualify by spending at least $350 a month in non-PIN domestic purchases using their Cascade Card.
AH: How can users load funds?
SS: There are four ways that our cardholders can load funds: (1) they can transfer funds from a linked checking or savings account, (2) via direct deposit, (3) they can load federal benefits like Social Security or SSI, and (4) at over 50,000 retail locations such as CVS, Walmart, Walgreens, and 7 Eleven using the MasterCard RePower Network.
AH: What is the limit as far as funds that can be put on the card?
SS: The most that can be on a card at one time is $10,000.
AH: Are the funds on the Cascade Card FDIC insured?
SS: Yes, all funds deposited on the Cascade Card are held in an FDIC-insured bank account.
AH: What about protection from fraud?
SS: All of our cardholders are protected by MasterCard’s zero liability policy, so they are protected if their card is ever lost or stolen.
AH: Spencer, I know you have extensive experience in the prepaid sector, and that you have designed technology for other prepaid cards. Tell us about the marketing channels for Cascade Card.
SS: Yes, previously I was the CTO for two other prepaid programs. For Cascade, the basic marketing channels are via the website, social media, various in-person initiatives, and of course, word of mouth. We are excited that we are launching the card in February.
AH: What about co-branding the card? Do you have other channel partners or will you have partners in the future?
SS: Yes, we already have multiple channel partners. Some of our channel partners will be co-branding the card with us while others will be promoting the Cascade branded card. We are very excited about the high quality organizations that we are partnering with.
AH: What about fees? That is always a sensitive issue in the card industry, whether it be credit, debit or prepaid debit. How are you making the fees attractive to the consumer?
SS: We are making fees as simple as possible and easy to understand. The fee is $6.99 to get a card and $4.99 for a companion card. There is a monthly service fee of $4.99 per month and a $1.50 ATM transaction fee for cash at a machine or bank teller. And that’s it for fees – we don’t charge any fees to call customer service, load funds, or make purchases with the card.
AH: Why did you decide to design a program for CrowdFunded CashBack on a prepaid card? Has this ever been done before in the prepaid sector?
SS: For decades, there have been phenomenal programs created for credit cards, offering miles, cashback and other rewards. We wanted to bring the concept of rewards to the prepaid industry.
AH: Was it difficult to get a cashback program going?
SS: Yes, we had to get an issuing bank and MasterCard on board -- that was a slow process. The biggest hurdle was making sure everything we did, designed, and implemented was legal. Since this is all so revolutionary, there was a lot of scrutiny. This is why it took us two years. We are excited because we believe it is a landmark opportunity to bring a meaningful new program to the prepaid industry.
Spencer Schmerling is CEO of Cascade Card. Visit Cascade Card online at www.cascadecard.com.