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Prepaid’s demographics by Chris Skinner

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We run regular meetings at the Financial Services Club, and launched in Ireland last year. 

The forthcoming event in Dublin on 14th June is talking about various things from mobile to prepaid and it prompted Kieron Guilfoyle, CEO of 3V, to send me details of the prepaid product program they are running in Ireland. 

The product is a payment solution marketed by 3V and allows folks over 16 to purchase a voucher (a Visa-branded debit card) for cash.  The product is also available in the UK and Spain, and is similar to the program being run by IDTPrime with MasterCard.

The purpose of such cards is primarily for online payments for those who don't have bank accounts, such as many teenagers who can now purchase online. 
Or that was my thinking, as I've written about prepaid before, and spent some time analysing this market in Europe last year.
Kieron's information shows me something slightly different.

The 3V product launched in Ireland towards the end of 2005 and now has over 100,000 active users, which is about 15% of the national online purchasing population.
According to the experience of 3V in Ireland, the customer base looks like the following.

63% are male and 37% are female.

So, it's mainly man shopping that appeals to the prepaid crowd ... or maybe the females are credit card users?


33% have a credit card, but two thirds do not.  In fact, according to 3V, most of their customers fear using credit cards and, although they could get one, they just have a phobia about people stealing their identity and all that stuff.

As a result, 52% do not have a credit card, 17% can’t get a credit card and 15% use someone else’s.   

Ah, so maybe it's that last 15% who are using their husbands and wives' credit cards some might think?


54% of 3V users are single whilst 40% co-habit.

OK, so we see so far that the users are typically male, without a credit card and they're single. 

What sort of profile does that fit?


So, they're all teenage students ...

... nope.

33% are currently students whilst 28% did not complete secondary education.

Ah well, I suppose then that they're young?


66% of purchases are made by 18-34 year olds and they claim that  group 84% of purchases are needs driven.

In summary, we have predominantly young males who are single who are using prepaid because they don't have credit cards.

But it's the last statistic that surprised me as I thought the main profile of prepaid was to appeal to the unbanked and the disenfranchised, and yet 94% of 3V users have a bank account or a savings account.

So what are they using it for then?

Well, it is pretty much what you'd think.

  • 17% are buying music downloads;
  • 15% are buying holidays and flights;
  • 14% are buying tickets for concerts and events;
  • 14% are buying electronics goods (more gadgets);
  • 10% are buying gifts;
  • 9% paying for mobile and telephone billing;
  • 7% on books;
  • 7% on clothes;
  • 2% on groceries;
  • 1% on commuting; and
  • 4% on other stuff.

I guess this tells me overall that yes, prepaid does work as a debit card for the young community who want to buy online services but don't have credit cards.

Now how many of those do we think there are out there?

Mmmmm ... according to Neilsen ratings, 18-34 year-olds are the most prevalent demographic group online, accounting for 32% of all active online Britons.  Equally, in 2006, there were 68.9 million individuals aged 18-34 in the USA, representing 23.1% of the total population.

Sounds like a pretty good marketplace to me.

So, I'm off for a pre ...


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Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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