RushCard Locks Out the Poor From Their Money for Ninth Consecutive Day

Yesterday I saw the blurb on the right at the New York Times. Russell Simmons. RushCard. On the blink for eight days. That sounds like a drag. I wonder what this is all about? Why haven’t I heard of it before now?

Jamelle Bouie explains:

RushCard, according to its website, is a prepaid debit card that lets users get paychecks up to two days in advance….It’s meant to solve the real problems that come with being unbanked or underbanked. In reality, however, it’s a trap. In exchange for early access to their money, users face a web of fees and charges.

….If RushCard were reliable, this might be a fair price for convenience. But it’s not. Beginning last week, thousands of people were locked out of their accounts following an alleged “technology transition” from the company. As Jia Tolentino notes for Jezebel, these are people with no access to cash outside of RushCard. It’s what they use to live their lives.

….This is a disaster, largely uncovered because of whom it affects.

Yep. If this were a problem with, say, American Airlines mileage awards, it would have gotten about as much attention as the Space Shuttle exploding or the Obamacare website melting down. That’s because lots of upper-middle-class folks use these miles, and so do lots of journalists. But RushCard is mostly used by the invisible poor. It turns out that RushCard’s problems have been big news for the past week in a few places that cater to either the hip hop community or looking out for the poor, but in the mainstream press it’s been mostly ignored. That’s probably because very few mainstream journalists either use RushCard or know a lot of people who do.

The rest of Bouie’s column is about postal banking, which you all know I’m sort of skeptical about. I suspect there are better answers to helping the unbanked. But as a comment on the press and the invisibility of the poor, this story deserves more attention.