Though prepaid card use is gaining in prevalence—there were 6 billion prepaid card transactions valued at more than $140 billion in 2009—few studies have examined how consumers really use prepaid cards. In an effort to help the industry improve its prepaid business model and assist policy makers in understanding the marketplace to better protect consumers, the Payment Cards Center of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) set out to conduct research analyzing consumers’ transaction behavior, as well as the issuer revenue and cardholder costs generated by those transactions.

The Payment Cards Center and CFSI teamed up with Meta Payment Systems, which provided real, anonymous data on more than 280 million transactions made on more than 3 million prepaid cards over a six-year period in over a dozen prepaid card programs.