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Debit card helps addicts stay sober

By Claes Bell ·
Monday, September 10, 2012
Posted: 11 am ET

Seems like you can't swing a cat without hitting a new prepaid debit card these days. But one new entry into the crowded market, called the Next Step Card, has a very specific clientele in mind: recovering addicts.

In some ways, the card is just like any other prepaid debit card. Family members and others load money on the card, which can then be used at any business that accepts MasterCard.

A new prepaid card for recovering addicts can't be used at bars, strip clubs or liquor stores.

A new prepaid card for recovering addicts can't be used at bars, strip clubs or liquor stores. (Photo by Elvissa.)

But unlike other cards, the Next Step Card has special controls built in that will cause it to be declined at places dangerous to those trying to kick an alcohol or drug addiction, such as bars, casinos and liquor stores. To prevent users from circumventing the controls, they also won't be able to receive cash back with purchases or withdraw cash from ATMs. Cardholders can also set up daily transaction limits and text alerts that notify them if the user tries to make a purchase at an unauthorized business.

According to Ben Wolford of the Sun Sentinel, the cost will be $9.95 to activate the card and $14.95 a month to keep it activated.

That may sound pretty pricey, but it's a relative bargain when you consider the time and resources put into getting former addicts back on their feet, says Michael Gordon, executive director of Sunset House, a nonprofit halfway house in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

"We monitor what they're spending. So the amount of time that we put into that, I see the $15 fee as being very reasonable," Gordon says. "People go to (the Hanley Center) and do a month or 60 days there, and then they come to us for probably six months after. So we transition them back into getting a job, going back to school, and into those daily living skills. And budgeting is one of those big things that we try to work on with the guys."

Gordon says having a card that allows easy monitoring could be a helpful tool for family members and halfway houses providing guidance during those crucial first months out of addiction treatment.

Still, while he sees the restrictions on where you can use the card as a possible benefit, it won't be a silver bullet for avoiding relapses.

"Ultimately, somebody would be able to possibly go and buy something and trade it for drugs or alcohol. If they want to get it, they're going to get it," he says. "But it's a good step in the right direction for holding somebody accountable."

What do you think? Is a special prepaid debit card for addicts a good idea?

Follow me on Twitter: @ClaesBell.

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Mossad Alharush
October 04, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Where is my money or my job?please.thanks.

Mossad alharush
September 14, 2012 at 4:07 pm

What is the name of bank for my money,please? Helpe me to gave me the address for this bank.Thanks

September 12, 2012 at 7:03 pm

This is a good idea for those struggling with an addiction problem, while it is pricey in many cases the addiction cost way more and Phil booze is not easy to quit it has the highest death rate for those who try quiting cold turkey over any drug.

September 12, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Whats to stop them from purchasing alcohol at the super market. California sells alcohol at every grocery market, 7-11 and drug store. This is stupid!!!

September 12, 2012 at 6:31 pm

WOW!!!! just what the poor family members need---another thing they have to take care of and pay for and monitor for the addict/alcoholic!!! give me a break---shove them out the door and tell them to go to AA and they'll get sober if you dont make it easy for them----no codependency!

September 12, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Total bull. If you want to solve addiction, quit cold turkey. It's not the last drink, cigarette, or pill, that's the problem. It's the "first one", Once you have the first drink, cig, or pill, an appetite phenom takes over and your addiction grows to unmanageable levels. You can't "cut down", because the first drink is the problem not the last 2 or 3. Try having one drink, cigarette or pill a day, If you're an addict you'll never do it. Quit cold turkey, If you want to do it you will. BTW cigarettes are the hardest addiction to get off of. Booze is easy, all kinds of non-alcoholic drinks to have