Russell Simmons Sets the Record Straight!

Jun 25, 2010, 11:16 ET from UniRush LLC

CINCINNATI, June 25 /PRNewswire/ -- There have been many stories in the press about how I had a 'victory' on Capitol Hill in relation to the "Durbin Amendment" that regulates debit cards.  Many of these articles, however well intentioned, missed the point and misstated key facts.  If there was a victory it was for the people who have been left out of the financial and healthcare systems. I went to Washington as an advocate for the overlooked and underserved – to speak for those whose voices are not being heard.

Credit is due to lawmakers for understanding how programs like my RushCard are serving the underserved by providing an alternative to big banks and check cashers and helping with healthcare costs. I am thankful that lawmakers provided an exemption for all products serving the underserved. I believe it's a good thing that lawmakers are pushing other prepaid cards to be more like RushCard by providing incentives for features my card already has – like not charging overdraft fees and providing free ATM transactions. I am very proud that RushCard has been a leader in the movement of money away from large banks that are simply not responsive to large segments of the population.

There have been articles from reputed publications (which others have picked up and republished) that have important errors and omissions. I understand that reporters have tough deadlines and that errors do happen. I want to set the record straight and I ask these publications, the Washington Post and BusinessWeek, to publish corrections.

#1. My card was always exempted from the amendment.  From the very first version of the amendment onwards, every draft had a carve-out for the banks that RushCard works with. I fought for EVERY bank to be able to serve the poor. This helps the underserved even though it means more competition for my company.  So, while the fact that I'm in the business from its early days made this an important issue for me to address, my advocacy in this instance was not for my own business.

#2. RushCard is an empowerment card. Comparing it to a prepaid card is like comparing a car to a bicycle. Both help you move, but a car gets you further faster and has safety features that a bicycle just doesn't have. RushCard not only gives you a way to receive and spend your money, it also helps you get the most out of your money. It keeps you out of traps with payday lenders and helps you stay financially stable.

Every RushCard member gets a free prescription discount card, a free credit building program, a free online budgeting tool to make sure your pay lasts till your next paycheck and money transfers at a fraction of what it costs elsewhere.

#3. A few writers have misrepresented our fees. RushCard has two fee plans, a Monthly plan and a Pay-as-you-go plan – members choose the one that works best for them. Describing both plans together is like saying that when you buy your car you have to pay for it completely upfront and then make monthly payments on it as well.

If all you want to do is to cash your paycheck, you could use RushCard's Pay-as-you-go plan. Get your paycheck direct deposited (which is FREE) and take your money out at an ATM – this works out to just $1.95 per paycheck.

If you're tired of overdraft and insufficient fund fees from a bank (14% pay $1400/year for their checking accounts), you can use RushCard's monthly plan. For a monthly fee of $9.95 you get 2 free ATM transactions and unlimited transactions at stores – you just have to sign for your purchases.

These are different fee plans: plucking the highest parts of each fee plan and omitting to mention features of RushCard like credit building and budgeting, as some articles have done, misrepresents the service and could make readers believe our fees are almost double what our members really pay.  Ignoring key parts of the fee plans, like no overdraft fees, two free ATM transactions a month and unlimited free signature transactions seriously overstates the fee structure that I worked hard to make among the lowest in the sector.  

Everyday I hear from people whose lives have been changed by RushCard. 56% of RushCard members tell us they save over $300/year because of the card, 30% say they save over $600/year. In addition to this, they now save with the new prescription discount card and account to account transfers. You never hear about how a bank saves its customers money.

We're still in difficult times – many are still unemployed, banks still charge exorbitant fees and foreclose on homes, healthcare is still unaffordable. I hope reporters recognize the responsibility that comes with their job. Inaccurate or incomplete information could lead to people not learning about options that can make medications and other basic necessities affordable. I urge reporters who did not fully understand the RushCard to provide a balanced view or retract their statements.

I am not here to argue. I have worked all of my adult life as an advocate for the poor, the voiceless and the under-served. I work for them and they give me strength. Let's move on and help those who need help.

God bless you.


Russell Simmons

About UniRush LLC

Headquartered in Cincinnati, UniRush LLC was created to offer the over 48 million Americans without access to a traditional banking relationship or healthcare and an array of basic services via the Prepaid Visa RushCard. Benefits of the program include direct deposit, free prescription discount cards, credit building, free online money management tools,  the ability to withdraw funds at over 850,000 ATMs globally, and the ability to use the card wherever Visa debit cards are accepted and free 24/7 customer service. For more information about UniRush and RushCard visit