Kids & Money

Financial education for Girl Scouts that goes beyond cookie sales

Updated: 2013-11-08T22:00:22Z

By STEVE ROSEN

The Kansas City Star

They’ve had longstanding partnerships with some of the nation’s largest commercial bakeries. Now there’s a marketing arrangement with a financial services company that sells a prepaid debit card for teenagers.

What gives with the Girl Scouts?

For decades, the Girl Scouts have relied on cookie sales to raise funds and to help millions of girls develop their business acumen and learn about money, spending, budgeting and all other things financial.

That mission is about to be taken to a higher level as a result of a partnership announced in October between a Girl Scouts chapter in Charlotte, N.C., and SpendSmart Payments Co., a San Diego financial services firm.

Under the arrangement, SpendSmart will tailor a financial literacy program for the 16,000 girls who belong to the Girl Scouts, Hornets’ Nest Council.

The program is aimed at enhancing existing Girl Scout financial education materials, including a batch of merit badges that Scouts can earn.

The SpendSmart program is expected to be rolled out in January and will include online teaching tools and other materials appropriate for kindergartners through high-school-age Scouts, said Katherine Lambert, executive vice president of the Hornets’ Nest chapter, which covers eight counties in North and South Carolina. She said the chapter is the first Girl Scout council nationwide to partner with SpendSmart.

Lambert said there is certainly a need for financially focused training for the Girl Scouts. It starts with helping younger Scouts understand the value of money and expands into teaching budgeting skills, understanding credit and being responsible with plastic.

That last point of emphasis caught my attention. As part of its partnership, Scouts 13 and older can sign up for the SpendSmart Prepaid MasterCard.

Prepaid cards are much like debit cards. You load the card with a fixed amount of money and use it instead of cash to make purchases. Once the money is spent, you can’t use the card until you feed it more cash.

SpendSmart said its prepaid card is geared to teens and offers transaction text alerts and emails to parents so spending can be monitored.

Handling plastic wisely has become a financial fact of life for teens, and part of that learning process involves understanding the fees. SpendSmart, for example, charges a $3.95 monthly fee, or $47.40 a year. Though that amount isn’t out of line, some other providers charge $1 or $2 a month or have no monthly fee, according to the CreditCards.com website. On the other hand, some prepaid cards carry $14.95 monthly charges.

SpendSmart’s card, like many others, also comes with additional fees for such things as withdrawing money from an ATM , making a balance inquiry or replacing the card.

The upshot: Whether it’s SpendSmart or some other prepaid debit card, weigh the costs against the services provided and decide on the best deal.

In the meantime, SpendSmart said it hopes its financial education partnership with the Hornets’ Nest Council will serve as a model that will expand to other Girl Scout councils around the country.

To reach Steve Rosen, call 816-234-4879 or send email to srosen@kcstar.com.

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