BillMyParents, Inc. and Autism Speaks announced a partnership on Wednesday to promote financial lessons and independence for families with autism through an extension of the BillMyParents SpendSmart MasterCard program.
The card, issued through University National Bank, is designed for parents to help transition their teenage offspring to responsible spending as they get older. Autistic or not, many teens often apply for jobs while still in school, greatly shifting their primary source of income.
Teens lucky enough to be employed can be overwhelmed or unprepared for the influx of cash, leading to poor money management.
“The system gives control to caretakers, and freedom and self-sufficiency to users. It is also easy to scale oversight depending on the individual needs of cardholders,” said Lisa Goring, the vice president of Family Services for Autism Speaks.
The BillMyParents website states the MasterCard program offers a solution for families that encourages conversation about spending prudently. The card includes several parental control features to assist that process. Parents are immediately notified through text messages when their child makes a purchase, displaying the time and location of the transaction.
Parents can also block certain locations and lock the card if gets lost, stolen, or if their teen is spending money without discretion. Since the card is prepaid with a limit set by their parents, teens can only spend whatever amount is on the card, eliminating the risk of overdraft charges or other incidents that could post harm to a family’s credit score.
The program can be initiated by family members whether or not they do so through the Autism Speaks partnership.
Gauging the participation rate of the SpendSmart MasterCard program is not as clear, however. Recent studies suggest only 15 percent of autistic adults hold a paying job, with their social and communication deficiencies often hampering efforts to find work as employers struggle to understand the disability. Naturally, this can also complicate budget allowances for family members who are often burdened by caring for their autistic brethren, reducing the card program’s effectiveness.