Are checks taking a back seat to prepaid debit cards? Maybe not in all circumstances but there’s an obvious trend away from checks and toward prepaid cards.

The consulting firm Aite Group recently reports that the market for prepaid debit cards (including payroll cards) is growing “at lightening-speed.” It expects the total of prepaid card loads in 2016 to exceed $168 billion, which is nearly three-times the total that was loaded onto prepaid debit cards in 2011.

The U.S. Treasury Department is having a huge impact on this migration to prepaid, having finally put the kibosh its own check writing. As of this month, Treasury is no longer issuing checks to Social Security beneficiaries. To continue receiving timely payments individual beneficiaries must sign up for Treasury’s Direct Express prepaid debit card or for Direct Deposit of payments into an account at a bank or credit union.

Three days after the Treasury edict went into effect, I attended the Prepaid Expo USA, an annual event that draws hundreds of executives from prepaid companies, financial institutions and other organizations. And among those I met and spoke with there was a growing sense that for the market to reach its potential prepaid debit card offerings have to be as robust, if not more robust than the traditional demand deposit accounts (DDAs).

Basketball legend Magic Johnson spoke to this during his conference-closing keynote address. His Magic Johnson Enterprises, a $700 million conglomerate with significant interests in retail, movie theaters and restaurants, has teamed with OneWest Bank on a reloadable prepaid card designed specifically for the underbanked. The Magic Card, as it is known, most recently added a feature that helps cardholders set and achieve savings goals.

There are about 68 million adults in America today who are considered “underbanked.” Some of these folks have shunned banks by choice. But about one out of every five has been blacklisted – they have been turned away by banks because in the past they wrote bad checks, had their DDAs closed by other FIs, or had similar problems.

It’s not as though the underbanked never receive checks, however. Many receive regular paychecks. And just about everyone gets some check payments (e.g.: rebate checks, gifts, loans from family and/or friends) from time to time.

As several other speakers noted during the Expo, the consumer appeal of prepaid debit cards is about having immediate access to your funds. And that demands sophisticated technologies like mobile check deposit. For FIs and other issuers, the draw of prepaid debit is being able to attract and retain customers, generate fee income and minimize risks. The challenge becomes getting consumers to hold onto the cards, since the life cycle of the typical reloadable prepaid debit card is only about four months. That’s why multiple options for loading funds onto cards has become a prerequisite for a successful prepaid card offering, and it’s why Cachet developed Select Mobile Prepaid.

Select Mobile Prepaid was tailor-made for today’s prepaid debit card market; it’s available as a standalone application or can be integrated with mobile banking apps. The Select Mobile Prepaid patent-pending interface-flow includes an intuitive user interface, fee disclosure/acceptance protocols, and the ability to provide “Instant Good Funds” through a fully-integrated check guarantee partner.

By helping to make it convenient and easy for consumers to load funds onto their prepaid debit cards with features like mobile check deposit, banks and other issuers can experience greater customer stickiness, and that makes the business case for prepaid programs even more compelling.

At Cachet we take pride in adapting our solutions to meet evolving marketplace needs, and in helping clients leverage those solutions to maximum advantage. Extending the convenience of mobile check capture to the prepaid debit card market doesn’t just make sense, for many financial services companies it could prove a business lifeline.