Cybermoola Gives Teens Pre-Paid Online Spending Power

Borrowing a marketing lesson from the rapid rise of telephone calling cards, Cybermoola Inc. introduced a pre-paid debit card yesterday that is designed to let teens purchase items online without needing access to a parent or guardian’s credit card.

Cybermoola is a secure online payment system that ensures that there are sufficient funds available before completing a sale. The Cybermoola user applies for an account by filling out a form on the Cybermoola Web site. The visitor then receives an account and PIN number that must be supplied when making a purchase with Cybermoola on the Internet.

Cybermoola funds initially are deposited by check or credit card, but the company plans to start selling plastic Cybermoola cards at retail stores in much the same way that prepaid telephone cards are sold today. The cards will be available in denominations of $10 (US$) to $500. Virtual and physical Cybermoola cards can also be given as gifts. Givers can direct the company to send an e-mail with a personal note from the giver and a Cybermoola account number that can be activated on the site, or the company will ship actual cards to the giver or the designated recipient.

Cool for Kids?

According to Cybermoola chief executive officer Eric Freeman, “Teens like Cybermoola because it allows them to shop independently online, just as they do now at the malls.” Participating e-merchants include teen-focused commerce sites such as CelebritySightings.com, EZCD.com, Outletmall.com and SaulGoodman.com. The company has focused upon entertainment, custom music and apparel sites that teen shoppers will view as cutting edge.

Cybermoola will kick off its new venture by giving away 100,000 cash cards to teens 13 to 18 years old. The $20 giveaways will take place at teen-oriented events such as movies, school assemblies and concerts in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Some will also be given away through e-mail.

The benefit for online retailers, according to Freeman, is access to shoppers with cash to spend, instead of browsers who will have to come back later with a parent’s credit card to complete a purchase. “Cybermoola moves well beyond driving traffic; it delivers actual shoppers to participating e-merchants more directly and efficiently than other marketing vehicles,” Freeman says.

Cool for Parents?

On its Web site, Cybermoola also offers some reassurances for parents of trailblazing Internet teens. In addition to pointing out that its debit cards are preferable to giving a child a credit card, Cybermoola says that it is highly selective of the kinds of stores it will work with. The company will limit its service to sites that sell “age-appropriate merchandise,” ruling out sites that offer pornography, weapons and hate literature. In addition, Cybermoola accounts can be cleaned out at any time through a few steps on the site’s account maintenance page. In that event, the company says it will mail any remaining funds back to the user.

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