The prepaid card landscape is changing. Today, consumers are buying a wider variety of prepaids through a wider variety of channels — and those consumers are trending older.

These are the findings of a new study and report by Mercator Advisory Group, "Consumers and Prepaid 2012: More Tools, Please." The study examines prepaid card market dynamics, including card use and recalled loads, reloading awareness, usage and frequency, distribution channels, importance of feature sets, and the need for tools to manage prepaid payments.

The prepaid study is the third in an eight-part series of consumer survey reports. The series is based on data from a national sample of 1,003 online consumer survey responses completed between June 8 and June 19, 2012.

The study found that while young adults previous were the most likely to buy prepaids, they have now been overtaken as a group by consumers aged 35 to 64. More than half of the members of this older demographic bought prepaids in the past year.

Specifically, they tended to purchase retailer-specific prepaids (38 percent) and prepaids for online services such as iTunes and gaming (18 percent). And not surprisingly in a more mature demographic, they are asking for more tools to manage their account, the Mercator report said.

"As we examined opportunities to expand prepaid card sales, we noted that growth will likely come from facilitating the use of prepaid cards as a payment tool," said Karen Augustine, manager of the CustomerMonitor Survey Series at Mercator Advisory Group, and the author of the report. "Prepaid customers are buying a greater variety of prepaid cards, but they need better tools to be able to use them more as a real payment form."

Other findings included in this report include:

  • Year-over-year trending of U.S adults purchasing prepaid cards, with a deeper focus on general purpose reloadable and non-reloadable cards
  • Shifts in purchase patterns for prepaid cards and the major purchase channels
  • Motivations and demographic differences that affect prepaid card purchasing
  • Prepaid card concepts offering strong consumer value

For more on this topic, visit the trends/statistics research center.

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