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Publication Date

July 2015


Jessica Dorrance, Robert Donnelly, and Lucy Gorham


Center for Financial Services Innovation

Center researchers evaluate an innovative pilot savings program, MAGIC Mojo, a prepaid, celebrity-endorsed MasterCard combined with a savings feature, and find it effectively encourages low-income consumers to save.

The UNC Center for Community Capital, with funding from the Center for Financial Services Innovation, evaluated an innovative pilot saving program, called MAGIC Mojo, that sought to capitalize on impulsivity to promote saving among low-income consumers, for whom unpredictable fluctuations in income and expenses leave little room in their budgets to include anything more than small savings deposits.

Researchers found that MAGIC Mojo, a prepaid, celebrity-endorsed MasterCard combined with a savings feature, effectively encouraged cardholders to save. Importantly, the high degree of liquidity offered by the card promoted saving among consumers who might otherwise have been reluctant to put funds aside.

This research shows the need consumers have for flexible savings opportunities – in terms of how they save, what they save for and how, when and why they access their funds. In an environment of increased income volatility, that flexibility may actually promote saving rather than discourage it.

The MAGIC Mojo pilot ran from December 2012-June 2014, offering consumers who purchased pre-paid MAGIC Cards the option to enroll in a special savings feature. The feature allowed them to set savings goals, set aside savings by moving money from the spending to savings side of the card or creating recurring payments, and access their savings by moving money back to the spending side of the card.

Although the MAGIC Mojo tool no longer exists, the concept behind MAGIC Mojo – leveraging an impulsive moment – could potentially be attached to a wide range of transaction products.

Results from this pilot program shed light on strategies that could be adapted to shape products that encourage saving and asset-building among low-income consumers.

Among the study’s key findings:

  • “Saving for emergencies” was the most common saving goal (36 percent) followed by “saving for vacation” (17 percent), “saving to buy something” (12 percent) and “saving for family” (11 percent).
  • Approximately half (51 percent) of cardholders who removed funds from their savings accounts during the pilot said it was for an “unexpected emergency expense” or “to pay household expenses or bills,” regardless of their reason for saving.
  • MAGIC Mojo cardholders who used both the recurring and impulse savings methods saved the most.
  • The MAGIC Mojo feature significantly increased the activation and funding rate of the MAGIC Card as well as the lifespan of the card, with 80 percent of MAGIC Mojo users activating their cards compared to just over one-quarter of non-MAGIC Mojo users and users averaging twice as many days for keeping their cards open compared to non-users.

With prepaid cards becoming an increasingly common financial tool used by consumers, and lower-income consumers in particular, this finding has important implications for increasing the attractiveness and effectiveness of prepaid cards as a secure and longer-term financial tool. It also has implications for prepaid card providers by demonstrating that a savings tool on a prepaid card may help build profitability and sustainability of safe, affordable prepaid cards.


Topics(s): Financial Capability, Financial Inclusion, Financial Services Industry, Savings & Asset-Building