There’s apparently a celebrity of some sort called Justin Bieber. I don’t know much about him, but I might have heard a song of his one time. He might have been a baby only a few years ago, but today he’s following in the footsteps of some of my favorite gurus, in a love-to-hate sense, financial and pseudo-financial. Like Suze Orman and Kim Kardashian, the Biebs is his trading brand for an endorsement deal with a prepaid debit card issuer. Are you a Belieber?
So is the Justin Bieber debit card somebody to love? The card is offered by a company called BillMyParents, something Justin Bieber doesn’t need to consider, as one celebrity income analysis website puts his annual income at $55 million. But just because a celebrity has no use for a product he’s selling doesn’t mean it’s a bad option. With the fees, the Bieber card stacks up well against the celebrity competition, but it’s still a waste of money almost all of the time.
There’s a monthly fee of $3.95 to use the Justin Bieber prepaid debit card. That’s higher than Suze Orman’s prepaid debit card but significantly lower than the defunct Kim Kardashian debit card, which charged users $7.95 each month. For a real-life comparison, the American Express prepaid debit card, with no celebrity endorsement and on my list of the best prepaid debit cards, does not charge a monthly fee.
Not only do you deal with a monthly fee if you want to keep a little Bieber in your wallet, but like most prepaid debit cards you’ll need to pay a fee to add funds to the card. Because of fees like these, in addition to ATM fees that aren’t necessarily part of the Bieber debit card itself, but are a side-effect of using the card, there are few situations where this prepaid debit card would be better for a user than having a free checking account with debit card features from a credit union or local community bank. You can usually find a checking account that offers no fees.
If, for some reason, one can’t get a checking account — perhaps he had made mistakes with checking accounts in the past and have a checkered ChexSystems history, or perhaps he mistakenly trusted someone for sharing a joint account and that person made the mistakes — even a secured credit card, paid off in full each month, would be better in the long-term than a prepaid debit card.
The Justin Bieber prepaid debit card come at a time where this particular celebrity has garnered attention for something else entirely. As a somewhat sick joke couched in celebrity satire, a website started a social media trend that seems to encourage young Beliebers to harm themselves in support of their favorite Canadian. #Cut4Bieber is a disturbing trend and I am not even comfortable with the fact that I’m bringing attention to it, even in a negative light. Apparently, and celebrity gossip is certainly not my forte, Justin Bieber was involved with marijuana, and an anonymous internet user suggested fans cut themselves, share photographs of them doing so through social media channels like Twitter, in protest of the singer’s bad-boy behavior.
I don’t know if there are any cases of real self-harm, but I have to assume that this blog doesn’t reach many Justin Bieber fans. But it might reach their parents. So I hope that readers are involved with their kids’ lives and are aware if there’s any potential or evidence of this kind of behavior, and if it does present itself, that readers are able to seek appropriate care.
I suggest we start a different #Cut4Bieber campaign.
- Cut up your Justin Bieber prepaid debit card. It may not be the worst financial product available, but it certainly isn’t the best. You’re paying for the celebrity endorsement fee through monthly fees, reloading fees, and usage fees. Even if you must use a prepaid debit card, there are better choices available.
- Cut up any other cards that charge unnecessary fees. BillMyParents and Justin Bieber aren’t the only culprits. The more desperate you are, the more willing you are to put up with products that take advantage of you. Payday loans and similar products offered by banks cater to those in society who for whatever reason have the least amount of options open to them. Don’t be in the pool of easiest targets. Fight for yourself, make good decisions, and improve your position.
- Cut out other financial products designed to make the salesperson rich. Don’t work with a financial adviser who earns his fees in sales commissions or give-backs from the companies that offer the products he’s selling you. Don’t look to your investment adviser as a planner acting in your best interest, because unless you have an agreement that specifies she is a fiduciary, she is acting in her own best interest. (Everybody has to make a living.)
- Cut your ties to the cult of personality. You would think that this is just a problem for kids. Kids have their favorite singers, actors, or other celebrities, and they follow whatever those individuals might say. They buy or want to buy anything that is emblazoned with their celebrity brand. I thought this type of attitude would disappear with age and maturity, but many adults exhibit the same childish behavior. It’s clearly evident on the internet, too. Gurus like Robert Kiyosaki, Suze Orman, and Dave Ramsey have armies of fans who follow them exclusively and to the point where they tune out or dismiss anyone who disagrees with their fearless leader. They believe whatever their favorite guru says, and if she advertises an expensive car or if he sells a ridiculous seminar, they’ll follow unquestioningly and with open wallets. They’ll defend their favorite personality to the grave against people who point out hypocrisy, double standards, and poor judgment. This new #Cut4Bieber is about thinking independently with a critical mind.
So if you’re going to #Cut4Bieber, cut up your bad cards, cut out your harmful financial products, and cut yourself free from groupthink.
Updated January 16, 2013 and originally published January 14, 2013.