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Shape & Size

test Reflecting on the current trends of the prepaid phone card, we observed a gradual switch from conventional phone cards to rigid board packaging.

test Retailers prefer the rigid board because it offers a 4 1/2 X 6 inch billboard that effectively competes with other impulse items hanging from j-hooks.

test In retail marketing situations where the "fast scan" is considered the window of opportunity, this type of packaging has proven to be an excellent means of attracting retail dollars.

test Packaging and image are what makes a customer pick up your card for the first time, and a good rate will keep them coming back for more.


There are 2 types of material that are commonly used in this industry:

Paper and Plastic - both come with different thicknesses. We always make the attempt to match the appropriate card type to customer needs type to customer by asking the following questions:

How durable must the card be?

(i.e. life of 1 month, 6 months..etc.)

How should the card feel?

(i.e. Thin - saving wallet space, or thicker-more substantial image, collectible)

The most popular thickness that the majority of people use is 13mil. With lamination, this thickness is in the position to deliver both image and durability. The next option is 10mil plastic, it has the same benefits of a paper card but the price is slightly higher.


The Printing Battle: Plastic vs. Paper?

Phone Card Printing > Articles > The Printing Battle: Plastic vs. Paper?

Following close behind with the transformation of the prepaid industry are technological changes within the printing industry that are bringing convenient, cost-effective solutions for card issuers.

Plastic vs paper Today's card issuers have an array of printing methods to choose from, including paper cards, which offer providers better inventory control and are typically less expensive to produce.

Prepaid phone cards were originally produced in a plastic CR-80 (credit card) format, typically in a 30-mil card thickness and were primarily distributed through various retail outlets and vending machines. In order to display these cards in a store, card issuers either attached them to a paper carrier for visual display or had them sealed in blister board packaging.
The original premise for prepaid phone cards was to produce a high quality card that included recharge capabilities. Issuers felt that with recharge, revenues could be increased without additional overhead. That idea, however, soon fell by the wayside. Rechargeability proved to be an unsuccessful venture due to overwhelming credit card fraud and the lack of customer acceptance.
And, because cost was a major factor, providers had to keep their operating expenses down. Since few cards were being recharged, providers realized that customers would use these plastic cards and then throw them away. This was a costly manner of producing cards, particularly because the costs of raw materials and increased product slippage are always higher with plastics.
Paper, on the other hand, is less a expensive alternative; it is easier to print on and produces significantly less loss. Because issuers have found it unnecessary to incur the additional costs for plastic, paper has quickly become an ideal candidate.

Looking at a cost comparison, a 100,000-card run, for example, would cost approximately 10 cents per piece for paper, compared with 12.5 cents for plastic. Another contributing factor to paper card's increased usage is the long turnaround time for blister packaging plastic cards. Issuers have realized that not only are paper card less expensive, but the turnaround for manufacturing is also faster.

This is mainly because the printing process for paper card is less labor intensive, and there is less product slippage.

The Retail Marketplace.

Inventory of cards is another aspect that issuers must consider when selling in retail markets because without a satisfied retailer, card sales could suffer. Paper cards are often used in counter display at retail stores because they usually come as single unit and include a die-cut hanger and a perforated tear off card. Paper cards lie flat, allowing for greater inventory and storage capabilities, whereas plastic, particularly in blister packaging, takes up a considerable amount of space in the retailer's cash drawer.

"When planning a job of large volume we need to consider all variables. Price is important, but is not the sole factor in our decision making process. Customers decide to use paper for their phone card products, not only for its cost effectiveness, but also for its practicality in the marketplace. Paper cards allow customers to store and display their products much more efficiently than they can with blister packed plastic cards. Paper is also safer for the environment.

End users have generally been receptive to using paper cards, particularly because most customers want a competitive rate and the ability to make a quality call. While eye-catching graphics are important for getting a customers attention, packaging is not the deciding factor when a customer makes a purchasing decision. The product itself is much more important than the way it is displayed.

Despite the customers' generally non-partisan attitude toward what a card is made of and how it is displayed, card issuers must be more careful. They must take every measure to prevent fraud and theft, both plastic and paper cards can have security features built in. Tamper resistant scratch-off bars is the most formidable security method for the card. A good scratch-off that cannot be removed and replaced without signs of tampering is the first and foremost concern for the manufacturer and distributor. If fraud becomes apparent the manufacturer and the distributor must work together to improve the product so that the PIN number cannot be accessed without a card purchase.

Vending Solutions for Paper Cards.

For vending applications, plastic is still the ideal material to use. Predominantly, phone card vending machines are still utilizing the original 30-mil, CR-80 plastic cards. In the future, the industry may dictate a change toward less expensive substitutes, however, for vending, plastic is still currently standard.

Point-of-sale (POS) systems for prepaid telecom applications have become the industry's newest frontier, and there are many varieties of POS solutions being used. Some vendors are using a combination paper or plastic card with a magnetic stripe, allowing online PIN activation at the retail site. Others are utilizing proprietary hardware and software systems to not only activate PINs onsite, but also to apply entire back of the card through an innovative thermal printing process.

ATM prepaid transactions are another alternative, giving issuers an opportunity to sell PINs through ATM bank machines via a paper receipt generated on location. Thus far, consumers have been more receptive to POS when an actual card is being sold, rather than a paper receipt. This is primarily due to the customer's perception of getting a tangible item with their purchase.

When to use paper.

Card providers must be careful to consider all of their needs when running a print job, most importantly the number of cards needed; this could the determining factor if the issuer should use paper or plastic.
Paper cards are best used when a provider needs a large quantity of cards because the manufacturing of the paper card can be done more economically for larger production runs. Small runs (under 10,000 cards), however, are not less expensive, as setup and printing costs do not justify small production runs.
For example, a run of 5,000 plastic cards with a 4/1 imprint would cost approximately 20 cent per piece. The same run for paper cards would be close to 35 cents.
Providers must also consider what the use of the card will be - retail or promotional- because this could affect consumers' perception of the card itself.

The Downside.

While paper has become the choice for many card issuers, plastic cards still typically possess a higher perceived value in the eyes of consumers, especially for promotional cards or for collectible series

Although the cost for plastic cards is always higher, these cards do have a more durable life. They are not as easily destroyed in the everyday handling of the card, whereas the customer who usually buys a paper card uses the card only a few times. Because they do not intend to keep the card for a long period of time, there is less advertising impact on the consumer.

The Future of Paper Cards.

As the prepaid phone card market continues to grow, distributors will always look to cut costs, especially as the competitors and products emerge and rates continue to fall.
Since providers are looking to trim expenses wherever possible, paper cards will continue to be used.
William Woolstencroft, director of research and development for AmeriPlast, also attributes the increase of paper usage to the technological improvements of the industry.
"With features such as UV finishing, magnetic striping, bar coding, and data encoding capabilities now coming to fruition for paper, its growth is sure to continue on its upward spiral," said Woolstencroft.
Although certain markets will always want a plastic card, the paper card will remain a viable part of the prepaid card market.

More Articles >
Understanding The Basics | Phone Card Design | The Fine Art of Color Proofing | Distributors and Private Labeling |


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