American Express said today it's offering charge cards for customers' children and domestic help: "Instead of providing cash to their teenagers, other family members, the nanny, or other household helpers, Cardmembers can set, manage and track spending limits on Additional Cards, helping them to maintain a tighter household budget and track all family expenditures billed to their Card."
What a convenience. But why only now, as debit cards (which spend money you already have) are displacing credit and charge cards (which used borrowed money, with interest, fees or both), and just one month after President Obama signed a new law that will make it a lot tougher for credit and charge card companies like AmEx to issue cards to students?
"It wasn't developed from any credit card law – rather from customer feedback," Kelli Gates, an AmEx spokeswoman, insisted when I asked.
"We heard from Cardmembers that they were looking for extra control, especially in these tough economic times," said Ralph Andretta, executive vice president and general manager of Cardmember Services at American Express, in a prepared statement. "I hear from parents who feel like an ATM, handing out cash to family members and household helpers – not able to easily track where the money goes. This new service is an added control feature that acts like a chaperone, allowing Cardmembers to set and track the amount that can be spent at any time."