Recovery Debit Card Aims to Guide Addicts' Spending

By Chrisanne Grise 07/11/12

A new debit card for addicts in early recovery seeks to make it harder to relapse and teach good spending habits.

Will controlling spending help recovery?
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Stepping out of rehab and back into the “real world” can be a difficult process; temptations abound and money can be scarce. The Next Step MasterCard program—started up by three recovering addicts—hopes to make things a little easier for people getting back on their feet. Their re-loadable prepaid debit card is structured to make it as difficult as possible for users to relapse: the card can't be used in restricted areas like liquor stores, nightclubs and gambling establishments; cash-back and ATM withdrawals are prohibited; and parents can set a daily spending limit. Based on their own experiences of recovery, the program's founders have tried to block as many loopholes as possible. “We can’t obviously be foolproof, but we want to add another line of defense in the way of people being triggered to go out and relapse,” Eric Dresdale, one of the founders, tells The Fix. “The unfortunate thing with people in this community is, if they want to relapse, they’re going to find a way to relapse," he acknowledges. "What we’ve done with this product is make it that much more difficult.”

The program also aims to teach healthy spending habits. Dresdale remembers coming out of treatment for his own addiction to painkillers—and spending $500 on almost nothing useful. “It’s almost like someone who was paralyzed and they’re learning how to walk again,” he says. “You’re really starting at the basics and some of these people who never learned any life skills come out with no idea on how to manage money.” For this reason, users are limited to 40 swipes a month, and progress reports and budgeting tools will be available online. “In talking to my parents, they really wished they had something like this, because truth be told, they were biting their nails anytime they gave me money,” Dresdale recalls. Most of all, the program aims to encourage open communication between those in recovery and their loved ones. While the card will be available for anyone, Dresdale expects most users will be between ages 17 and 30.

Further down the road, the Next Step Network hopes to set up a charitable organization and have scholarships towards treatment. But for now, they're taking things, well, one step at a time—the debit card program will likely launch in early August. Ultimately, the organization will seek to help people get past its own program. “While obviously from a business standpoint, it’d be nice to have people on for a while, our real goal is to have them get off of it,” says Dresdale. “From an altruistic standpoint, we really want them to learn what they can from this and move on.”

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Chrisanne Grise is a multimedia journalist specializing in health/fitness, lifestyle, travel, bridal, and music. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications such as Martha Stewart Weddings, Parents, FitnessMagazine, Fisher Price, Bridal Guide, Scholastic's Choices,,, and more. She is the Senior Editor at The New York Times Upfront. Follow her on Linkedin and Twitter.