NEW YORK—Times Square is a strange place. Hundreds of blinking lights and screens, a military recruiter, a naked cowboy, and on Monday afternoon, hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean handing out free, promotional $50 Western Union gift cards to passersby.
The event was a publicity stunt for Western Union, who is offering a new Visa prepaid gift card for the holiday season as part of a holiday marketing campaign.
In return for Wyclef’s face on their gift card, Western Union made a donation of $225,000 to his charitable organization, Yéle Haiti, which supports education and humanitarian relief projects in his native country of Haiti.
“Through this relationship, Western Union and I hope to inspire people to lend a helping hand and do a random act of giving this holiday season whether it’s sending money to family and friends or donating time to a charity or cause,” said Wyclef, a Grammy-award winning artist who was part of the now defunct Fugees.
Stewart A. Stockdale, an executive vice president for Western Union, said, “Through this relationship, we hope to harness Wyclef’s star power to bring the Western Union brand to every home in America and at the same time support social causes both Wyclef Jean and Western Union strongly believe in and support.”
According to a Western Union survey, conducted by Gfk, Inc., 69 percent of consumers in the U.S. are planning to give the gift of cash or a prepaid gift card, this holiday season.
Western Union is pitching the card as a quick, convenient, and safe way to send money, along with a greeting card of your choice, to loved ones.
“It truly is a simple and convenient way to send the gift of money along with a personalized greeting card,” said Stockdale.
The gift card can be used anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.
One feature that is likely to attract gift buyers is the card’s safety features. The card is covered by Visa’s zero liability policy, which means cardholders are protected from unauthorized use. Once received, the recipient calls a toll-free number to activate the card— unlike other over the counter gift cards that are active when purchased. If lost or stolen the recipient can have the card replaced.