Consumers will soon be able to purchase company stock at retail stores, as chains such as Kmart and Office Depot are planning to offer cards that give purchasers a small amount of stock in some of the best known companies of the country. The “stock cards” are expected to go on sale later this week.
The idea was created by the startup company Stockpile Inc., which believes that the stock cards might be good way to give a gift to loved ones or to get young people involved in investing at an early age. Buyers will be able to purchase the stock cards without giving out their personal information.
Founder and CEO of Stockpile Avi Lele says, “It is taking something complicated and expensive and making it accessible to everyone.”
The cards function like traditional gift cards. When recipients turn the cards in, they will receive stock instead of cash. Recipients will also be able to trade the shares that they have purchased or received in exchange for the stock of other companies.
Stockpile is licensed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has permitted this new selling technique. However, it is unknown if the American public will be interested.
Estimates show that only 13.8% of families in the United States own stock directly. Most Americans choose to invest in mutual funds or their retirement accounts.
However, the company hopes that the stock cards will be viewed more like gift cards than like stock. Last year, nearly $94 billion was put onto gift cards. They are a major hit with Americans and a popular gift at any time of the year.
Meanwhile, stores that plan to carry the stock cards are installing spaces to display the cards, and they are training employees to answer any questions from customers. The cards say “stock” across the top so that consumers won’t confuse them for a gift card.
The initial release of the stock cards includes major companies such as Coca-Cola, Facebook and Apple. In total, 20 companies will participate. Buyers can also purchase a generic card that allows the recipient to purchase the stock of any company of their choosing. Purchasers can also buy cards representing precious metals, such as silver and gold and other commodities.
The cards will be available in denominations of $25, $50 and $100. Customers will receive the appropriate amount of “partial shares” when they exchange the cards for stock on the Stockpile website.
Once the card is activated on the website, the stock is maintained there. Users will not have to pay any activation or monthly fees. However, they will have to pay a transaction fee of 99 cents for any future sale or purchase of stock. It is unknown if consumers will be restricted to stocks participating in the program.
Time will tell if the stock cards will be a success or not, but it certainly makes getting into the market easier than ever before.