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Square is rolling out its first debit card

It’s a prepaid card, not a real debit card. But it’s like the one Jack Dorsey recently showed off.

Twitter Chairman Jack Dorsey Speaks At Techonomy Detroit
Jack Dorsey at the Techonomy Detroit conference in 2013.
Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Last month, Jack Dorsey teased the launch of a Square debit card. Today, the company started allowing some users of its Square Cash money-transfer service to order one of these cards for themselves.

Recode was alerted to the rollout after a Square Cash customer tweeted about the invitation. A Square spokesperson confirmed that the company started sending out invites to some Square Cash users today.

The prepaid card isn’t linked to your bank account, but instead to the Square Cash app. That means you can only use it to spend money that you are holding in your Square Cash account.

Why would you want to do that?

Perhaps if someone sends you money through the service and you want to spend it that day. (Square charges a 1 percent fee to instantly deposit new funds to your bank account; otherwise, you may have to wait a day to access the funds.)

Perhaps you don’t have a bank account at all. Or perhaps this is a fun little side project that no one ends up using.

What’s that? You just want a black card — even if it’s not the Black Card — with your own custom signature laser-printed on the front? When ordering the card, customers are in fact prompted to provide a signature to be printed in place of their name on the front of the plastic.

Here’s Dorsey’s version — inspired by that other little company he runs.

A Square spokesperson said these signatures are screened before printing to prevent inappropriate words and drawings from making their way onto the cards. But there is obviously wiggle room to include your Twitter handle, if you want to be like Jack, or just a first name, too. The cardholder’s first and last names are printed on the back of the card.

The physical “Cash” card is the latest attempt by Square to build more features into its Square Cash app, in part to help differentiate it from similar services like Venmo (and maybe Apple soon, too). The company earlier introduced virtual prepaid debit cards, which can be added to Apple Pay to allow iPhone users to make tap-and-pay transactions in stores using their Square Cash balance.

Creating a deeper relationship with Square Cash customers might also open up other business opportunities in personal finance for the $7 billion payments company. Lending, anyone?

For now, it’s simply a counterintuitive product launch for a digital-first company. But as long as the company keeps performing like it did in the first quarter, Wall Street will likely continue to give it the leash to dabble in consumer-facing projects outside of its core business.

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