To the Editor: After reviewing Matt Pacenza’s April 7th article in City Limits, I was distressed by the misrepresentation of what Rush Communications is trying to achieve with the Rush Card. The Rush Card and program was developed for people who are CURRENTLY LOCKED OUT of the system entirely. They cannot get Basic Banking accounts as suggested in the article. They cannot rent cars, or access ATM machines. They stand in long lines to cash paychecks and pay bills every month. Far from being a card that “slims the wallets” of poor people as the article describes, THE RUSH CARD IS AN EMPOWERMENT VEHICLE!

Mr. Pacenza’s article grossly misrepresented the cost of a Rush Card. Looking at the scenario cited in the article, in which a typical New York worker pays $324 per year in check-cashing fees. Someone using the Rush Card six times a month, who made four ATM withdrawals, and wrote four checks, would pay only $190.80 per year, not the $308 quoted in the article.

Further, a Rush Card user would have the freedom, convenience and ability that every other American has to write checks, access ATM machines, make purchases wherever Visa is accepted, and not have to waste valuable time standing in line to cash checks or draft money orders. And while New York State may regulate check-cashing fees to 1.4 percent, the Rush Card is a NATIONAL program. Many states allow check cashing rates as high as 10 percent, while still others DON’T REGULATE THESE FEES AT ALL.

UniRush Financial has done extensive research in this area, and we are BY FAR THE BEST ALTERNATIVE FOR THE UNBANKED. Further, we are supported by a number of leading consumer advocacy groups like COUNCIL OF ACCREDITATION and ACORN, among others.

If City Limits, or anyone else from organizations you target has questions or suggestions on how we can deliver a more cost effective program to SUPPORT AND EMPOWER banking disenfranchised Americans, they can call me directly at Rush Communications, 212-840-9399.

-Russell Simmons
CEO, Rush Communications

Matt Pacenza replies: Sorry, Mr. Simmons, but I did not “grossly misrepresent” anything. Here’s how Rush came up with its $190.80 figure: first of all, they forgot the $19.95 it costs to buy the card. Secondly, Rush’s math assumes that ATM machines in banks or delis dispense cash for free-which of course they don’t. With ATM fees around New York City ranging from $.99 to $2.50, we assumed an average of $1.50, which is more realistic. Lastly, when we did our $308 estimate, the Rush Card website said they would charge $2 for each ATM withdrawal. Since our City Limits Weekly story came out, that fee has been lowered to $1.50. Therefore, thanks to their change of heart, the correct number should now be $282.75, but certainly not $190.80.

As for the rest, as consumer advocates interviewed for the story argued, nowhere on Rush’s website or in its marketing materials does it urge prospective customers to make sure they’re not eligible for cheaper alternatives first-especially here in New York, where state law forces banks to offer cheap checking accounts for all.