Pushing Plastic

February 24, 2001

Credit Card Company Teams With Channel One to Hook Children on “CarryingPlastic”


Channel One is pushing the American Expresses Cobaltcard hard. Channel One wants to have millions of children sign up for the equivalent of a credit card. Obligation successfully exposed the ZapMe! Corporation’s efforts to promote this very card to students.








Above is the artwork from Channel One’s web feature that ties money (Cobaltcard) to love. Channel One assumes that children are very materialistic and they have to be disappointed if they didn’t receive an expensive gift from someone on Valentine’s Day.


In order to lure children into the idea of owning a Cobaltcard, Channel One is currently running a contest to get children to provide personal information about
themselves (name, email address, school name, city, state and age). The child is suppose to write why they were disappointed in the gift they received on Valentine’s Day and if it is the “worst” story, Channel One will give them a Cobaltcard loaded with $500.


“Write about the worst Valentine’s Day gift you received below. Make sure to submit your entry by March 1, 2001 at 5pm PST.


You must be 13 or older to enter. If you are 13, 14 or 15, you need your parents’ permission to submit an entry. Check out our privacy policy if you have questions about how we use the information we collect.


If you haven’t already, don’t forget to check out our rules.


Tell us about your worst gift below: “



Jim Metrock, president of Obligation, said, “It is stunning what has happened in the last month at Channelone.com. Channel One is aggressively seeking personal information from children visitors and that is wrong. It is wrong to promote a ‘credit card’ to children. Channel One executives want to see kids spend more money. This card will make it easy for them to spend money without parents knowledge of the purchase. The Cobaltcard is a buying card which means it is pre-funded, so technically Channel One can say they are not advertising a credit card, but that is misleading. The ad Channel One is running for kids says the Cobaltcard is an ‘equivalent’ of a credit card. American Express wants children to be used to carrying a credit card-like card when they are young so they can start using credit cards in college. Does Channel One care if children start developing bad spending habits when they are in middle and high school? Of course, they don’t. That’s not their concern.”

This is part of the advertising for the controversial Cobaltcard. Students in schools that still have Channel One are being targeted for this “credit card for kids.” Technically, it is a prefunded “buying card,” but as far as the student is concerned it is a credit card. (A child sees something he or she likes on the Internet and it is their’s once they give the web site the Cobaltcard number. A child is in a department store and wants to make a purchase, all they do is hand over their Cobaltcard and sign the receipt. Buy! Buy! Buy! Hook them while they are young.

Here is part of the Channel One/Cobaltcard pitch to kids:

“Now You Can Have Plastic – Shop online, and just about anywhere. Money talks, but there are times when cash in hand isn’t as effective as a flash of plastic. If you need change for the bus, money for the meter, or are craving a quick snack from your favorite burger joint, nothing beats hard currency. But not every situation is best dealt with by flashing a cool twenty. You may have already experienced the pain of being without access to a credit card or its equivalent, a “buying card,” like the Cobaltcard. A credit card racks up charges you have to pay for later; a buying card is a pre-paid card that is worth a set amount.”






These marketers will not rest until your child has the cool, blue Cobaltcard in their wallet or purse.

With it, a child can buy products on the Internet and in stores. Mom and Dad have to send in a check to fund the card, but they don’t have to know what was purchased. There are restrictions on what can be bought, but American Express sees huge profits down the road when these children, used to buying with plastic, become full-fledged card carrying adults.

If your school still has Channel One, then your school is helping in this absurd effort to promote this credit card equivalent.




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