The cell phone companies have been doing it for years - but it is apparently becoming more popular in other areas of commerce.
Rebate debit cards.
See, when Verizon wants to offer you a sale price, they're not just going to have you pay the lower price up front. You're going to pay the higher price and get a coupon for a Mail in Rebate (MIR). At first these were just rebates where they send you a check for the exact amount. Drop that in your bank account or cash it and you're set.
Then there must have been something that changed. I really have no idea what that would be, but they decided that it would be easier to give rebates on preloaded debit/gift cards. This isn't a terrible idea in theory - but you're basically screwed as far as your usage of it. Due to the way that certain places pre-authorize your purchase, you usually cannot use these at gas stations or some restaurants - it'll tell you it was denied, even if you have plenty of money on it.
Not to mention the annoyance of spending some of it and ending up with $2 or $3 and some change left on the card. Then what? You going to go buy a soda with it and see how close you can get to the actual total? Good luck. Also good luck trying to explain to someone how to do a split transaction (ie, there is $2.50 on your card and you're going to pay the rest in cash - but they're too dumb to charge ONLY $2.50 to the card).
Anyway, I'm getting away from my actual point. So the cell phone carriers were some of the first that I personally noticed using these cards. It has since spread into other services. Lowe's offers them with some appliance purchases, I know. And lately I've started seeing a commercial for GM Certified Service using them.
But there's one part of GM's usage that I'm really not understanding... the particular commercial I'm seeing advertises for an oil change/service that is normally $39.95, but is $29.95 after MIR. And that $10 rebate is on a debit card.
WHAT THE FUCK AM I GOING TO DO WITH A TEN DOLLAR DEBIT CARD?
GM, this is an absolutely retarded move. I can understand the MIR itself. Fine. I get it. It let's you offer a sale price that not everyone will bother to claim. So you still get full price from some customers and don't have to pay all of the rebates (b/c many people will forget to mail them, or miss the cutoff date, or something like that).
Offering a $10 rebate is not a problem. I've seen less... but $10 on a debit card makes NO FUCKING SENSE. Where are you going to be able to use that? Maybe buy $10 in lottery tickets? WTF?