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Trans People Will Soon Be Able to Use Chosen Names on Debit Cards

Debit card

Trans and nonbinary people will soon be able to use their chosen names on payment cards.

Mastercard announced this week that customers with BMO Harris Bank and Superbia Credit Union will be able to get their names printed on credit, debit, and prepaid cards without having to go through the bureaucratic hurdles of legal name changes. 

Having a credit or debit card with one’s deadname on it can provoke anxiety and dysphoria on behalf of the cardholder, as well as doubts, questions, or harassment from cashiers.

With its “True Name” initiative, first announced in June, Mastercard says it’s attempting “to address a major pain point for the transgender and non-binary communities: when the card in their pocket serves as a source of sensitivity rather than an affirmation of who they are.” 

"Mastercard listened to transgender and non-binary consumers' need for privacy and authenticity and created a powerful tool to make their lives better," Zeke Stokes, chief programs officer at GLAAD, said in a statement over the summer. "Other businesses should follow suit by working with members of the LGBTQ community to create financial products that reflect true identities."

Gillian Branstetter, a spokesperson for the National Center for Transgender Equality, pointed out in an interview with the New York Times that cost — sometimes $1,000 or more — is often a significant barrier for trans people seeking legal name changes. Some states require a court order; others ask people to publish their name change in the newspaper.

People will still apply for accounts using their legal name, said Cheryl Guerin, executive vice president for marketing and communications at Mastercard, to the New York Times. But the participating banks will allow customers to request a card bearing their chosen name. 

Superbia is an LGBTQ-focused credit union that will be available for business in spring 2020, according to its website

The Chicago-based BMO Harris has 500 branches in eight states and operates accounts nationally online. The bank is beginning in December by only issuing debit cards with the true name option; everyone applying for a new checking account will have the option to choose what first name should be printed on the card, though they can’t do so online. Current customers “can visit a branch or contact a call center to request a change. They don’t have to say they are transgender or give a reason,” the New York Times reported. 

Names can’t include special characters or numbers, and the bank asks customers to avoid using “fictitious, humorous, or profane” names, according to the New York Times

Mastercard told the New York Times it would continue to work with other banks to implement the feature. 

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Mastercard Inc’s PACs, its individual members, employees, or owners, and those individuals' immediate families donated nearly $7,000 in the 2020 election cycle to South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign. $14,000 went to Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat who co-sponsored the Equality Act in the U.S. Senate. However, $5,750 each went to Rep. Doug Collins — a Georgia Republican who has vociferously opposed the Equality Act — and Georgia Sen. David Perdue, who supported President Donald Trump’s transgender military ban.

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