Oakland, Calif., is getting ready to introduce reloadable prepaid cards integrated with city-issued municipal identification cards. The opt-in service was designed to provide identification and a debit-style card for illegal aliens and others who do not have access to a traditional bank account.

A report by Inside Bay Area said that it will make life safer and more secure for those currently in the cash economy, and will also save cardholders the cost of using a check-cashing service. The cards will feature PIN-protection as well as fraud protection provided by MasterCard. The card can be reloaded at participating Oakland-area stores.

"All we're doing is giving people access to a MasterCard," told Inside Bay Area. "It's a relatively minor risk compared to living in a cash economy," Raul Hinojosa, a UCLA professor who runs SF Global, the company that will operate the card program in conjunction with MasterCard and Minnesota-based University National Bank.

The Oakland ID Debit Card comes with a number of user fees:

  • $15 for the ID/debit card;
  • $2.99 monthly fee;
  • $1.50 ATM withdrawal fee (in addition to any bank surcharge);
  • 75 cent fee on purchases;
  • $1.75 fee for calling customer service;
  • $2.95 fee to load money onto the card.

The fees are still significantly less than those charged by check cashing outlets, assistant city administrator Arturo Sanchez said. And the card can be obtained without the user having to provide a social security number, which is required for prepaid reloadable cards. But for documented immigrants and American citizens with social security numbers, there are certainly far less expensive alternatives.

Applications for the program, which launches March 1, are being taken now the by the city of Oakland. Applicants will have to show photo identification, plus proof of Oakland residency such as a bill addressed to their home. The city expects to issue the first cards by March 15.

The city of Richmond, Calif., is creating a similar card and Los Angeles is considering the idea, said Raul Hinojosa, a UCLA professor who runs SF Global, the company that will be running the card program for the city in conjunction with MasterCard and Minnesota-based University National Bank. 

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