Last year, Mastercard introduced credit, debit and prepaid cards that let transgender and nonbinary customers express their true identities, and a couple of issuers have embraced it. But major card companies have been slow to adopt True Name cards.
In the year since payment-processing giant Mastercard announced the True Name card, only two card issuers in the U.S. have embraced the product — Chicago-based BMO Harris Bank and New York City-based Superbia Credit Union.
“Breaking down barriers to inclusion requires bold action,” Ernie Johannson, group head for North American personal and U.S. business banking at BMO Harris, said in a November 2019 news release. “We are bringing True Name to BMO to embrace our cardholders’ true identities and empower them to make real financial progress without fear of discrimination.”
lIn the same news release, Myles Meyers, founder of Superbia Credit Union, the first national credit union geared toward LGBTQIA+ customers, said the True Name initiative helps “remove any risk of intolerance and discrimination” for LGBTQIA+ people seeking financial services.
See related: Guide to LGBT finances
What is a True Name card?
The True Name card is printed with the chosen name – rather than the “deadname,” or the name assigned at birth – of a cardholder without the requirement of a legal name change.
Transgender refers to people whose gender identity differs from the one they were assigned at birth. Nonbinary refers to people who identify as neither male nor female.
BMO Harris rolled out True Name for consumer debit and ATM cards in December 2019, becoming the first bank to do so. In June 2020, BMO Harris expanded the True Name offering to include consumer credit cards and small business debit and credit cards.
“Breaking down barriers to inclusion and supporting our customers requires a commitment to creating products that not only represent our BMO values but also serve the needs of our customers,” Denise Press, head of retail and small business payments for BMO Harris, said in a June 2020 news release.
In that release, Cheryl Guerin, executive vice president of North America marketing and communications for Mastercard, said her company continues to work with industry partners to develop financial products “that reflect cardholders’ true identity.”
Superbia, a credit union startup, hasn’t begun offering financial services yet. But it’s set to launch them sometime in 2020, meaning its True Name cards likely will appear this year, too.
See related: The pros and cons of credit union cards
Why having your ‘true’ name on your card matters
A report issued in 2016 by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 32% of people who had shown IDs with a name or gender that did not match their presentation described negative experiences, such as harassment or attacks.
Sixteen percent of people who showed IDs with a name or gender that did not match their gender presentation were denied benefits or services. More transgender men and women reported these denials (20%) compared with nonbinary people (10%).
In the center’s survey, people cited several reasons for not having changed their gender on IDs or records. Those included lacking the money to do it, believing they weren’t allowed to do it or worrying that they’d lose benefits or services if they did it.
“Transgender people are forced to pay an unfair price – and one that many cannot afford – simply because of who they are. The culprit: anti-transgender laws and limited protections against discrimination that together create added financial penalties for transgender people,” the Center for American Progress and Movement Advancement Project think tanks wrote in a 2015 report.
Will more issuers offer True Name cards?
According to the Transgender Allies Group, each credit card issuer sets its own standards for updating the gender on your credit card. Some let you fax or email a copy of your name-change order, along with a letter detailing the change. Other credit card issuers require that a name-change order be mailed to them, in addition to a letter.
In November 2019, The New York Times reported that some banks provide “wiggle room” for names printed on credit and debit cards.
“Chase, for instance, allows flexibility as long as the name on the card is a “reasonable” derivation of the legal name — like a middle name that appears on government documents, or an initial instead of the full first name, which is an option that could help transgender people as well. But printing an entirely new name, and one that is commonly associated with a different gender, is new,” The Times reported.
Widespread adoption of the True Name card will depend on card issuers like Bank of America, Capital One, Chase and Citibank. Mastercard and its competitors, including Visa, process credit, debit and prepaid card payments but do not issue cards to customers.
While Mastercard, BMO Harris and Superbia are the only participants in True Name so far, other providers of financial services have sought to address challenges faced by transgender and nonbinary customers.
In 2017, for instance, card issuer HSBC unveiled 10 gender-neutral titles for customers. So, rather than the traditional Mr., Mrs. and Ms., a customer can pick a gender-neutral reference like Mx., Ind., M., Mre. or Misc.
*An earlier version of this article was published June 18, 2019.