Visa ID card that doubles as a prepaid card

VisaThe new Visa Prepaid CitizenCard is not only a useful piece of ID, but you can also use it to pay for your shopping!

A new prepaid card has launched, combining a prepaid card with an ID card.
The Visa Prepaid CitizenCard is the brainchild of CitizenCard, a firm that has been providing proof of age cards since 1999. However, this is the first time that a recognised piece of ID has been combined with the ability to pay for things.
So how does it work?

The card
The card is available to people aged 12 or above. The CitizenCard displays not only the cardholder's date of birth but also their age band: 12-15, 16-17, 18+, 21+, etc. The actual card number also identifies whether the cardholder is over or under 18, serving as a way to prevent the card being used to pay for age-restricted goods if the cardholder is not old enough.

As with any prepaid card, you have to load money onto the card before you can use it to buy anything. As a result, there is no danger of getting into debt. Indeed, fans of prepaid cards argue that this actually helps you manage your money more responsibly.

The Visa CitizenCard carries the Government's PASS (proof of age standard scheme) mark, which is accepted by the likes of the Home Office, police and the Scottish Government.

How it works for under-16s
For under-16s, everything will have to go through their parents or guardians. They'll be the ones who apply and have the details to monitor activity on the card online.

Once the cardholder passes the age of 16, they can apply themselves for the next version of the card, and they'll take over the running of it.

What it costs
You'll have to shell out £15 for the card for delivery within a month or £30 for delivery within a week (if you're desperate to use it as both ID and a method of payment for the Olympics, for example).

It's free to load the card if you do so by bank transfer, standing order, online banking or at any Barclays branch. But if you want to load it with cash a fee of 2-3% will apply. If you want to withdraw from an ATM you'll have to pay £1 for withdrawals in the UK or £2 overseas. And when the time comes to move to a higher age band on the card, you'll need to pay £9.

It's important to note at this point that CitizenCard is a non-profit firm, so these costs go towards admin costs rather than making a few shareholders a bit better off!

The pros
I can certainly see the appeal for those in their late teens and early twenties. These are the people most often asked for ID (though my receding hairline meant I was asked less frequently than most) but carrying around your passport or driving licence can be a pain, particularly if it gets stolen or misplaced. A replacement Prepaid CitizenCard costs £15, far less than a replacement driving licence or passport.

I can also see the appeal for parents. You can ensure your kids always have enough money to cover any emergencies and monitor exactly what they are spending their pocket money on. I'm not sure I would have appreciated that when I was 12 but now I am a parent I have a slightly different perspective!

Plus there's the fact that you can't end up in debt and you can't use that money to buy things you really shouldn't.

The cons
However, there are a few downsides. My colleague Neil Faulkner wrote an excellent piece looking at some of the flaws in the arguments in favour of prepaid card in Why use a prepaid card? which I'd really recommend reading. Perhaps the most obvious one is that, from a purely financial point of view, a basic bank account with no overdraft facility does everything a prepaid card does, but without you having to pay for the privilege.

There will also be plenty of people uncomfortable at the combination of money and personal details on the card. There is something a little 1984-esque about a single card that carries not only your photo and date of birth but can also be used to buy your shopping. Or maybe I'm just being paranoid.

Besides, isn't there something nice about learning about money management with actual money?

What do you think? Would you be tempted to get one for your kids? Or is a combination ID/prepaid card an unnecessary piece of plastic? Let me know your thoughts in the comment box below.

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