Why Do I Need to Provide a Social Security Number to Get a Prepaid Debit Card?

Several years ago, prepaid debit cards were available that were “anonymous” as well as reloadable. The cards were popular with people concerned about their privacy. Unfortunately, they were also popular with people who used them for money laundering. As a result, more strict rules have been imposed by the Government as well as payment card networks (like Visa and MasterCard) to require cardholder identification to help eliminate the potential for using these prepaid cards in money laundering. These rules often require you to provide a social security number when opening a new account.

Social Security Card Required for PrepaidToday, most prepaid cards that are reloadable require you to provide your social security number as well as a physical mailing address (not a P.O. Box) when you apply for a card. A “reloadable” card is generally defined as a card that has your name embossed on the front, and that you can add more money to through direct deposit or reload networks such as the reload network operated by The Green Dot Corporation.

Why is a social security number required to get a reloadable prepaid debit card?

There are two main reasons.

First, Government Regulations require banks to perform adequate “know your customer” processing when opening new accounts.

The “Bank Secrecy Act” (or “BSA”) requires that banks and other financial institutions in the United States file currency transaction reports (CTRs) and suspicious activity reports (SARs). Collecting information, maintaining records, and filing reports enable law enforcement to conduct criminal investigations and provide regulatory agencies with the ability to monitor noncompliance.

The USA PATRIOT Act, which was passed in 2001, amended the BSA to mandate that all statutory financial institutions establish anti-money laundering (AML) programs. This mandate obligates each institution subject to it to develop, implement, and maintain an effective AML program. Through recent BSA enforcement actions, the AML program requirement has been extended to nonbank issuers, sellers and redeemers of stored-value cards (including money services businesses), and operators of credit and debit card systems.

By requiring you to provide your social security number when opening an account (as well as an actual physical address), banks and program managers can comply with these federal laws.

Second, because the banks could be liable for any illegal activity if they don’t adequately take steps to identify you when opening an account.

Payment card networks have taken steps to comply with the federal laws, and to reduce their liability by instituting rules for all issuers and program managers associated with prepaid debit cards.

The result of all these regulatory and legal issues are that you need to adequately identify yourself before you are issued a reloadable prepaid debit card. The way most issuers and programs have decided to identify you is to require that you provide your Social Security Number and address.

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  • You are better off getting a prepaid Simon debit card which you can get at any Simon Mall which has thousands of malls nationwide. That card is not reloadable and they will not ask you for your social security number. It is a Visa card and it can be used to buy online. It is also activated right at the store. What I don’t like about NetSpend is they make their service sounds easy. I got the card for a one-time online purchase and they wanted me to send a photo of my social security card. I said no and asked for a refund. I think NetSpend is deceptive in not letting people know that you will have a problem activating the card if you do not send this information. My advice is to avoid NetSpend and get a Simon Gift Card Visa which will be activated before you even leave the store. It is easy and took me a total of five minutes. It was ready to use when I got home.

    Wyatt K 4 years ago

    • I agree, my son got this card as a gift and asked me to activate it. I have NEVER had to give my social security number before. This feels shady!

      S Patrick 4 years ago

      • I received a Walmart Debit gift card several years ago, not expired. Tried to activate and asked for my social security number over the phone, I did not activate it. I am afraid this is a scam or that my social security number will be stolen. Happens all the time. What should I do? $50 is a lot of money to me, just retired.
        Thank you.

        Phyllis 3 years ago

  • Yeah thats bs. I bought a prepaid card from 7-11 and tried to activate to pay a bill and I got a rash of I have to’s , like send photo of ss card and ID. I was livid. Never again..I will go ahead and open an actual bank account. Prepaid my ass!

    Robert pisano 2 years ago

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