Transgender and nonbinary people often face bias in their daily lives. Even going to the grocery store can be stressful: Using a credit or debit card with a name that doesn’t reflect their true identity can be a source of sensitivity.
Credit card companies are hoping to change that. Last year, Mastercard launched an initiative to allow cardholders to use their chosen names, even if they haven’t changed their legal names.
“If we see a need or if this community is not being served in the most inclusive way and we can drive change that will help address and alleviate pain points, then we’re going to take action,” said Cheryl Guerin, a spokeswoman for Mastercard.
Other financial institutions are following suit. Chase Bank allows a different name on cards as long as it’s a “reasonable derivation of the legal name,” said Liz Seymour, a spokeswoman for Chase bank. For example, J. Smith would be acceptable, as would a middle name.
Why is this important?
“The biggest issue is communication and discrimination when it comes to actually getting a credit card,” said Tinora Locke, organizer at New York Transgender Advocacy Group.
Nonbinary and transgender people can face financial discrimination. According to a 2015 report by the National Center for Transgender Equality, 68% of respondents said none of their IDs had the name and gender they preferred. One-third who showed an ID with a name or gender that did not match their gender presentation were verbally harassed, denied service, asked to leave or assaulted.
Approximately 1.4 million people in the U.S. identify as transgender according to the Williams Institute, meaning they have a gender identity different than the sex assigned at birth. Around a third of transgender people are nonbinary, the National Center for Transgender Equality report found, meaning they don’t identify as male or female.
“It’s a good initial first step. But the bigger issue is access to financial resources. There are large disparities in employment, and credit is an issue,” said Locke, who uses she and they pronouns. “There are societal factors and hardships the community faces. Financial literacy is not accessible to a lot of folks.”
The financial cost
While transgender and nonbinary people can legally change their names, it typically requires a court order and can be expensive.
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality survey, one-third of people who were granted a legal name change paid more than $250. Over one in 10 spent more than $500. One-third of transgender people did not try to change their legal name because they could not afford it.
These costs are steep, especially for transgender people, who tend to have lower incomes due to higher rates of unemployment and job discrimination.
The ability to change your name for free can reduce the financial barrier and stigma transgender people face when visiting a bank or using a card, said Locke. But there’s more to be done.
“I hope there’s more investment in providing resources to transgender and nonbinary people in providing jobs,” they said. “That would help the community more than superficial publicity for changes for people that won’t even be accepted to work there.”
How to request the change
Looking to change your name on a credit card? Visit your local bank branch or call to request a change. You don’t need to say you’re transgender or nonbinary, or give a specific reason, said Guerin.
Some merchants may ask for a second form of ID when using a credit card. If your ID doesn’t match the name on the card and the merchant questions it, the merchant can contact your bank to verify the identity.
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