Imagine being unable to pay for dinner or getting harassed at a checkout line because the name on your credit card isn’t who you are.
That’s a reality for many transgender and nonbinary people, and one that MasterCard aims to address with its new True Name program. Cardholders will soon be able to swap out credit, debit or prepaid cards with their “dead name” with new ones featuring the names they actually use. Experts say it’s a first for the financial services industry.
“Deadnaming” refers to using the birth name of a transgender person that conflicts with their gender identity. A name change is often the first step in their transition, according to Pink News, and having others get it wrong can have emotional ramifications and jeopardize mental health and safety.
Nearly one-third of trans and non-binary individuals say they have been harassed or denied service after showing an ID card that did not match their identity, according to a 2015 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality.
If this “community is not being served in the most inclusive way, we want to be a force for change to help address and alleviate unnecessary pain points,” Randall Tucker, Mastercard’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, said in a release.
Scott Turner Schofield, who works with GLAAD’s Transgender Media project and was involved in the True Name discussions, said MasterCard was “so gung-ho” about the initiative. “I didn’t have to convince anyone to the necessity of this They were completely on board and recognized this as a barrier of access to people, as unfair, and they just fixed it. That’s the kind of corporate leadership we really want to see.”
The majority of transgender Americans don’t have credit cards, he noted, and are subject to employment discrimination that’s legal in 30 states.
Schofield, a transgender man, said it took about four years after starting his transition to gather the funds and courage to navigate the legal processes of changing his name. And when he did, it involved giving up hundreds of dollars and private information.
Mastercard said it is working with its issuing banks to have the program in place by 2020. Chaiti Sen, the company’s vice president of communications, said it will be up to those banks to work out the details of the application and verification processes.
“It is a call on the industry to apply these standards to everyone to ensure that people’s financial products truly reflect who they are,” Sen said. “What we hope to do with this initiative is really make this whole process more sensitive and private and free of personal questions that will allow for true names to appear on cards.”
CreditCards.com analyst Ted Rossman said the initiative is a first for the industry and a step that prioritizes the emotional well-being of customers.
“What Mastercard is doing is a really positive thing for this community,” Rossman said. “It feels like a good common-sense thing that people will get on board with.”
A Capital One spokeswoman said its associates can change account names upon request. American Express customers can choose the name they want to appear on their card while applying for it, but for security reasons that name has to match the name on the credit bureau’s file, said spokeswoman Ashley Tufts.
The True Name program won’t require a legal name change, unlike other forms of identification such as driver’s licenses, Social Security cards and passports.
Rossman said that while with any financial element there’s a risk of identity theft, he’s confident in the security of Mastercard and its partnering banks and doesn’t see it differing from typical card application processes.