Debit Card Fundamentals and their Use in Government Programs

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This policy brief describes the history and operation of debit cards and provides examples of their use in government programs to inform the use of debit cards to access CLASS Plan benefits.

Date Updated: 04/06/2011

A little over 50 years ago, banks introduced credit cards. The utility of these early credit cards was limited as a payment card and would only work if both the merchant and consumer used the same bank. To address this issue, major banks formed franchises so that one bank’s card could be accepted at another bank’s merchant. These franchises became known as “associations”…


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