Ontario Introduces Reloadable Payment Card for Social Assistance
Province Offering New, Safer Option for Clients
Ontario is making it safer and easier for people to receive and use their social assistance benefits. Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) clients who do not have a bank account will be able to receive their benefits on a reloadable payment card rather than receiving a paper cheque.
The card, provided by the Royal Bank of Canada, works in the same way as a debit card but does not require a bank account. Each month that a client is eligible for ODSP benefits, funds are loaded onto the card and clients can then use their card to make ATM cash withdrawals, as well as in-store or online purchases or payments. To ensure client privacy and safety, the cards are not monitored and they do not identify the cardholder as a social assistance client or a recipient of government services.
For individuals without bank accounts, reloadable payment cards offer many benefits, including:
- Not having to use expensive cheque-cashing services and avoiding the risk of carrying large amounts of cash
- Four no-fee ATM withdrawals per month and unlimited in-store or online payments and purchases
- Enhanced security with PIN and chip technology.
The province will phase the new cards into use. In the first phase that is already underway, clients can volunteer to test the reloadable payment card and will provide feedback on the kinds of supports, information and processes needed to benefit fully from the card. This summer in a second phase, the card will be issued to all ODSP clients who are unable to open or maintain a bank account - with some exceptions, such as those who have limited access to a bank machine.
The reloadable payment card is part of the government's plan to enhance social assistance, improve customer service, and make programs work better for clients. Providing vulnerable Ontarians with the support they need to realize their potential is part of the government's economic plan for Ontario. The four-part plan is building Ontario up by investing in people's talents and skills, making the largest investment in public infrastructure in Ontario's history, creating a dynamic, supportive environment where business thrives and building a secure savings plan.
- There are approximately 465,000 individuals on ODSP in Ontario.
- 14 per cent, or 46,000, of ODSP clients still receive paper cheques, while 86 per cent use the preferred option of direct bank deposit.
- The cost to implement the card is approximately $3.1 million. Replacing cheques with the card will save the government up to $1.7 million annually.
“The reloadable payment card is one way we are moving social assistance into the 21st century and providing better service to our most vulnerable clients. This is a safer option for clients who don’t have bank accounts.”
“The reloadable payment card helped one of our ODSP clients in Windsor by ensuring that he did not have to carry cash, which would have made him vulnerable to theft, and made it easy for him to purchase the things that he needed. The cards are also easy to issue. It’s nice to have a simplified process that also helps clients.”
Ginette Brindle, ODSP Manager, Windsor
“We are pleased that the government is providing a safer way for vulnerable people in Ontario to handle their money. Reducing ODSP clients’ reliance on cash lowers their risk of being targeted by predators.”
Ron G. Bain, Executive Director
“A reloadable payment card is an important step in expanding financial options for people with disabilities on social assistance, offering alternatives to cheque cashing services at payday lending companies. The test phase will be critical in identifying and addressing potential barriers, such as avoiding fees, and determining what additional financial literacy supports and tools are required.”
Pedro Barata, Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs