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Customizable Visa Card Offers Flexibility to Beneficiaries

Evaluating the Alternatives

The last issue of The Voice [1] introduced the True Link card [2], a customizable Visa card that enables individuals with special needs to conveniently make purchases without affecting their needs-based government benefits. Families and trustees have long faced the dilemma of how to help individuals with disabilities buy what they need, when they need it. Gifts of cash, as well as standard credit, debit and gift cards can affect their Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid benefits. But the use of True Link cards has been approved by the Social Security Administration.

Each individual’s situation, however, is unique, and there are pros and cons to the various options open to individuals with special needs and their caregivers.

ABLE Account versus True Link Card

The ABLE account [3] is a relatively new savings tool that can enhance the financial freedom of individuals with special needs whose disability occurred prior to their turning 26. Many states have established ABLE programs, and most of them are open to residents from across the U.S. Depending on the program, disbursements can be transferred directly to a bank account, issued through paper checks or used to fund a debit card owned by the account holder.

Here are some considerations when weighing the pros and cons of ABLE accounts [4] versus True Link cards:

Credit Cards versus True Link Cards

Another option is having the beneficiary make purchases on his or her own credit card, with the trustee selectively reimbursing the card for appropriate purchases. Paying off legitimate debt directly is not considered income to the benefits recipient, so long as the underlying expenditures are appropriate. It’s nearly impossible to give the beneficiary a card in the name of the SNT without exposing the SNT’s assets to overuse, since even cards with credit limits may allow over-limit purchases subject to penalty.
Here are some considerations when weighing the pros and cons of credit cards and True Link cards:

The True Link card offers a level of freedom to those with special needs, while protecting them from lost benefits and financial abuse. While it is proving helpful to a growing number of individuals, however, families considering True Link should first confer with their SNT trustee and/or special needs attorney.

About this Article: We hope you find this article informative, but it is not legal advice. You should consult your own attorney, who can review your specific situation and account for variations in state law and local practices. Laws and regulations are constantly changing, so the longer it has been since an article was written, the greater the likelihood that the article might be out of date. SNA members focus on this complex, evolving area of law. To locate a member in your state, visit Find an Attorney [5].

Requirements for Reproducing this Article: The above article may be reprinted only if it appears unmodified, including both the author description above the title and the “About this Article” paragraph immediately following the article, accompanied by the following statement: “Reprinted with permission of the Special Needs Alliance – www.specialneedsalliance.org [6].” The article may not be reproduced online. Instead, references to it should link to it on the SNA website.