NEW YORK (1/11/16)--NYCID, the municipal ID program launched by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in early 2015, has provided hundreds of thousands of underserved New Yorkers access to traditional financial services. And while big banks have so far turned the program down, credit unions have welcome the card openly.
Neighborhood Trust FCU, for example, a $9 million-asset credit union that serves a large Hispanic membership in the city’s Washington Heights neighborhood--as well as other minority communities in West Harlem--began accepting the cards as soon as the city started issuing them.
Rafael Monge-Portaro, the credit union’s president, told News Now that the NYCID has paved a new path for many to open accounts at the credit union.
“We saw that having an ID issued by the city was a significant improvement for many people in our community who felt disadvantaged without a U.S. government issued document,” Monge-Portaro said. “In our field of membership, for these 290,000 people, we are the only financial institution that offers accounts with the municipal ID, or with a foreign passport. From that perspective, we are very familiar with the important challenges undocumented people face, and how important it was to accept the ID.”
Neighborhood Trust is one of seven credit unions accepting the card in the city. Four small banks also accept the card, while zero big banks have yet to sign up for the optional program.
Many of the banks have cited fears that accepting the cards will lead to fraudulent activity. Others in the city believe that, for the banks, it’s just a numbers game.
If New Yorkers relying on the card were perceived as highly profitable customers, the big banks would no doubt change their tune, Deyanira Del Rio, co-director of the New Economy Project, a local nonprofit, told The Times.
Meanwhile, Monge-Portaro said that, with the National Credit Union Administration signing off on the program before it launched, Neighborhood Trust has yet to see any issues with the card.
“The municipal ID did not add extra work in terms of allowing people to open accounts with our institution,” he said. “And it does make the lives of some of our members a lot easier.”
The city also has stationed an employee at the credit union’s lone branch, at which members and nonmembers can sign up for an NYCID card. Some nonmembers apply for the card and open accounts in the same trip.
Monge-Portaro said the benefits of the program are not limited to low-income individuals; an important number of the credit union’s more affluent members have applied for the card as well.
“It provides a better sense of belonging,” Monge-Portaro said. “Some members say they apply because it’s a card from their city.”
And the cards are still growing in popularity.
Monge-Portaro said Neighborhood Trust recently set a record for the most accounts opened with the card in one month--more than a year after the program was launched.
“I can see the need for the ID that existed and that exists,” Monge-Portaro said. “I think we haven’t seen the full benefits of the ID yet. It was a great idea, it is working and I think low-income individuals who were previously undocumented (now) have a clearer path to success.”
The full list of credit unions in New York accepting the card include: