Bank of America launches prepaid emergency relief cards

Source: Bank of America

Bank of America announced today that it is introducing Emergency Relief Cards, a suite of prepaid card products that will assist corporations and government entities to prepare for catastrophic events.

The special-use cards are designed to be incorporated into contingency plans to enable continuing business operations and to provide relief measures during times of critical need.

The new Emergency Relief product suite is built upon the knowledge gained during prior emergency situations that underscored the vital value of card programs. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Bank of America provided 200,000 prepaid cards to the Salvation Army for much needed victim relief. During the 2004 hurricane season, Bank of America issued more than 300 emergency purchasing cards to the State of Florida to deploy crews and restore roadways. These cards were used for more than 7,000 emergency purchases totaling $7 million.

These experiences led Bank of America to develop solutions that can be set up in advance and incorporated into recovery plans.

"At Bank of America our goal is to provide solutions that anticipate the needs of our clients. Whether a corporate client is implementing a robust business continuity plan or a government or relief agency is planning for disasters, the Emergency Relief Card is a powerful new tool." said Matt McKenna, Product and Innovation executive for Global Treasury Services.

The suite of prepaid Emergency Relief cards currently includes cards that can be tailored for different situations. For example, by employing merchant code restrictions, programs can be designed with the ability to prevent card use for inappropriate purposes. Except for these merchant code restrictions, the cards may be used anywhere Visa is accepted. Cards can also be customized for particular client requirements, including whether to allow cash withdrawals and what dollar amount is to be preloaded on the cards.

A new version of the card will be available this summer allowing clients to pre-order unfunded cards that can be activated and loaded with funds based upon a pre-determined contingency plan. Under this system, which is believed to be the first of its kind in the industry, card numbers, intended recipient names and pre-authorized amounts will be kept on file with the bank to be activated if and when needed. This information will be updated monthly by the client to ensure accuracy and the ability to activate the system rapidly. Additionally, duplicate emergency instructions can be provided to the bank. If a client cannot access technology systems during a crisis to enable their plan, Bank of America can initiate it for them.

Lisa Wilkerson, purchasing card program administrator for the Florida Department of Transportation, says that cards are an effective method of making emergency purchases, even in a disaster situation. "In 2004, vendors specifically requested that responders use cards for emergency purchases during the hurricanes," she said. "Even when power was out at merchant locations, they were happy to process cards manually because they knew they would still be paid promptly."

Card products are an integral part of the bank's complete suite of Emergency Relief solutions designed to assist corporations, governments and relief agencies to prepare and deploy essential tools during times of crisis. Services delivered include electronic distribution of employee payroll, the ability to make emergency purchases and to provide relief payments.

"We want to equip managers and employees with the purchasing power they need to facilitate business resumption as quickly as possible," said Cathy Bessant, president of Global Treasury Services. "We are also working with government entities and relief agencies to speed delivery of aid to communities."

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