OAKLAND -- The city is set to launch a first-of-its-kind municipal identification card that will double as a debit card to help residents both prove their identity and avoid expensive check-cashing outlets.

"We're very proud that we think we've taken a step that will make people safer and will give them more rights and more protections," Mayor Jean Quan said at a Friday ceremony.

Quan and former Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente first proposed the card four years ago to help assure undocumented residents that they wouldn't risk deportation by reporting crimes or coming forward to police as witnesses.

Quan also pressed for the cards to have the banking feature -- an option not available on other cities' identification cards.

While the debit card component took years to figure out, city leaders hope that it will broaden the card's appeal among all residents -- not just the undocumented -- who don't qualify for bank cards.

Residents dependent solely on cash have been easy prey for robbers. "They even refer to them as walking ATMs," said Bianca Sierra, who directs Oakland's Centro Legal de la Raza.

The city of Richmond is creating a similar card and Los Angeles also is considering it, said Raul Hinojosa, a UCLA professor who runs SF Global, the company that will be running the card program for the city in conjunction with MasterCard and Minnesota-based University National Bank. Oakland is set to start pre-registering applicants for the card Monday. The first cards are expected to be delivered about March 15.


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The cards will include the resident's name, address and date of birth. City officials acknowledged Friday the extra information could make it easier for crooks to defraud debit cardholders. The inclusion of an address and date of birth were required in the legislation approving the card, assistant city administrator Arturo Sanchez said.

Officials said debit card users would have standard protections including a PIN number and fraud security through MasterCard.

"All we're doing is giving people access to a MasterCard," Hinojosa said. "It's a relatively minor risk compared to living in a cash economy."

Residents can choose not to accept the debit feature. City leaders hope the card will be embraced by residents and that local businesses will offer special deals to cardholders.

Sergio Romano, an undocumented Oakland resident who already has a credit card, said he still looked forward to getting the municipal card. "It will make me feel more safe and more a part of the community," he said.

Oakland anticipates issuing about 6,000 cards this year.

The cards will cost $15. Those using the debit feature will pay a $2.99 monthly fee as well as a $1.50 ATM withdrawal fee, a 75 cent fee on purchases and a $1.75 fee for calling customer service. There will also be $2.95 fees to load money onto the card. The city is in the process signing up hundreds of businesses where cardholders will be able to transfer money onto the cards. The fees are still significantly less than those charged by check cashing outlets, Sanchez said.

To receive a card, applicants will have to show photo identification, plus proof of Oakland residency such as a bill addressed to their home.

Applications will be processed at 250 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Suite 6301 and at the Spanish Citizens' Foundation, 1470 Fruitvale Ave. A third site is scheduled to open next month in East Oakland.

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.