Frequently Asked Questions

What are the network members’ ‘top tips’?

  • In your tender evaluation don’t put too high a weighting on price. This is a real ‘no-no’. It means that you may lose the supplier who best fits your needs for the sake of an apparent saving of one or two thousand pounds. Look at it this way; let’s say your tender value is £30k and your target savings based on the reported 5%-10% savings from other users are £400k-£800k. Now, what if a 10% difference in price means you get a less suitable supplier so your potential savings drop to the lower end of the range. You’ll have saved £3k through tender process but put £400k savings at risk. In our ‘savings’ culture this is a very easy mistake to make
  • When talking to potential providers ask if the features they’re offering are actually available now and not ‘under development’. Too many people have been caught out by this one.
  • Prepaid cards offer a way into examining and improving the way in which you carry out your payments. The more thought you put into designing a better way of working the more you’ll get out of it
  • Use the network, talk to others and use the resource library. To start with you won’t be doing anything that hasn’t already been tried so don’t needlessly reinvent the wheel
  • Collaborate where you can. You don’t have to do this alone, councils can work together and CCG’s are partnering with councils rather than trying to make their own direct payments when they have no experience of doing so


Are there any framework contracts we can use?

Yes, Surrey County Council runs a nationally available prepaid cards framework contract. See the news page for further details

Is our money safe?

Advanced Payment Solution, Prepaid Financial Services and Allpay all have eMoney licences granted by the Financial Conduct Authority. As a result, all client funds are ring fenced and kept entirely separate from the company funds, they’re not event allowed to invest the funds to gain interest. They all have further safeguards in place due to their association with MasterCard. Your money is even safer with them than it is with your bank.

Who might not be able to have a prepaid card?

The vast majority of people have no problem getting a card. Very occasionally card issue might be prevented by age, inability to pass ‘Know Your Client’ checks or being on a sanctions or politically exposed persons list. Current money laundering regulations are satisfied by your existing identity verification procedures

Can the use of the cards be restricted?

Yes, anyone who can take card payments is placed in a merchant category which accurately reflects what they do. Card usage can be either allowed or blocked by merchant category. Many organisations block online gambling and porn sites as a matter of course

Cash machine use can be allowed or blocked, or a daily limit set. Everything is set up during the implementation stage and it is entirely up to you to decide which limitations are appropriate for your culture

Can prepaid cards be used as smart cards for a range of services?

Yes, but at the time or writing this has only recently become affordable. One or two councils are looking into using prepaid cards as a citizen card with appropriate card branding, such as the Kent Card in the home page logo

What are the transaction details like?

Very much like a bank or credit card statement showing time, recipient and value. Line item detail is not available by law in this country so you can’t see, for example, alcohol purchases from a supermarket

What do I have to do to integrate the data into my current IT systems?

You don’t have to do this, in fact we recommend that you don’t at the outset. Prepaid card programmes operate independently and no-one has yet tried to fully integrate them with their existing systems due to the costs and timescales involved. What most people do is download their transactions by spreadsheet on a regular basis and then manipulate it and match it against other data as they see fit

How long does it take to implement a prepaid cards programme?

Once you’ve made a decision to go ahead a programme can be up and running in two to four weeks

How much do they cost?

It depends on your exact requirements. An average sized council using prepaid cards for direct payments might incur charges of around £30k per annum all-in. This should be compared to reported savings of 5%-10% of your direct payments budget, the return on investment is very high

In which service areas are prepaid cards being used?

It’s increasing all of the time. Most councils start off with Adult Social Care direct payments as that’s where the big benefits lie. Once they’re happy they quickly move onto appointeeships and Court of Protection Orders. Children’s Services such as young people leaving care, fostering and subsistence payments are a popular next step. They can be used in maintenance and in school’s kitchens as a replacement for petty cash. A couple of councils are using prepaid cards as household cards where benefits recipients in the same household pay some of the benefits onto a seperate, common, prepaid card which  helps them to manage their household budgets. Some use them for travel expenses or for visiting staff who need to be given daily or weekly allowances

The emergency payments element proves popular in dealing with asylum seekers and for school trips

How do people typically implement prepaid cards for direct payments?

The overwhelmingly most successful model is to decide on a cut-off date after which the benefits of all new recipients will be paid onto a prepaid card (the ‘cash/bank account’ alternative is always there as a fall back but not readily offered)

Migration of existing service users is a lot easier than you might think. Generally 80% of them will welcome prepaid cards with open arms as it cuts out the worry of sending in paperwork and is more consistent with how people live their lives. Of the remaining 20%, some will resist prepaid cards as they have good reason to fear the additional monitoring. Others may simply not be suitable for prepaid cards, perhaps those with complex needs who are on the verge of having a managed account.

If a challenge to the use of prepaid cards is made based on choice, the standard line is that choice exists in the service users’ commissioning of services, it does not lie in not allowing the organisation to run its affairs in a proper and efficient fashion