What To Do if an Employee Won't Accept Your Payroll Card


Yes, an employer may turn down a company’s payroll card.

The payroll card issue comes up when workers do not have bank accounts. It is a concern that tends to occur most often in a handful of sectors, so while it might not be a problem at firm of scientists, it could be very common at a nursing home. Paying unbanked workers is a problem. Using paper checks adds costs to payroll – probably two or three dollars per paycheck once direct and indirect expenses are accounted for entirely. Going to direct deposit cuts down on overhead – but doing so implies a process of asking workers to consent pay by direct deposit and then collecting their bank account information.

While more than half of all businesses now pay their workers by direct deposit, less than one-third pay all of their workers by direct deposit.

Offering a payroll card is a great way for a company to move toward 100 percent direct deposit, especially for larger firms that can justify the compliance and contract work required to launch a program. Getting everyone on direct deposit is harder if new hires come to your company without bank accounts. Payroll cards fit that need. Businesses love having a book of ready-to-use plastic cards on hand to distribute to otherwise unbanked workers. Unfortunately, nothing works all the time. Payroll cards have certain inherent limitations, beginning with restrictions on the number of free ATM withdrawals. Often, workers end up paying lots of small fees to use the account. As a result, it is understandable why individual workers might object to using a company’s payroll card.

Employers often ask about the rules that apply to the process. I think it bears breaking the question into separate parts. First, is it possible to mandate the use of direct deposit, and then if so, can the employer mandate the choice of an account at a specific bank?

Both issues come into play at the same time, but the law treats them separately.

An employer cannot mandate the use of a particular bank account. Federal law gives employees the right to choose. Certain exceptions do exist.

On the other hand, in some states, employers do have the right to mandate workers to use direct deposit. As of January 2018, employers in nine states had the right to insist on receipt of wages by direct deposit: Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

In twenty-one states, an employer cannot mandate that a worker receive pay by direct deposit; instead, they first have to secure permission from their workers. State rules vary on the exact definition of consent – some use an opt-out approach while others have opt-in regimes.

Other states are silent on the question of insisting on the use of direct deposit.

Employers should develop an alternative offering if a worker balks at the company’s payroll card offering. Be proactive; if the employer says no, then you should have an option at your immediate disposal. Otherwise, the company takes the risk that the worker will need weeks or months to find an alternative account.

The answer might be: sign up for a payroll card, offer it to workers, and if they refuse to use that product, then suggest a WiseWage account instead.

WiseWage Payroll Card Substitutes
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Can an employer give workers accounts where the business already banks?

While it would be convenient and it would potentially let funds clear faster, it cannot be mandated. Employers who want to mandate receipt of payment by direct deposit should understand that there are federal prohibitions against mandating receipt at the bank where the business also banks. Federal law is a baseline standard, but states can add additional rules that provide other protections. Federal law says “no.” If the employer banks at Big Bank of the US, then it cannot force a worker to receive pay with another Big Bank of the US account. None of this should be taken to mean that employer and employee are not able to use the same bank. The issue is the mandate.

Some states treat government employees differently. Those states tend to write rules that give additional latitude to government employers. Those rules work only because those states can make use of a credit union whose rules are set up to allow any government employee to qualify for an account regardless of banking history.

Best practice – have an alternative

Imagine you want to pay a worker who a) does not have a bank account b) will not accept your company’s payroll card. Wouldn’t it be worth it to have one more option before having to resort to paying by cash or paper check? I believe it would be, and that’s why I want to mention that a “turn-down” alternative like WiseWage is an excellent thing to have in your human resources payroll department pocket.

WiseWage is not just an alternative to a payroll card. It’s also an alternative with more choices of its own! It always has more than one account. A worker couldn’t ignore the fact that he or she was offered a payroll card, insist that the employer mandated the use of a WiseWage card, and then cause a complaint. Sending an employee to WiseWage is inherently not a mandate – it’s an invitation to the worker to select from fee-free accounts.

Remember that some states require employers to give workers the ability to withdraw 100 percent of pay each pay period for free. WiseWage accounts come with fee-free ATM networks. There is no cap on the number of withdrawals that can be made per pay period.

Net lesson: there is a value in having a payroll card and also having WiseWage as an alternative turn-down product to your payroll card option.  

Note: I am not a lawyer, and these comments should not be taken as legal advice. You should consult an attorney. You should not consider WiseWage to be a source of legal advice. Laws can change and all are open to interpretation.

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