Ex-Offenders Need to Have a Bank Account

Adam Rust

Nobody said re-entry was going to be easy, but maybe you heard its impossible to get a bank account with a record?

That’s not true at WiseWage.org. As long as you have identification, you can get a debit card at WiseWage.org. Everyone qualifies.

In fifteen states, prisoners may leave with their gate money on a special type of bank account called a release card. Prisoners often need to be compensated before they leave, possibly due to unused commissary funds or assets left from work-release programs. Administrators like these services because they streamline the process of returning leftover commissary funds, remove any concerns associated with putting checks in the hands of ex-offenders, and reduce their need to keep cash on hand.


In defense of the cards, I should acknowledge the benefits these cards can bring to account holders. First and foremost, all electronically-stored value is safer than cash. Thieves are smart. They do their homework. They would target recently released ex-offenders if they were known to be carrying cash.

Nonetheless, many release cards have fees that can quickly drain the funds from an account. The Center for Public Integrity reported that JPay release cards issued in Michigan charged prisoners $9.95 just to close their account. Additionally, prisoners were likely to incur a fee whenever they used the card.

But hopefully, an experience with a release card will not sour ex-offenders on banking in general. Having a bank account solves problems with several use cases. Three solutions:

1) As would be the case with any other worker, the ability to receive wages by direct deposit saves time and money for ex-offenders. 

2) For those who have a child support obligation, having a bank account makes it much easier to send funds to a guardian.

3) They avoid problems that occur when you are known to always carry a lot of cash on your person.

Accounts at WiseWage can make it easier for ex-offenders to sign up for a new debit card account. Given that some ex-prisoners may not feel entirely comfortable inside a bank branch, the opportunity to apply from a smartphone makes a difference. Applicants have to download an app to get WiseWage’s Empower VaroMoney accounts.

As well, the accessibility of WiseWage’s accounts makes them attractive for this population. Because WiseWage accounts do not have an overdraft feature, banks have less of a reason to turn someone down. As long as a person can provide documentation of their identity, they will be approved. Customers don’t have to worry about paying a penalty fee for not meeting a monthly minimum balance requirement.  

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Leaving Prison Re-Entry
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