I Love My Library Card FAQ

With the recent adoption of the I Love My Library Visa prepaid debit card in some libraries, some natural questions have come up. We’d love to answer those questions and add to the discussion around this new and exciting tool for your library. The I Love My Library Card—while a great resource for both users and libraries—may not be for every library. This is an exciting new program and we hope the following answers and additional resources help you evaluate the program.

What is a prepaid debit card and how does it differ from bank debit and credit cards?

Although often referred to as a debit card, a prepaid debit card is different from a bank debit card. While the bank debit card pulls money from its associated checking account, the prepaid card does not. It requires users to load money directly onto the card in advance so they can spend only what is available on the card.

Unlike credit cards, prepaid debit cards allow users to only spend only the money they have, eliminating charges for late fees and the possibility of building debt. Both credit cards and bank debit cards can be overdrafted, whereas prepaid debit cards cannot be.

Additional resources:

9 Things You Need to Know About Prepaid Cards—CreditCards.com

What is the Difference Between a Debit Card and a Prepaid Debit Card?—ConsumerFinance.gov


Why double patrons’ library cards as a prepaid debit cards?

Developed by SirsiDynix in partnership with Visa and Card Limited, the I Love My Library Card (ILMLC) gives patrons the option to use their library card as a regular card (to check in/out library materials) and as a prepaid Visa card. However, you can choose to activate the ILMLC at any time. If the user decided not to activate the debit function of the card, the card will continue to function perfectly as just a library card. The choice to activate the prepaid component of the card is entirely up to the library user.

Additionally, in an era of challenging budget issues and the need for library to make every dollar count, this program provides a new source of revenue to the library. Each time a card is activated and used by a patron, a portion of the associated transaction goes back to the library. This creates a win/win, providing a valuable service to end users and a new source of funding to the library. 


Do users have to have a bank to use a prepaid card?

Prepaid cards do not require a bank account. They function as an alternative to banks for those who may not have access to basic bank services or credit cards or would rather not deal with banks. Prepaid cards give people access to the same benefits as those with the financial foundation to have credit cards—such as renting a car or paying a bill online—without the risk of accruing debt or paying additional fees.

Prepaid cards also have routing numbers, letting users deposit paychecks directly onto their cards.

Additional resource:

9 Things You Need to Know About Prepaid Cards—CreditCards.com


I’m concerned that this program will turn my library into a bank. Is this the case?

The I Love My Library Card was developed to further libraries’ positions as community resources—not as financial institutions. It’s important to understand that there are two functionalities to this card: one as a library card, one as a prepaid Visa debit card.

Although libraries play a role in facilitating the use of these cards (just as they would normal library cards), they will play no role in transactions on these cards. The banking aspect of the card is managed by Visa and Card Limited.

With the ILMLC, no financial information is stored at the library. Your users’ information is safe and secure. All cards are backed by Republic Bank and are FDIC insured, allowing for the safety and convenience of a credit card, minus the stress.

After learning about the card, patrons have the option to register online at www.ilovemylibrarycard.com, a site that is not connected to your library, but a secure site through Visa. No cash transactions take place in the library and registration can be done on any computer. After registration, the card arrives in the mail and patrons can load funds on the card via direct deposit or a Visa Ready Link location—not via the library.


Is any financial information shared between the library and financial institution?

No. The library does not have access to any financial data. Though the card is a dual purpose card, working as a patron ID card and prepaid card, financial information is not shared with the library and the patron info in the library is not shared with the financial institution. 


What are the library’s responsibilities?

Once you’ve decided that the ILMLC is the right fit for your library, your job is simple. Here are a few responsibilities you should consider when implementing this program:

  • Make sure your users know the ILMLC is an option for them. Market the card around your library—on the circulation desk, computer stations, etc. The first step of getting patrons to use these cards is making sure they know it’s available.
  • Let your patrons know that the card can be activated as a prepaid card at any time, or at no time at all. The decision is completely up to them. If they do decide to activate their cards, be sure to give them the appropriate steps to register.
  • For more information on the above steps or to discover what you can do to ensure the success of the ILMLC at your library, contact our Community Funded Services team.

As far as the ILMLCs library card functionality goes, do what you do best: provide users with access to library and its services and materials.


What are the benefits of this program?

There are many benefits of the I Love My Library Card. From teaching patrons important financial skills to furthering ties between a library and its community, a library debit card can make a big difference.

  • Time: Patrons can save time by directly depositing their paychecks onto the card and then using the card for regular monthly expenses—no more standing in line to cash checks or pay bills.
  • Linkable Networks: Card-linked offers allow selected local and national merchants to give cash back to the library patron’s card. All of these offers are listed at the www.ilovemylibrarycard.com. Offers can be linked to cards at any time by the cardholder through the ILMLC website. 
  • Confidence: With the card security system, ILMLC is safer than cash transactions and is verified by Visa, and funds are FDIC insured.
  • Financial Literacy: If practice makes perfect, I Love My Library Cards give users the financial practice they need to make educated financial decisions in the future. A Huffington Post article explains how prepaid cards can be used for financial training.
  • Library Revenue: Each participating library receives a small donation from Card Limited every time a card is activated. Furthermore, libraries receive seven percent of each card’s monthly fee and one percent of each card transaction.


How does the I Love My Library Card compare to other prepaid plans?

Compared to other prepaid cards, the I Love My Library Card has no hidden fees, a low activation fee of $5.95, and an ongoing maintenance fee of $5.95/month. Once the card is activated, the monthly fee only occurs if money is actually on the card—a cardholder will not be charged a monthly fee if no money exists on the card. 

Other prepaid cards may range up to monthly fees of $9.95 and may include additional reloading fees. The ILMLC is completely transparent, allowing users to have even greater knowledge of their funds and expenditures.

A more complete list of prepaid fees can be found here, on page 9.


Which libraries should take advantage of this program?

It’s important to make sure this program is right for you. Many libraries serve a large portion of under-banked, underprivileged patrons and this program may be a valuable tool to offer them in order to promote a number of financial needs, from heightened financial opportunities to increased financial confidence. For many who are under-banked or without good credit this gives them access to a debit card which is crucial for so many aspects of modern life.

At the time that FDIC’s 2013 National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households was released, 66% of U.S. households that used prepaid cards in the previous 30 days were unbanked or underbanked. This is a huge percentage of the population—one that directly correlates to libraries who serve those same underbanked households. Libraries are in a prime position to meet the needs of this 66% of people using prepaid cards, as well as provide books, eResources, and more on financial responsibility.

SirsiDynix understands that certain libraries have different needs. Just as some libraries serve a large percentage of under-banked patrons, others may not. Similarly, just as certain libraries find the card as an excellent way to provide library funding, others may not find it as necessary.

Whatever a library’s needs, the ILMLC is available is available as a resource.


Does this card really aid in financial literacy?

We’ve found that prepaid cards assist in promoting financial literacy, from teaching users to manage funds to planning budgets. By using the ILMLC to set aside specific funds for specific purposes, patrons are making informed decisions about their finances. With an ILMLC, you only spend the money you have, which means no more overdraft fees and fines.

From teenagers to adults, prepaid cards offer users the confidence and financial habits they need to own a credit card in the future, thus creating a bridge to build one’s credit for important financial decisions down the road.

And for parents wanting to teach financial responsibility to their kids, the ILMLC allows parents to manage their teenagers’ accounts.


Check out the following resources to find out more about prepaid cards and financial training:








Liz Van Halsema
Marketing Content Writer