What is a True Link Card?
True Link cards work in conjunction with trusts: usually (but not always) special needs trusts or pooled special needs trusts. The primary purpose is for the beneficiaries who are disabled, or with special needs, to have some financial freedom and independence while maintaining eligibility for needs-based government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid.
Usually the true link visa card is loaded by funds from a special needs trust, that a special needs beneficiary (or their caregiver) uses to make everyday purchases.
The truelink card has customized settings to, for example, prevent beneficiaries from withdrawing cash or making purchases outside of trust requirements, which is especially helpful to protect benefits (for example, the card can be set to allow a beneficiary to pay for gas at the pump, while preventing purchases from being made at a grocery store, which would be useful for those who are on SSI, but not needed for those who are just on the Medicaid Waiver or QMB program).
The trustee of the trust funding the true-link card will stay informed on how beneficiaries are spending funds with up-to-date transaction history, text and email alerts, and downloadable reports.
How does the True Link Card work?
The family member or professional serving as trustee typically orders and manages the True Link Prepaid Visa card and hands the card to the special needs beneficiary who uses the true-link card to make purchases everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted. As cardholders, beneficiaries have the ability to view the card’s balance, review recent transactions, and reach out for support directly from our team anytime help is needed.
Only the trustee (and any other users designated with this level of access) will be able to move funds from the trust to the Visa TrueLink card – the beneficiary will not have the ability to do this.
The True Link Card costs $12.00 per month to use. This fee is usually paid by the trust funding the truelink card.
How are funds transferred from the trust onto the True Link Card?
Funds can be sent directly from a Revocable Trust, Irrevocable Trust or Special Needs Trust to a Visa® Prepaid Card on a recurring or one-time basis.
Trustees can choose to send funds in one of two ways:
- By initiating a direct deposit from the trust account to the True Link Card; or,
- By connecting the trust account to the card via our online platform, then instructing funds to be debited via ACH to the card
Each True Link Visa® Prepaid Card has a unique account number, and funds are held in the name of the trustee (not the beneficiary). Importantly ,the True Link Card is a prepaid Visa card (and not a credit card) – this means that purchases can only be made using money that has been added to the account.
Are True Link Cards allowed by the SSA?
Yes – the Social Security Administration has provided guidelines in their Program Operations Manual System (POMS) for using the True Link Visa® Prepaid Card to make disbursements from Special Needs Trusts. Professionals and families can feel confident and comfortable using true link cards.
But SSA makes it clear that beneficiaries are not supposed to have direct access to funds from a Supplemental Needs Trust - how does the True Link Card work. In other words, how is this allowed?
Firstly, the trust (not the beneficiary) must be the account owner and administrator.
Secondly, in April 2018, the SSA updated the POMS to specifically clarify how the True Link system can be used to make disbursements from Supplemental Needs Trusts for beneficiaries who receive SSI. SSI considers the True Link card an “administrator-managed prepaid card” See POMSSI 01120.201(I)(e). The POMS mentions the True Link Card by brand name!
Unlike other pre-paid cards, a True Link Card is NOT considered to be an asset so long as it is properly used.
However, this does not mean that the True Link Card is foolproof for those on SSA.
For example, if the True Link Visa Prepaid Card is used to take out cash, that is considered cash income and will reduce SSI dollar for dollar. If it is used to buy food or shelter, it is considered In-kind Support and Maintenance which can cause a reduction of SSI.
If the True Link Visa Prepaid Card is used at places that sell food or shelter, such as Walmart, Target, and drugstores, receipts should be collected for all purchases so you have evidence that the items purchased are not non-allowable expenses.
Are there other scenarios - outside of the SNT - in which a True Link Card can be used?
Yes! In addition to Special Needs Trusts, financial caregivers can use True Link in the following scenarios:
- Medicare Set Aside Trusts (disburse funds, enable certain medical providers)
- Representative payee
- Guardianship or Power of attorney
This is very common with older adults (often, with memory loss) who need more support to spend safely. A good example is when our elderly parents are sometimes in need of being protected from themselves. They may have a Revocable Trust and, recognizing that they need help managing their finances, have elevated a responsible adult child as co-trustee. The responsible adult child might consider attaching a True Link Card to their parent's revocable living trust so that they still have some financial freedom for day-to-day expenses but prevent outlandish and wasteful spending.
Ultimately, what is great about this card is it can be customized to fit the unique rules of the trust, prevent all or excess cash withdrawals, allows the responsible family member, trustee, or caregiver to monitor how the funds are being spent in real time and through the use of daily auto-generated spending reports. This empowers the beneficiary with greater independence and reduced risk of abuse.
To learn more, visit True Link Financial and speak to them directly!