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Master The Card

Not only a great story, valuable advice!

by Lisa P.

This post is going to be short, for long-winded Lisa at least.

One day last month I was so excited, I couldn’t sit still all day. I received a credit card in Lisa’s name from BMO (Bank of Montreal, or for my Canadian cousins, Banque de Montréal) and I am absolutely thrilled. One of my pain points has been handing over my credit card with my very male name (i.e., there is no chance a woman would have my given name). BMO will be forever in my debt (or, if I buy too many things with the card, I will be forever indebted to them in more ways than one). They have validated that Lisa exists and in doing so have validated that “I” exist.

If you have read my prior posts, you know that I use a pseudonym for both my first name and my last name. My friends in dance and in my book club and other women I have met along the way all know me by that pseudonym. I chose it carefully, so that there are hundreds of women in my age group with the same name in the United States and in England. I also chose it because I like it! Whenever someone calls me Lisa I feel “seen” as me. I am not transitioning to full time and have no intention of changing my legal name currently, so any time Lisa has her name on a class member list, individual’s address book, or in a bank system feels, she feels victoriously authentic.

Like Kandi, I am all about being out and being seen. But unlike Kandi, I yearn for stealth. I believe that is true because I want to be accepted simply as the woman I am and not because someone wants to bend over backwards to show acceptance to the queer community (although I have appreciated that greatly when I have received it and believe allyship is essential for all of us, since we probably cannot convince everyone, all the time, of our chosen gender). Because I want to be seen as the woman I feel that I am, I hate having to out myself, except when I want or need to. I don’t think every salesperson I meet is entitled to know my legal name and gender. Years ago, I asked for an American Express credit card with only my first initial, middle initial and last name. For a long time, I handed it over with great confidence….until that is, I received a paper receipt to sign and the signature line had my full legal name. I realized at that point that the salesperson’s register may display my full legal name to them when I scan my card, regardless of what is written on the card. After that incident, I reverted to using cash. But cash is less secure, inconvenient, slow, and requires more logistical planning. I started researching to see if I could find a better way.

My first choice was to find out if I could change my existing American Express or Mastercard or Visa cards.* None of those card issuers allow for a card in any name other than your legal name. So, I was foiled in that effort.

Then I discovered the True Name credit card (available only from a couple of financial institutions, like Citibank and BMO). I knew I had to apply for one! They required me to obtain first a credit card in my legal name. Then I had to call the bank and ask for a card in my preferred name. I chose BMO as my card issuer for a couple of reasons. First, their card is non-traditional (printed longitudinally rather than latitudinally), making it easy to distinguish from my other Mastercard. Second, I thought that BMO would be more flexible in terms of choosing my own name, since Canadians are more easy-going than Yanks(!) Citibank made it clear that a customer could only change the first name on the card. With BMO, I was asked to fax (yes, they still use a fax machine!) a document listing my legal name, my true name, and my tax ID number. While I hated all the extra steps and the three or four times I was required to speak to someone to confirm receipt, I was happily surprised in the end when I requested and received a card with my complete pseudonym as my first and middle names. Yes, I must still use my legal last name on my card, but I don’t mind having it on the card. Having my legal last name will make it easier to flash my legal ID if that is ever required (and, if that doesn’t work, BMO has a 1-800 number I can call if someone needs to validate my ownership of the card).

I should add (in case this happens to you) that when I received my first true name card in the mail, I had to call the bank and cancel it immediately (just my luck). The envelope that it arrived in had been torn open and it was physically possible to remove the card, record all the information on it, and replace the card in the envelope. Under the circumstances, I did not want to activate the card lest a thief could immediately start charging value to it. Unfortunately, that meant yet another time I would have to “out” myself to a faceless voice on the bank’s help line. Thankfully, other than the “7-10 business day” further delay, my card finally arrived (in an undisturbed envelope this time).

I have now proudly used my Lisa credit card and credit card number many times, in person and over the internet, with no issues. I love seeing my female name on my credit card and am genuinely happy Lisa is financially viable. I discovered an additional value to the card. Often, I have wanted to sign up for an event that requires a credit card. Before I had my True Name card, that meant I would have to sign up as Lisa and then use a credit card from “him” to pay for the event. Now, everything fits neatly, with no question about who is paying for the event and who is receiving the benefit. That is why I say that Lisa is finally financially viable.

For those of you who are DADT (like me), the legal notices still come to my legal name, although one can arrange for all digital notices. Regardless, I disclosed to my wife that I was getting a new credit card and that it would be used only for DADT purposes. She seemed unconcerned, which helped. If you choose to get a True Name card, I hope you get the same reaction from your spouse. We all deserve this type of validation, as it brings “True Joy” to see your “True Name” on a credit card! I haven’t tried obtaining a credit card in England or any other country, so one of our readers currently across the pond will need to weigh in on the availability of this type of card there. If any reader has had any other experiences with a True Name credit card, please comment. It will help us all master the card.

*If you are wondering why I have three credit cards (now four!), the reason is simple: Visa is required by Costco (where the gasoline is cheapest), American Express gives me the best benefits and my MasterCard is accepted worldwide and doesn’t charge currency transaction fees (extra fees for charging in another currency).


14 Responses

  1. Lisa,
    Thanks for a very useful post , at times the use of names has to bow to official usuage but the situation is getting better . OK I’m full time but as yet haven’t done an official name change but did opt for using a female version of my male name so official documents still use the same initials . I bank with Santander and like most now accept the trangender situation but I was still surprised when they agreed to use MS on my banking cards but as yet I’m still registered in my full male name with the MR . handle . I really must make the effort to apply for an official name change so I can have the correct passport and driving licence .
    Unlike you I don’t need to use stealth mode but that can have it’s problems . On one occasion I had to meet up with my ex-wife so we could have a day out with the grandchildren , we visited a National Trust property and I realised my passcard was issued as MS Terri ****** ( I had to appear in male mode ) . The guy at the paydesk gave me a double take and then one of my grandsons grabbed the card before me , luckily he then handed it to me without reading it . I have to add that even after six years my ex-wife hasn’t moved any further forward , she just refuses to accept me other than the man she married .

    1. Teresa,

      I loved your story about your NT pass card. I still remember handing my pass card over (with male name on it, but presenting as myself) and receiving the same quizzical expression. I am glad you were rescued! I simply endured the scrutiny until I was admitted.


  2. Lisa, interesting post, thank you.

    I did a bit of online poking around on this both in response to your wonderings in your last paragraph and for personal interest as my main career was in a UK retail bank.

    It seems that the press fanfare when the scheme was first introduced a few years ago hasn’t been matched with takeup by the UK banks and I could only find one – Monzo (an online operation and a relative newcomer to the UK banking market) – that offered the facility. I’d be interested to know if there are others but taking a neutral stance, the lack of takeup doesn’t surprise me given the challenges that card fraud poses to both banks and card accepting merchants.

    What I did find, though was that permanent name/gender changes are straightforward. Gender changes generally don’t need any documentation and name changes just the deed poll which would be part of the name change formalities anyway.

    1. I did think (for about 5 seconds) about changing my name, but I could have done it in the UK much easier than in the US. It would have been permanent and my wife would never forgive me, as it would cross the line for her (“I do not wish to be married to a woman!”).

      Thank you for researching and finding Mondo. At least there seems to be one option for anyone interested.


      1. Lisa,
        I haven’t had a problem with Santander or Halifax on cards issued in any chosen name or gender but the account holder’s name remains unchanged until a formal name change is applied for by deedpoll or statuory declaration ( deedpoll is a free service and a SD will incure the cost of a solicitor in the UK ) I’m going to go for a SD because everything is dealt with at one time with the requisite witness signatures . The formal documents can then be used to apply for a new passport and driving licence . I believe the process can be reversed but it’s far more difficult , I just hope my family will respect my decision when it comes to lay me in my box .

        1. Absolutely, Teresa! You deserve respect now, and at the end as well. I have made my daughter the executor of Lisa’s estate; I know she will fight to make sure that Lisa will not be forgotten at the time of my demise.


  3. Hi Lisa, a very informative post, thank you. I had heard of these cards being available but had know idea how they worked so it was very interesting to hear exactly how they worked. How ever, for me, I don’t think it would be something I’d look at doing only because my male name is as feminine as my girl name. So I have no issues using the credit cards in either gender. But you never know maybe having a credit card specifically for Trish would be kind of nice.

    Trish ❤️

  4. I mused early in my journey about finding a female version of my male name. No luck! Every choice was simply awful. So I am jealous you have a name that works (although I am guessing your male name is not “Trish” — hah!).


    1. My male name is Pat Rose which is pretty feminine too. Sometimes friends in school would call me Patricia and Trish is right in the middle of that and I always thought that Trish was a nice feminine name so that’s what I called myself once I started to go out dressed in my late teens.

  5. I found an easier solution:
    Asked my credit card company for an extra card for my girlfriend. They asked for her SSAN and I advised that she was not a US citizen.So I have a card in her name and my monthly statement is broken down with my charges and her charges

    1. Emily,

      I am glad you found your own solution, but it is important to add some words of caution for anyone following that path. There are two important risks. First, it is always risky to “lie” to any financial institution. They can use it as an excuse to ruin your credit. Even though you are your own girlfriend, you had to tell a fib about her (that she doesn’t have a SSN). Second, if you are challenged while using the card, the issuer will not back you up (whereas BMO will back me up). I should add that I did try something similar to you first by simply asking my issuers if I could get an additional card in another family member’s name, and each of my card issuers wanted some type of legal identity number for the person (I am surprised your issuer didn’t ask for an EIN, which even foreign nationals can get). They do that so they can report to credit agencies.

      Best of luck to you in any case as Emily flexes her female financial muscles!


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