Many people use a preferred or chosen name rather than their legal name or the name on their birth certificate. This can be as simple as someone whose legal name is Elizabeth going by Liz or Beth in their daily life.
It also includes transgender people. In the largest study ever conducted on this topic (warning: PDF document), nearly 70% of transgender individuals said they didn’t have any ID or banking documents matching their preferred name. Nearly a third of people whose documents don’t match their current physical presentation reported being denied services, being asked to leave a business or even being physically assaulted when trying to use these outdated documents.
Roughly a quarter of these people said they didn’t know how to change to their preferred name on their documents or believed it wasn’t possible. However, some banks allow people to use their preferred or chosen name on their credit or debit cards — even when it doesn’t match their legal name. This allows people to have banking documents that match the identity they present in their daily lives. The most widespread of these programs is Mastercard’s True Name program, launched in 2019 and available in North America and Europe.
Related: Mastercard has expanded the ability to use your preferred name on its products — here’s why it matters
Let’s look at where the major banks and credit card issuers in the U.S. stand on using preferred names so you understand your options.
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Understand: The bank still needs your legal name
Before we review policies from banks and credit card issuers, it’s important to understand that some of them will require you to open the account first and then submit a request for a new card with your preferred name on it (others allow you to do this during the account-opening process). You must use your legal name when applying for any type of bank or credit account in the U.S. That’s because of a provision (Section 326) in the USA Patriot Act; this rule went into effect in 2003.
The rule requires banks, credit unions and credit card issuers to establish a customer identification program to comply with government regulations. This program requires you to provide your personally identifying information so the bank can verify that you are who you say you are. One of the requirements is providing your legal name.
The question is what comes after this. Can you change the name displayed on your credit or debit card to a preferred name, rather than your legal name? Let’s look at your options with some of the major banks.
With a few exceptions, American Express has allowed users to use a preferred name on their credit cards for several decades. During the application process for an American Express card, users can select the name they want to be displayed on their card.
If you want to change or update this later, you can call the number on the back of your card. Amex allows cardmembers to use a preferred name so long as it’s not the name of someone famous or profane, and a phone representative can help you make this change.
If the name change coincides with a change in your legal name, you can request this change through your user profile on the website. After logging in, select the card you want to update in the top right corner, then click “Account Services.” From here, a new menu will appear on the left side; choose “Profile.” Next to your name, you’ll see the option for “Change Name.”
The next page will allow you to provide your legal name and then a name to be displayed on your card.
After moving forward, you’ll need to submit documents to support your request. This online option works best for those who have successfully changed their name on their ID cards already. Thus, if you are requesting to use a preferred name that doesn’t match your legal name, a phone call is your best option.
Bank of America
Bank of America declined to provide information for this story.
A spokesperson for Barclays confirmed that it’s not possible to use a preferred name on its credit cards at this time, providing TPG with the following statement:
“We strive to meet the needs of all of our cardmembers, including those in the LGTBQ+ community. While we don’t currently offer this feature, it’s something we have explored and are looking to implement in the future.”
BMO Harris operates a nationwide network of fee-free ATMs in addition to branches in eight states. Its True Name initiative allows for using your preferred name on a credit, debit or ATM card. This includes business cards, also.
If you bank with BMO Harris and want to request your preferred name, call 888-340-2265 or visit a local branch (locations are available here).
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A recent update to its policy allows Capital One credit card holders to use preferred names, even if these aren’t a derivative of the person’s legal name. When requesting the change, there is no requirement to submit documentation related to the preferred name you want on your card.
“At Capital One, our customers are at the forefront of everything we do, so we’re proud to share that customers now have the ability to choose to display their preferred name on their credit card prior to a legal gender change or legal name change,” according to a spokesperson for Capital One. “Customers are not required to provide any documentation or justification for the name they prefer to have appear on their credit card plastic.”
This option is now available on credit cards, and Capital One says it’s “actively working” to allow customers to use a preferred name on all accounts going forward. This would mean extending the option to things like checking accounts and debit cards, for example. “As we look to evolve along with our cardholders, we’re also simplifying our interactions for legal name changes and updating our procedures and systems across all customer touchpoints to ensure that a customer’s preferred name is used in lieu of their legal name whenever possible,” according to the same spokesperson.
You can request a change to your preferred name by calling the number on the back of your card.
Presently, customers must use their legal name on their credit and debit cards. However, a spokesperson for Chase says the bank is “working on giving our cardmembers the option to use their preferred name instead.”
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For more than two years now, Citi credit card holders have been able to use their chosen first names. However, Citi expanded this feature to include debit cards as of Aug. 29.
Customers can update their names on debit cards by calling the number on the back of their card or by visiting a local Citi branch (which you can find here). Citi credit card holders can call the number on their card to request an update for multiple cards at once or make this update online (for just one account at a time) by logging in to their online accounts and clicking on “Profile” at the top. From here, click on “Contact Information.” You will see the option to use a preferred first name.
After updating your preferred name, you can expect a replacement card to come within four to seven business days, according to a Citi spokesperson. You will be able to track the status of your replacement card online.
Customers can learn more at citi.com/updatemyname.
Presently, cardholders are not able to use a preferred name on debit or credit cards with Discover. However, a spokesperson added that the card issuer is “committed to determining a process for enabling methods by which customers can change their first name on their payment card to their preferred/chosen name.”
First National Bank of Omaha
It is possible to request to change the name displayed on a credit card from FNBO, according to a spokesperson for the bank. However, “substantive name changes require a copy of a legal document as proof of the name change.” Substantive changes, according to the same spokesperson, include a different first or last name or changing a middle initial.
Thus, requesting to use a preferred name that is not a close derivative of your legal name may result in FNBO asking for documentation to support this change. Changes can be requested by calling the number on the back of your card.
Debit cards from Republic Bank can have your preferred name. This includes personal and business debit cards, thanks to its implementation of True Name.
For personal account holders, you can request this within your online profile by clicking “More Services.” From here, click “Request a Debit Card” to request a new card with your preferred name.
For business account holders, call 888-584-3600 to request a new card with your preferred name.
Presently, customers cannot use a preferred name on credit or debit cards from U.S. Bank, according to a spokesperson for the bank. The same spokesperson provided the following statement:
Preferred names are an important part of individual identity, and we respect those preferences. Due to limitations on the identity verification process in place, we are currently unable to accommodate the use of a name that does not match with other legal records. We’re continuously exploring process improvements to support all of our customers. [H]owever, we don’t have anything firm to share at this time.
There is no option for a preferred name on Wells Fargo cards. Only the legal name on the account can be listed on these cards, according to a spokesperson for Wells Fargo, who said the bank “continue[s] to explore this option.”
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Multiple banks presently allow customers to use their preferred name on credit and debit cards, including business accounts at several institutions. Others have committed to working on implementing the use of preferred names in the future. Superbia, a financial institution focused on the LGBTQIA+ community, is also preparing to launch and has guaranteed the use of preferred names as part of its core principles.
Whether you’re looking to use a preferred name related to your legal name or one that isn’t, inclusion matters. Everyone should be able to use the name they prefer in their daily lives — including the next time they pull out their credit card or debit card to make a purchase.
Rather than experiencing the pain and embarrassment that can come from pulling out a card that doesn’t match your true self, banking with an issuer that allows you to use your preferred name on your card can make you feel recognized. However, it’s important to note that a merchant may still ask to see ID on some transactions, and having a card with a name that doesn’t match your identity documents could create a different problem. However, the world of tap-to-pay transactions and mobile wallets should make this simpler.