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What Is a Warm Card?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A warm card is a bank card that provides restricted access to an account. The most common use of such cards is with business accounts where the account holder wants people to be able to make deposits into an account with a bank card, without being able to make withdrawals or other transactions. Many banks offer this type of card to their customers by request and it is also possible to obtain additional copies of unrestricted bank cards, if this option is desired.

When a warm card is encoded, information about the type of access options allowed is embedded into the card. Warm cards can limit people to withdrawals, deposits, or transfers, and they can restrict all three options. If a person has linked accounts, a warm card that only has access to a single account can be generated, allowing someone like a business owner to give an employee a warm card for the purpose of making deposits, without giving the employee access to information about other accounts.

Such bank cards can also be used by parents who want their children to have access to accounts in an emergency, without allowing unfettered access. The warm card may limit the holder to a specific account and can also contain a limit on transactions, allowing people to access funds when needed but limiting the risks of abuse. People concerned about security may also opt for a warm card to limit access to their accounts in the event of a loss or theft.

Acceptance of warm cards at venues that take bank cards varies. Warm cards are usually not designated as debit/credit cards usable in any venue with a credit card machine, and not all merchants can accept plain bank cards for payments. If a merchant is set up to take bank cards, limitations on the warm card may prevent a person from running it for purchases. In other cases, a warm card allowing people to make limited transactions with merchants may be issued. This can be useful for allowing employees to purchase supplies and other necessary goods with a bank card, without giving the employees full account access.

People issued with warm cards should take care to keep them in a secure place. While the cards cannot be abused in the same way a regular bank card, credit card, or debit/credit card can be, there is still a potential security risk. If a card is lost or stolen, the incident should be reported immediately so the bank can freeze the card to prevent people from attempting to use it for transactions.

How Do Warm Cards Work?

The purpose of a warm card is to make it easy for a business owner to provide employees with a way to make deposits while protecting them against financial abuse. The deposit-only card is often useful for making after-hours deposits at the company bank's ATM. For example, if the employee who closes the store at the end of the night needs to put $10,000 in cash and several checks into the bank, a warm card lets him or her do that. The employee can fill out a deposit envelope at the ATM, put the cash and checks into it, and then use the warm card to make the deposit. Most small businesses only allow one or two employees to have warm cards, but other businesses may choose five or more employees they trust to make deposits.

What Are the Benefits of Warm Cards?

The biggest benefit of warm cards is that the employee can use them to deposit money but not to withdraw any or use the card to make purchases in stores or via the internet. This helps to ensure that employees do not commit fraud against the company that they work for.

The other big benefit of using warm cards is the convenience. Without a deposit-only card, the business owner would need to be at the store every day to close it down and make the day's deposits. For most people, closing down a store seven days a week simply isn't feasible, especially when you factor in parenting or other jobs that require the owner's full attention. It also leaves the owner with more time to focus on other aspects of the business, such as ordering inventory or advertising sales.

Are There Other Types of Warm Cards?

On a broader spectrum, a warm card is any type of bank card that has some kind of restricted access code embedded into its encoding. If you are a business owner who relies on a business partner or one of your employees to order inventory or perform other tasks that require them to spend money, then you can request a warm card that provides spending capabilities. You will still have some control, though, as you will be able to limit how much another person can spend at one time or how many transactions they can complete in a day.

How Does a Business Owner Get a Warm Card?

For a business owner to get a warm card, he or she will need to own a business bank account or be an authorized signer on one. Deposit-only cards are typically available at a branch of the bank. Sometimes, you can apply for one on the bank's website or via its mobile banking app. If your bank offers warm cards, it is a good idea to be sure there are no fees or surcharges for using them to make deposits. Keep in mind that you'll likely need the full legal name, birth date, and residential address of every employee for which you decide to provide a deposit-only bank card.

Are Warm Cards Only for Business Owners?

Depending on what bank you use, you may be able to get a warm card for your personal bank account. This is especially helpful if you have children who need access to money, such as for emergencies or if they get an allowance, but whom you don't want to have full access to your account. A warm card for your personal bank account allows you to provide your children with the money they need for outings with friends, transportation, or school fees.

Do All Merchants Accept Warm Cards?

Not all merchants accept warm cards. Because a warm card is a bank card and not a card with a credit card logo, it will only be able to be processed at venues that can accept bank cards. Even if the venue that you try to use the warm card in does accept bank cards, it will also depend on whether the card is encoded for making purchases. If it isn't, then nobody will be able to use it to make purchases, including you. Because of the limitations, some business owners or parents opt for using prepaid credit cards for their employees or children instead. This way, there is still an amount of control regarding how much can be spent, but the employee or child will be able to spend money in any location that takes the associated credit card. They simply choose to reload the card as needed.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a SmartCapitalMind researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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