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Unemployment Benefit Recipients in Oregon Seeing Payments on U.S. Bank Prepaid Visa Card Instead of Paper Checks

PORTLAND, Ore., Mar 23, 2004 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- U.S. Bank and the Oregon State Employment Department have partnered to provide an innovative payment program that allows the state to disperse unemployment benefit payments on a plastic card versus a paper check. The program became available statewide on March 15.

The prepaid card functions like a debit card though it is not attached to a checking or savings account. Instead of cutting a check and mailing it to the recipient, the state electronically loads the payment on to the card that the recipient can use to make purchases or withdraw cash. The card carries the Visa logo and is accepted at millions of Visa debit locations worldwide.

The program is among the first of its kind in the United States. It cuts costs for the state because it no longer has to produce and mail a check or incur other costs associated with a paper check. The card also brings convenience and safety to cardholders who no longer have to find the time and place to cash their checks and pay check cashing fees.

"The U.S. Bank ReliaCard Visa(R) is one of the newest forms of electronic payment applications available to consumers," said Brigid O'Callaghan, vice president and manager of U.S. Bank Government Banking in Oregon. "The decision by the Oregon State Employment Department to employ this program, and the efficiencies that it creates for recipients, signifies the department's concerns about the ability of their recipients to get their funds in an effective, streamlined fashion. It is exciting to work with a state agency that is in tune with e-commerce and forward thinking."

U.S. Bank originally entered into a pilot test program with the Oregon State Employment Department in the spring of 2003. With the new ReliaCard Visa program, more than 80,000 recipients have the ability to choose whether they want to receive payments by direct deposit, check or the card. The State of Oregon currently sends 11 percent of unemployment benefit disbursements electronically using direct deposit. "However not everyone has access to a bank account," said Tom Fuller, communications manager with the Oregon Employment Department. "The ReliaCard Visa program allows those families who are not able to use direct deposit to receive their payments electronically."

Fuller says clients appreciate the fact that the card can be used as a Visa debit card, which allows them to make purchases where ever Visa debit cards are accepted, such as grocery stores, restaurants, the mall or shopping online. Additionally, cardholders can track unemployment benefits and spending separately from other funds through monthly statements or through 24-hour customer service via the Internet or telephone.

Approximately 500 people use the card in Oregon, a number that continues to grow now that the card is available statewide. The program has the potential to benefit all recipients of the more than 300,000 checks that the state issues each month.

The card is available free of charge, with the exception of when funds are withdrawn from an ATM or teller, in which case there is a $1.50 fee. If the card is lost or stolen, it is backed by Visa's zero liability policy, which means the cardholder is not responsible for unauthorized purchases.

U.S. Bank implemented similar programs in Washington, Iowa, Colorado and Minnesota for child support payments and is working with other government agencies to initiate the ReliaCard Visa in more states and in various capacities.

U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB), with assets of $189 billion, is the 8th largest financial services holding company in the United States. The company operates 2,243 banking offices and 4,425 ATMs in 24 states and provides a comprehensive line of banking, brokerage, insurance, investment, mortgage, trust and payment services products to consumers, businesses and institutions. U.S. Bancorp is home of the Five Star Service Guarantee which assures customers of certain key banking benefits and services or customers will be paid for their inconvenience. U.S. Bancorp is the parent company of U.S. Bank. Visit U.S. Bancorp on the web at usbank.com.


CONTACT:          U.S. Bank
                  Teri Charest, 612-303-0732
                  Oregon Employment Dept.
                  Tom Fuller, 503-947-1301

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