June 26, 2024

Debit and Secured Credit Cards – Is your PTA ready?

By Liz Nord, WSPTA Finance Officer

Our PTAs need to adjust to the changing needs of our communities. One of the changes that WSPTA has been hearing about is the difficulty with leaders funding events, programs, and business needs up front, while waiting for reimbursement. Local PTAs and Councils are finding that relying solely on checks and a reimbursement system has created a barrier for many that are otherwise interested in leadership of their PTA.

At WSPTA’s 2024 annual meeting, our PTA delegates voted to change our bylaws regarding the use of debit and secured credit cards. The updated bylaw can be found in the Washington State PTA Uniform Bylaws article 5, section 2, subsection F.  While the WSPTA’s bylaws now allow for the use of debit and secured credit cards, there are things your PTA needs to do before they venture into the use of these cards. The first is deciding if your PTA is ready for a debit or secured credit card.

Is your PTA ready for a secured credit or debit card?

If you think so, ask the following questions before you start:

  • Does your PTA have a membership-approved budget in place?
  • Does your PTA have good money handling procedures in place (two officers approving each expenditure, adequate financial software)? Are the procedures written down (money handling policies)? A sample money handling policy can be found at: under Board Resources > Policies and Rules
  • Are deposits counted by two members and is that done immediately after money is collected at events?
  • Are there always two signatures on all PTA checks?
  • Does the treasurer provide regular reports at board and membership meetings?
  • Are the treasurer reports and bank statements reviewed each month by a non-account signer?
  • Was a 990 (N, EZ, or full) filed for the PTA last year?
  • Was a financial review committee formed and a review done of the previous year’s books?
  • Can the treasurer produce copies of the current and last year’s budget, tax filings, and financial review reports?

If you answered no to any of the above questions, you must ask if your PTA has sufficient controls to add the risks of using a debit or secured credit card.

If you answered yes to all these questions, you may be ready.

Before proceeding:

  • Make sure the PTA membership supports the move to get a debit or secured credit card; it is vital that they understand the risks along with the benefits. The use of debit or secured credit cards must be a decision made by your membership and added to your standing rules by a general membership vote.
  • Know the definitions:
    • A debit card deducts money directly from a checking account. They can be used to make purchases or withdrawals at ATMs. A transaction fee may be charged if the debit card is used at an ATM that is not affiliated with the PTA’s bank.


  • A secured credit card is backed by a cash deposit, which then becomes the credit limit for the card. They are issued by most credit card lenders (Visa, Mastercard, etc.) and can be used anywhere those brands are accepted. Cardholders receive a monthly statement showing the card’s activity and balance. The balance can be paid in full each month to avoid interest charges.
  • Start with a very low credit limit on the secured credit card, such as $500-$600.
  • Make sure you use the PTA’s EIN # (tax ID #) when applying, not the social security number of an officer.
  • Use the address that the PTA uses, not the home address of an officer.
  • Amend your PTA’s policies and procedures to specify how credit card statements are reconciled monthly.
  • Like check purchases, preapprove credit card purchases.
  • Like check signers, limit the officers designated to use the card.
  • Lastly, a reminder that AIM insurance has a $250 deductible for any claims for financial loss related to mismanagement of funds. This is for cash, checking account or credit cards.

The decision to use a debit or secured credit card is not something to be taken lightly. The use of cards may make it easier for leaders to make purchases on behalf of your PTA, but it also makes it easier to make purchases that are not approved PTA expenses. Putting tight controls into your policies is essential in keeping your PTA’s funds safe from things like embezzlement and fraud.

Not every PTA is ready to take this step, and that is okay. If you want more assistance ensuring your PTA is set up for financial success, before adding debit and secured credit cards, please contact your council or Region Director.

For additional information about credit cards see the WSPTA Policy Manual Section 3.11.

Washington State PTA does not provide credit references to local PTAs or Councils.

Thank you, New York PTA, for allowing the use of your support resources.

Category: Leadership , Membership

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