U.S. Bank is offering small business operators a new debit card that allows owners to delegate staff members who are entitled to make bank deposits, withdrawals and use other services without having access to sensitive company account information.

“It’s extremely convenient,” says Michael Coke, president of Mortgage Lending Co. The company, which has moved its headquarters from Federal Way to the Rust Building in downtown Tacoma, has been using the card on a trial basis for two months.

The so-called UBank Business Check Cards look like the typical consumer credit card or ATM card, he says, but that’s where the resemblance ends.

U.S. Bank cardholders can even assign different functions to every employee card to control access. One employee’s card, for example, may allow him or her to make deposits without being able to see the account balance and without the ability to access funds. Another employee’s card may be used to make purchases with a preset limit. Thus, the company can have several cards for a single same account, with different uses delegated to each.

“These cards give small business owners convenience without sacrificing security,” says John Spaid, senior vice president of U.S. Bank, which is headquartered in Minneapolis. Spaid says the new cards help alleviate problems encountered by many start-ups.

“A debit card provides the flexibility and acceptance of a VISA, without the need for credit nor the interest rates of a credit card,” says Craig Card, whose last name seems custom made for his role as VISA card program manager for the bank.

“Businesses will take it just like a check,” marvels Michael Coke. “It works the same as a credit card, only it is simply a debit from your business bank account—you are provided with a receipt at the time of the transaction and a statement at the end of the month.”

Spaid points out that a 1998 joint survey by Arthur Andersen and National Small Business United found the number of small and mid-size businesses that pay off their credit balances each month dropped from 59 percent in 1997 to just 38 percent in 1998.

By Dick Sypher, Business Examiner staff