Payment card for refugees

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Federal Cabinet resolution Payment card for refugees

In future, refugees are to receive benefits via a so-called payment card. They will be able to use this card to make payments, rather than using cash. To this end, the Federal Cabinet adopted a corresponding amendment to the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act.

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A person using the keypad of a card reader.

In future, refugees are to receive benefits via a payment card.

Photo: mauritius images / Yau Ming Low

Refugees who come to Germany for protection and are unable to make a living are eligible to receive benefits under the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act. Such benefits can include non-cash benefits, money or coupons. Another option is to be added in due course: the payment card. The amount of money that refugees are entitled to according to the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act can be transferred to this card as credit.

In order to ensure consistent conditions for the introduction of this type of payment card, the Federal Cabinet adopted an amendment to the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act on 1 March 2024. The Bundestag is now going to consult on this draft law.

Payment card as an additional option

Planning provides for the payment card to be explicitly added to the list of benefit formats in the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act. At the same time, the scope of use of the card is to be expanded. This means that all refugees – regardless of where they are staying – will be eligible to receive their benefits through the payment card in future.

As things currently stand, refugees staying in group accommodation are supposed to primarily receive non-cash benefits, while those staying outside such group accommodation primarily receive cash benefits. “Primarily” in this context means that this form of support is the first choice, but other types of benefits are also possible. The aim of the legislative amendment is to change this. The Länder and municipalities are to be granted a wider range of options for providing benefits.

With this proposed amendment of the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act, the Federal Government is implementing the resolution from the discussion between the Federal Chancellor and the Heads of Government of the Länder of 6 November 2023. The Länder had requested a change to provide for a secure legal basis for introducing the payment card. 

The specific arrangements for introducing the card are up to the Länder, who have agreed on minimum standards and initiated a tendering procedure for the introduction of the payment card.

Advantages of the payment card

The advantage of payment cards is that the amount of money provided can only be spent in Germany and only on what the benefits are really meant for, i.e. to cover refugees' living expenses. This means that it is not possible to use the money to pay traffickers or transfer it to the refugees’ countries of origin.

In addition, the towns and municipalities hope that the payment card will reduce the administrative burden: rather than handing out money, they only need to credit the amounts to the cards.

More information about the Federal Government’s migration policy is available on the migration and integration topic page.