City Offers ID Cards With Incentives

by Francine Lange

Now that the buzz about New York City’s history-making blizzard has fizzled out, and people are returning to their regular winter routines, it’s time to turn our attention to an historic initiative that will truly benefit New Yorkers: the launch of IDNYC, a free municipal photo identification card for all City residents as young as 14.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the rollout in January at the Flushing branch of the Queens Library. He said, “IDNYC is not only a card for all New Yorkers, it is the gateway to City services, the key to opening a bank account or getting a library card, and the ticket to many of our city’s finest cultural institutions. More than that, this card represents who we are: New Yorkers who value equality, opportunity, and diversity.”

Although the card benefits those who don’t have or can’t get a regular ID – a driver’s license, for example – and aims to encourage even undocumented residents to apply (their immigration status won’t be questioned), the card also opens doors for individuals and families whose limited finances may not allow them to fully partake of the city’s cultural offerings.


Cardholders may receive a free one-year membership to 33 cultural institutions in the five boroughs. Members have free entry, discounts on special events and gift shop items, and certain members-only access to popular exhibits. Some of the participating establishments include the Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Staten Island Museum. If a family were to buy a one-year membership to just these seven, they would need to pay $904. With the municipal card, they would pay nothing.

One New Yorker, Stephen Braun, who works in guest services at a major department store, directs thousands of tourists a year to museums, concert halls and the city’s zoos. He says that he can’t spend as much money as he would like for such places. But with the IDNYC, he’ll now be able to explore more art instead of just sending others. “We need to take advantage of those things that make New York, New York,” he said.

Avoid Check-Cashing Fees

For some residents, the card can be used as an official document to open a bank account. People who’ve been using check-cashing stores can save a tidy sum over a year. Those savings can be extended when a cardholder, now with a bank account, may simply write a check or perform an online transfer to pay bills such as rent, phone, and utilities, instead of buying money orders, which also carry fees. Amalgamated Bank on Roosevelt Island has announced that it will now accept the IDNYC for account applicants.

Easy Application

Applying is a three-step process. First, New Yorkers must go online to the IDNYC website ( to learn more about the card and its benefits and to schedule an in-person appointment at one of the 12 enrollment centers and two traveling pop-up centers located throughout the five boroughs. Residents without Internet access may call 311 to schedule by phone and receive further instructions. Second, applicants must fill out an online form, available in 25 languages, which they will then print out and sign. Third, they must bring the form to their appointment, along with acceptable identification that confirms they are New York City residents. The website lists the identification they may use, which can include a passport, a visa, and foreign identification documents.

To date, several thousand residents have scheduled appointments. With increasing word-of-mouth, social media, television, and radio publicity, some Manhattan centers have no openings until July or August.

During the launch at the library, a beaming Mayor de Blasio held up his own card and said: “One piece of plastic, but it’s going to open so many doors for our fellow New Yorkers.”

With the opportunity to carry a card that opens many cultural, financial, and municipal doors in the city, it is surely worth the wait.

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