Hand offering credit or debit card

CTSI helps pilot, launch new study participant compensation program

A new prepaid debit card program for research participants recently launched across the University of Minnesota that provides research teams a faster, safer way to pay and reimburse study participants.

CTSI’s Clinical Trials Financial Services (CTFS) collaborated with the University’s Purchasing Services and the Human Research Protection Program to develop and pilot the cards.

“CTFS reconciled the transactions through two post-award studies during the pilot to ensure the transactions were hitting the appropriate general ledgers correctly,” said Barbara Ensberg, CTSI OnCore Finance Professional.

The debit card program eliminates the need for research teams to request a physical check, gift card, or cash for every participant’s visit and all the associated paperwork with that process.

Any University department can request prepaid debit cards.

Benefits of prepaid debit cards

The University’s prepaid debit cards offer several advantages to study teams and participants:

  • Streamlined process – Research teams can use the ClinCard online portal to assign cards as well as issue, approve, and report on payments. Login credentials are emailed to users once access permission has been granted.
  • Safety and security – Cards offer a safer and more secure payment method than physical checks, gift cards, or cash. For example, cards offer protection against fraud with MasterCard Zero Liability.
  • Immediate payment – Participants receive immediate compensation and/or reimbursement for participating in a study.
  • Convenience to participants – Prepaid debit cards are an attractive option for participants, helping to support retention efforts.
    • Card can be used worldwide, including at stores, online, or for cash withdrawal at a bank or ATM.
    • The MyClinCard.com portal allows cardholders to view available balances, review transactions, manage their account, and request appointment reminders via text and/or email.
    • Cards offer 24/7 customer service, and do not require recipients to have a bank account.
  • Compliance – Cards comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH), and the University's Human Subjects policy.

How to request a card

  1. Departments enter a Blanket Order Requisition into EFS using supplier code: PPDC / Prepaid Debit Card
  2. Attach a completed Prepaid Debit Card (PPDC) Study Form to the requisition.
  3. After approvals are applied to the requisition in EFS, a Purchasing Services representative will arrange card pickup with the department.

Considerations for research teams

  • Consider the appropriateness of the cards for each study, and have a plan for participants that do not want to be reimbursed that way.
  • Include the prepaid debit card in protocols and consent templates. Note that the consent template in the IRB Toolkit Library has been revised to mention the cards and the optional notification feature.
  • Be transparent with participants about fees associated with the card. For example, there will be a fee charged to the cardholder if an ATM is used to withdraw cash, if the card has no activity for three months, or if transactions are made in foreign currencies. There are currently no fees for departments.

Resources and contact information

Prepaid debit card website
Resources and information about access, processes, compliance, and more.


Research teams should contact their department’s study accountant to use the ClinCard program for participant payments.

Alicia Theisen
Category Manager / Contract Specialist, Purchasing Services
[email protected]