BRIDGEWATER, NJ - In addition to its regular Shop Local program, Bridgewater Township is now offering a new debit card program, called the Bridgewater Estate Card, that allows for shopping in stores and online, all while continuing to enable residents to save money on their tax bills.

The new Estate Card tax savings program, through the Texas-based Municipal Cards LLC, is licensed to the township, and participating residents receive a Debit MasterCard®, with an online account to put money in.

The township council approved the new program through a resolution in late June.

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Every time they spend with the debit card, according to Municipal Cards Chief Executive Officer Eli Weingarden, residents earn rewards toward their property taxes.

“There is a .25 percent base amount, plus a bonus from local and online shopping,” he said.

Merchants participating in the program, Weingarden said, usually offer about 5 to 10 percent in municipal property tax rewards.

At this point, Weingarden said, they already have more than 3,200 online merchants participating because the program is not limited to purchasing from local businesses.

“Any way you spend, you can reduce your property taxes,” he said. “There is a mobile app too so you can see your reward balance so far.”

Weingarden said the purpose of the online portion of the program is for those services that can’t be purchased in local mom and pop stores. Stores in the program include Kohl’s, Macy’s, Go Daddy, travel companies and a host of other national retailers and service providers.

“We have just started going to sign up local merchants, and it will take a few weeks until they are all listed online,” he said.

Weingarden said it is easy for businesses to join up with the program because there are no monthly fees, and no new hardware required by the business to accept the debit cards.

“It uses their existing equipment,” he said.

Residents, Weingarden said, can start signing up for their cards now.

Weingarden said Bridgewater is one of three municipalities in the state moving forward with this program this month, with East Brunswick and Ridgewood being the other two.

“We have national efforts, and this is a new program,” he said. “It took nine years to implement, and we are working to launch in about 70 municipalities around the country, about six states.”

Weingarden said the company initially began speaking with Bridgewater at the League of Municipalities Conference.

“We hope we are able to provide some meaningful tax relief,” he said. “If you use the card as the main way you spend, we expect that you can save about 20 percent of your property taxes.”

The purpose, Weingarden said, is to convince residents to use the debit card as their main card, rather than just when they are in certain participating stores. Users will always get the .25 percent back even if the store is not participating in the program.

“And there are no monthly costs for the merchant,” he said. “There is almost no reason not to do this.”

“Many merchants offer hot deals or coupon codes,” he added. “You can share those on Facebook, and you earn the tax reward if the people you have shared it with use the deal.”

Those wanting to participate in the program can sign up at Cards will be received via U.S. mail within five to seven business days after signing up.

Each time the card is used, a pre-determined percentage of that purchase is earned toward property tax.

“We’re happy to offer another option for our residents to save money on property taxes,” Mayor Dan Hayes said in a release.

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This program is in addition to the “Shop Your Town” Property Tax Card, in which residents accumulate property tax credits each time they shop at local participating businesses. All credits are provided by the merchants that are part of the program.