What if you had a debit card that only worked in your hometown -- something like a gift card redeemable at a particular mall or shopping center, but useful citywide?

New Haven, Conn., has done just that with its Discover-based "Shop Dine Park" card, available only in the city for $3.95, plus whatever cash value the shopper wishes to add. And it can be used only in New Haven, which keeps dollars in the local economy.

The city's first obstacle in launching the program was the Patriot Act, which requires credit card companies to collect Social Security numbers, something the city didn't want to do. The city intends to make the card more useful by allowing cardholders to add cash value to the card online, and allow local merchants -- with permission -- to use the cardholder's phone number to promote specials and bargains.

Plans also include merging Shop Dine Park with the city ID card.