Treasury offers benefits debit card

People without bank accounts can now receive their Social Security payments and federal disability benefits through a prepaid debit card, the Treasury Department said today. The Direct Express Debit MasterCard card, being introduced in 10 states, allows the 4 million Social Security beneficiaries without bank accounts move to an electronic alternative to checks issued on paper.

Treasury’s Financial Management Service will roll out the debit card nationwide this summer, the agency said.

“People without bank accounts now have a user-friendly, practical alternative to paper checks for their monthly federal benefit payments,” FMS Commissioner Judith Tillman said. “We are confident the Direct Express card will provide many Americans an important entry point to the financial mainstream,” she said.

The debit cardholders will be able to make purchases, pay bills and get cash at thousands of ATMs and retail locations.

With the Treasury debit card, federal beneficiaries without a bank account will not have to pay fees to use check-cashing businesses and carry large amounts of cash, the agency said. Cardholders also will have free access to their money, unlike other debit cards, Tillman said. There is no sign-up fee, and no bank account or credit check is required to enroll, the ageny said .

Unlike paper checks, which are vulnerable to risk of theft, loss or delivery delays, benefit payments are automatically deposited into the Direct Express card accounts each month, so cardholders don't have to wait for the mail to access their monthly payments, she said.

Dallas-based Comerica Bank, a subsidiary of Comerica Inc., is issuing the debit card exclusively for payment of federal benefits, Treasury said. Individuals receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income checks in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas have received information about the card and may sign up for the card by calling a toll-free phone number or logging on to <a href="www.USDirectExpress.com">www.USDirectExpress.com</a>.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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