Wednesday, February 13, 2013

No More Paper Checks for Federal Benefits

By Brenda Procter, Extension Associate Professor, Personal Financial Planning


If you like to hold a paper check in your hand, you will soon be out of luck if you receive federal benefits.  By March 1, 2013, you will be required to switch to electronic payments of benefits for:


·         Social Security

·         Supplemental Security Income

·         Veterans Affairs

·         Railroad Retirement Board

·         Office of Personnel Management

·         Department of Labor (Black Lung)


Paper checks are no longer an option for anyone after March 1.  You can either have your government check direct deposited into a bank or credit union account or ask the U.S. Treasury to deposit benefits onto a prepaid debit card if you don’t have or don’t want a bank account. 


Your benefit will always be deposited on your payment date. If you have the prepaid debit card, you can sign up to get free text, phone or email alerts when your money goes into your card account.


Direct Deposit

To sign up for Direct Deposit, you can:


·         Enroll online

·         Talk to your bank or credit union

·         Call (800) 333-1795 (Mon-Fri, 8am-8pm ET)

·         Contact the local office of the agency providing your federal benefits (e.g., Social Security or Veterans Affairs office)

·         Enroll by mail


Prepaid Debit Card

To request a Prepaid Debit Card for federal benefits, call (800)333-1795.  If you use the prepaid card, Direct Express® Debit MasterCard®, exercise caution.  It is possible to use the Direct Express card for free by buying things at stores that accept Debit MasterCard® and getting cash back from the cashier when make the purchase.  You can check your balance at ATMs or online at no charge. But be careful, because there are some fees for optional services. Visit or call the Go Direct Helpline at (800) 333-1795 for a list of card fees and features.  The Go Direct Helpline can answer any other questions, as well.


What You’ll Need to Sign Up

To have federal benefit payments paid by direct deposit to your checking or savings account, you'll need your:


·         Social Security number or claim number

·         12-digit federal benefit check number

·         Amount of most recent federal benefit check

·         Financial institution's routing transit number*

·         Account number* and type - checking or savings



*This information is often on personal checks.


If you want to get your benefit payments through the Direct Express® card, you'll need your:

·         12-digit federal benefit check number

·         Amount of most recent federal benefit check


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