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U.S. Treasury introduces prepaid debit card for Social Security payments

The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Financial Management Service (FMS) has announced that a prepaid debit card for Social Security payments and other federal benefits is now available. The Direct Express Debit MasterCard® card —designed as a safe, convenient alternative to paper checks that people without bank accounts may choose —is currently being introduced in 10 states, and will be rolled out nationwide this summer.

"People without bank accounts now have a user-friendly, practical alternative to paper checks for their monthly federal benefit payments,” said FMS Commissioner Judith Tillman. “We know that many check recipients are eager for a card-based option for their federal benefits, and we are confident the Direct Express card will provide many Americans an important entry point to the financial mainstream."

Card provides another option for those without bank accounts

The prepaid card provides another option to choose from for federal beneficiaries who do not have a bank account, but are looking for a no-cost or low-cost alternative to using check cashing facilities and carrying large amounts of cash. Unlike other prepaid debit cards, the Direct Express® card offers cardholders free access to their money. There is no sign-up fee, and no bank account or credit check is required to enroll. Cardholders can make purchases, pay bills and get cash at thousands of ATMs and retail locations.

Dallas-based Comerica Bank will issue this nationally available card exclusively for payment of federal benefits. Comerica currently coordinates 25 debit card programs for 13 states, servicing more than two million cardholders. People currently receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) checks in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas already have received information about the card. People may sign up for it by calling toll-free 1-877-212-9991 (TTY 1 (866) 569-0447) or visiting

Advantages of the Direct Express® card

About 4 million Social Security and SSI recipients do not have bank accounts and thus have had to depend on paper checks for their monthly payments. The Direct Express® card offers a number of features:

Program could save millions of dollars

The FMS states that while it costs the U.S. government $.98 to issue each check payment, it costs only $.10 to issue an electronic payment. Taking into account the 4 million beneficiaries that currently lack a bank account and who are receiving paper checks, there is a potential gross savings of $3.52 million dollars with a switch to a debit-card system for benefit payments. FMS provides central payment services to federal program agencies, operates the federal government's collections and deposit systems, provides government-wide accounting and reporting services, and manages the collection of delinquent debt.

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