The United States government is on a mission to reduce costs. Next on the chopping block: paper checks for Social Security and other federal benefit payments.
Effective March 1, 2013, anyone who receives federal benefit payments will be required to receive their payments electronically, either through direct deposit to a bank account or loaded onto a prepaid debit card. This move will save the federal government millions each year in printing and mailing costs.
Who Do the New Rules Impact?
Major media outlets are reporting this as a Social Security recipient issue, when, in fact, it affects those who receive benefits from several government agencies. Printed paper checks will eventually become non-existent for people who receive benefits from the following U.S. agencies:
- Office of Personnel Management
- Railroad Retirement Board
- Social Security Administration
- U.S. Department of Labor (Black Lung)
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
How to Sign Up for Direct Deposit or Choose the Mastercard Debit Card Option – GoDirect.org
The United States federal government has created an information portal devoted specifically to this transition period at GoDirect.org. Benefit recipients can sign up for electronic deposit online or may do so by mail.
To choose either option, you will need to know the amount of your last benefit check as well as the federal benefit check number. Anyone who wants to sign up for direct deposit through a bank will need to know the bank’s routing and account numbers and also be prepared to provide a Social Security number or claim number.
Facts About the New Requirements: Direct Express Prepaid Debit Cards & Bank Accounts
- Do you have to have a bank account? You don’t have to have a bank account to receive a Social Security or other benefit payment electronically. Anyone without a bank account can get their money deposited onto a Direct Express Debit MasterCard.
- Are credit checks required for the prepaid debit cards? Anyone worried about this should know that Direct Express prepaid debit cards can be issued without a credit check.
- Can you get out of making an election? Unfortunately, no. Anyone who currently receives a Social Security or other benefit payment has until March 1, 2013 to make an election to receive direct deposit through a bank or credit union or have funds loaded onto a Direct Express MasterCard. If you don’t choose one of those options, the government will choose the prepaid debit card on your behalf.
- What if you are a new applicant between now and March 1, 2013? To ward off any confusion, anyone who plans on applying for government benefits between now and the implementation date of March 1st will have to go ahead and designate an electronic payment method. That way, no one new will be issued paper checks, only to be required to make another election within less than 12 months.
Savings from the Elimination of Paper Checks
The government claims that the move from paper checks to electronic delivery will save Americans $120 million. It’s not clear whether that is an annual number or another frequency, but either way, that’s some good savings! An added bonus of the move to electronic means – it will eliminate the issue of lost checks.
For more information about a specific type of benefit check, benefit recipients can follow up with their respective issuing agency. Here are links to each of their contact pages: