Starting in March 2013, Social Security benefits will begin sending paperless checks. The Social Security Administration has taken steps to switch to paperless benefits, which is expected to save $300 million over the first five years.While the switch to paperless benefits will likely only affect 15 percent of recipients, the switch may be difficult for many seniors that receive the paper benefits. Some seniors prefer to receive paper benefits and about four million recipients do not have a bank account.
Direct Express Debit MasterCard
For the four million Social Security recipients that do not have a bank account, they can choose to receive a Direct Express Debit MasterCard (a prepaid debit card). These prepaid debit cards may be better for recipients in that they are less vulnerable to check fraud and recipients will no longer need to cash their Social Security benefits checks at check-cashing services, which can charge expensive fees for cashing the benefits checks.
The prepaid debit card has other benefits. For instance, a recipient is not required to maintain a minimum balance on the card. Also, the prepaid debit card charges lower fees as compared to similar prepaid debit cards, as there are no sign-up fees, overdraft fees or monthly fees. The prepaid debit card allows the recipient one free transaction per month at network ATMs. However, there is a small fee (90 cents) for any network ATM transactions beyond the one allowed monthly transaction; the debit cards will be charged ATM fees when used out of network. The network ATMs include Comerica Bank, Privileged Status, Charter One, PNC Bank, MasterCard ATM Alliance, Alliance One and MoneyPass.
A Social Security recipient can enroll or to help a loved one enroll in the Direct Express Debit MasterCard program, visit http://www.usdirectexpress.com.
For recipients with a bank account, it may be more beneficial to enroll in direct deposit. With direct deposit, a recipient avoids the fees associated with the Direct Express Debit MasterCard including the ATM fees. A Social Security recipient can enroll or to help a loved one enroll in the direct deposit program, visit http://www.godirect.org.
For questions about the change to paperless Social Security benefits, please consult with an attorney experienced in working with the Social Security Administration.