It's the law: Switch to electronic federal benefit payments today

Jan 4, 2013
by WLJ

If you still receive a paper check for your Social Security or other federal benefit payments, you are required by law to switch to an electronic payment option by March 1, 2013.

It’s fast, free and easy to sign up for direct deposit or the Direct Express Debit MasterCardcard by calling the U.S. Treasury Electronic Payment Solution Center at 800/333-1795 Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST. Wait times are usually minimal. Call now to avoid delays near the deadline.

For direct deposit, you can also sign up online at or by visiting your bank or credit union.

Choose your payment option

Before making the switch, decide which payment option you would like. If you are unsure, you can call the U.S. Treasury Electronic Payment Solution Center and an agent will discuss options and help you choose the right one for you. The U.S. Department of the Treasury recommends two electronic payment options: • Direct deposit: If you have a checking or savings account, sign up to get your money by direct deposit. Your federal benefit payment will go straight into your account on payment day each month. On time, every time. • Direct Express card: If you don’t have a bank account or prefer a prepaid debit card, switch to the Direct Express card. Your money will be posted to the card account on payment day each month. There’s no need to wait for the mail or to make a special trip to cash a check. You can make purchases and get cash back with purchases at no charge anywhere Debit MasterCard is accepted. There are no sign-up fees, overdraft fees or monthly fees. Some fees for optional services may apply. For information on card fees and features, visit www.Go

If you do not choose an electronic payment option by March 1, 2013, you may be issued a Direct Express card.

Be prepared and keep your money safe

Have the following information on hand when you make the switch:

• 12-digit federal benefit check number

• Amount of most recent federal benefit check

• Financial institution’s routing transit number (direct deposit only)

• Account number and type—checking or savings (direct deposit only)

Electronic payments are safer than paper checks. In fact, you are 125 times more likely to have a problem with a paper check than with an electronic payment. Even though electronic payments are safer, it’s important that you take steps to keep your money safe.

The Treasury Department urges you to follow these three tips:

• Be careful of anyone who calls, texts or emails you asking for personal information.

• Do not give out your Social Security number or account information to anyone unless you are the one who has contacted them.

• Watch your bank or credit union account or Direct Express card account often to make sure that all account activity is yours.

Remember, you are required by law to switch to an electronic payment option by March 1, 2013. Time is running out; make the switch today. More information, including instructional videos on how direct deposit works and how to use the Direct Express card, is available at — U.S. Department of the Treasury and Federal Reserve Banks