According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, today more than 65 million people provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend. In addition to providing physical and emotional support, many caregivers find themselves managing the finances of a loved one.
If you are caring for a loved one who receives federal benefit payments by paper check, or if you receive a check on behalf of someone else, you should know that the U.S. Department of the Treasury is requiring that these payments be switched to an electronic option by March 1, 2013.
This applies to federal benefit payments from the Social Security Administration (including Social Security and Supplemental Security Income [SSI] payments), Veterans Affairs (VA), Railroad Retirement Board, Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Labor (Black Lung).
How do beneficiaries sign up?
There are two electronic payment types recommended by the U.S. Department of the Treasury:
- Direct deposit. People who have a checking or savings account can sign up for direct deposit. Money will go straight into the account on payment day each month.
- Direct Express Debit MasterCard card. People who don’t have a bank account or who prefer a prepaid debit card can switch to the Direct Express prepaid debit card. Money will be available on the card on payment day each month. Cardholders 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.GoDirect.org.
It’s fast, free and easy to make the switch. People can sign up for direct deposit or the Direct Express card by calling the U.S. Treasury Electronic Payment Solution Center at (800) 333-1795 Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. For direct deposit, people can also switch online at www.GoDirect.org or at their bank or credit union.
Have the following information handy when you are making the switch:
- 12-digit federal benefit check number
- Amount of most recent federal benefit check
- Financial institution’s routing transit number (for direct deposit only; this information is often found on personal checks)
- Account number and type – checking or savings (for direct deposit only).
When should beneficiaries make the switch?
It is recommended that beneficiaries switch now rather than waiting for the deadline. Electronic payments have many advantages over paper checks. They are easier and more reliable. They also save taxpayers money. Don’t wait another minute – make the switch today.
Is it safe?
Electronic payments are safer and more reliable than paper checks. On payment day, money is sent straight from the Treasury Department to your bank or credit union account or to your Direct Express card account, so there’s no risk of lost or stolen checks. As with any bank account or credit card, it pays to safeguard your money. Be sure to follow these three tips:
- Be careful of anyone who calls, texts or emails asking for personal information.
- Protect your personal information; never give out your Social Security number or account information to anyone unless you are the one who contacted them.
- Watch your bank or credit union account or Direct Express Debit MasterCard often to make sure all account activity is yours.
What happens if someone doesn’t sign up by March 1, 2013?
People who have not made the switch by the deadline will be issued the Direct Express card.
The Go Direct campaign has developed five educational videos to help answer frequently asked questions about the transition. To watch the videos, go tohttp://godirect.org/media/educational-videos.
Source: The U.S. Department of the Treasury, Financial Management Service, adapted by AgeWise.