One year after introducing a low-cost prepaid debit card option for Social Security check recipients, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Financial Management Service (FMS) reports that more than half a million Americans have signed up for the Direct Express Debit MasterCard. According to a new survey of cardholders, 95 percent say they are satisfied with the card and 86 percent say they would recommend it to family members or friends who receive a federal benefit payment.
"Millions of senior citizens, people with disabilities and other Americans who lack access to traditional banking services now have a safer, more convenient way to receive their federal benefit payments than paper checks," says FMS Commissioner David Lebryk. "In its first year, the Direct Express(R) card has helped to bring hundreds of thousands of Americans into the financial mainstream. With this card, people now have a lower-cost alternative to visiting check cashing facilities and carrying large amounts of cash."
The Direct Express(R) card was designed for the approximately 4 million Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients without bank accounts. Those individuals who have a bank account but primarily rely on alternative financial service providers, such as check cashers, can also benefit from the Direct Express(R) card. Cardholders can make purchases, get cash and pay bills. No bank account or credit check is required to enroll, there are no sign-up fees, monthly fees or overdraft charges and most services are free. Some fees for optional services may apply. Treasury encourages anyone receiving Social Security or SSI benefits by paper check to consider signing up for the Direct Express(R) card. Current check recipients may sign up for the card, or learn more about fees and other features, by calling toll-free 1-877-212-9991, visiting www.USDirectExpress.com, or talking to their local Social Security office.
A safe, more convenient option for Social Security recipients
"In addition to encouraging people to consider signing up for the card, Treasury is committed to ensuring cardholders understand how to best use the card in a way that meets their needs," says FMS Commissioner Lebryk. "Public education will continue to be a major focus of this program."
Among cardholders who say they are satisfied with the card, eight in 10 cite convenience, safety or immediate access to money as reasons they are satisfied using the card.
- More convenient: More than half of satisfied cardholders say they like the convenience the card offers. Cardholders can make purchases, get cash and pay bills - there's no need to go anywhere to cash or deposit a check.
- Safe: One in five satisfied cardholders stress security as a reason for their satisfaction. If a Direct Express(R) card is lost or stolen, it will be replaced. In addition, the card accounts are FDIC-insured and can be used for signature and PIN transactions. With the debit card, there is no need to carry large amounts of cash, and no risk of losing a check or having a check stolen.
- Immediate access to money: One in three satisfied cardholders say they like that the card provides immediate access to their money on payment day. No more waiting for a check to arrive in the mail.
Features built into the Direct Express(R) card are aimed at reducing or eliminating the cost of using the card. Three-quarters of cardholders say fees associated with the card are equal to or less than what they paid before. Of those saying they now pay more, approximately nine in 10 say they are satisfied with the card while eight in 10 say they would recommend the card to a friend or family member.
Public education is a Treasury priority
Treasury is taking steps to ensure people have information through ongoing public service announcements, the Direct Express(R) card Web site, cardholder materials, and distribution of information to national and local organizations involved in Treasury's efforts to increase electronic payments.
Signing up is easy and recommended
Treasury's financial agent - Dallas-based Comerica Bank - issues this nationally available card exclusively for payment of federal Social Security benefits. Americans currently receiving Social Security or SSI checks may sign up for the card by calling toll-free 1-877-212-9991, visiting http://www.USDirectExpress.com or talking to their local Social Security office.