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Social Security payments to be available via debit card

Daniel Ray

Millions of Americans get Social Security payments but have no bank accounts. Under a program announced Friday, the federal government would give these “unbanked” Social Security recipients the option of withdrawing their benefits via a new debit card.

The Treasury Department has designated Comerica Bank as the issuer for the program, according to Friday’s announcement.

The “Direct Express” card will be available this summer. It’s a part of a larger federal effort to move payments away from mailed paper checks and toward a system of electronic deposits and withdrawals via plastic.

“We ultimately would like to see an all-electronic Treasury — with all the security, efficiency and cost savings that would entail, says Judy Tillman, commissioner of the Treasury’s Financial Management Service. “This card takes us closer to that goal by combining the best in payment innovation with sound public policy,” If every unbanked federal check recipient signed up to use the card, it would save taxpayers about $44 million per year.”

It may save taxpayers, but Comerica won’t go broke. The program will let cardholders take one free ATM cash withdrawal per deposit per month. After that, Comerica gets 90 cents for additional withdrawals. ATM surcharges, which normally run $1.50 to $2 per withdrawal, charged by the bank that owns the ATM, will also apply. More exotic uses of the “Direct Express” card, such as online bill payments and international transactions, will carry additional fees.

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  • Rita Breun for William Morgan

    I want a debit card for the check to go to