New products, Protecting yourself

Use new debit card to receive Social Security benefits

Emily Crone

Social Security recipients now have the option of accepting payments via a debit MasterCard instead of paper checks, the Treasury announced today in a press release.

While the Direct Express debit MasterCards, issued by Comerica Inc., are currently available in only 10 states, the program is expected to be available to citizens in every state some time this summer. Treasury officials told MarketWatch on Monday that 14,000 people had already signed up for the card.

The payment card option has no sign-up fee and requires no bank account or credit check for enrollment. Additionally, there is no minimum balance requirement, which will be helpful to the unbanked population. According to the press release, about 4 million Social Security recipients do not have bank accounts.

Along with the card comes much-needed financial education: “A robust public education campaign will accompany the launch of the card and will promote debit
card literacy among likely users, reaching them through print and Web materials, public service
announcements, direct mail and partner organizations,” according to the Treasury press release.

A Reuters article about the new debit card cites research that “seniors without bank accounts pay an average of $6 and as much as $25 to cash each Social Security check, eating into often low monthly incomes. This also makes them more vulnerable to check fraud as well as robbery when carrying large amounts of cash.”

With the card, users can withdraw money at most banks for free and get cash back for free when shopping at retailers. Each cardholder also gets one free monthly withdrawal from an ATM machine in the network. The money deposited onto the card is FDIC-insured, and MasterCard liability protects users against unauthorized use of the card when it is reported in a timely manner. This card eliminates chances of Social Security checks being stolen, delayed or lost in the mail.

Another perk of the card is that the benefit payments are automatically deposited to the card each month — there’s no need to wait for the money to arrive in the mail.

The cards aren’t perfect, however; after the one free ATM withdrawal, each addition one costs 90 cents plus ATM surcharges. If you want to receive a paper statement, that’s 75 cents. It costs $1.50 to transfer the money into a bank account and there are fees for using the card abroad.

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  • Michelle Ligammari

    I signed on for this card, but I did not know it takes 1 to 2 months to begin the auto deposit. Can you clarify this?

  • Hi Michelle,
    I am not an expert on this card and want to make sure you get the information you’re looking for, so I recommend you call Direct Express’s customer service line:(888)-741-1115. They will be able to answer your question.
    Good luck,

  • Nancy Jackino

    I haven’t received my card in the mail either.
    It has been more than ten days. I figured it might
    take about that but I don’t know either?

  • Ron

    Just curious…What if you have a bank acct. prefer getting a check in the mail & do not want a debit card.. Do I have to make the choice between a debit card vs check? Can I continue receiving a paper check or do I have to sign up for direct deposit to avoid the debit card? Thanks…Ron W.Va

  • Shirley Lyman

    I am inquiring about the new debit card for social security benefits. How do I get the information I need? live in Louisiana.
    Is it available here?

  • Dan Ray

    Yes, it’s rolling out in phases across the country. I’m not sure if it’s everywhere yet, but it is in Lousiana. Go here: for the press release announcing it’s available in Louisiana, and a general description.
    People may sign up for the card by calling toll-free 1-877-212-9991 or visiting

  • iesha

    i applied for ssi and ssa but havent heard anything then i recieve this card in the mail..

  • trina

    I was wondering what time does your monthly s.s.i. payment get deposited to the card…….is it 12am the day before or first thing in the morning the first of each month?



  • Anonymous



    I have applied a few day ago for master debt card that deal specificly with federal,retirement,social security, direct deposit only.Can you confirm my application.Do you have my info ? and how long do i have to wait?master debt company have to contact social for release money to my account / card ?

  • Jesse, this is a good time for your benefit and others’ to mention that is a middleman – we give people information about various cards, but we don’t have anything to do with the applications themselves. Once you click “apply,” you leave our site and go to the site of the card issuer. So we can’t confirm your application because we never had it.

  • Jackie

    I got my SS DEBIT Crd two weeks ago – it has 1,000 on it and it hase been declined every time I went to use it over the phone to pay bills.

  • BobbyB

    I applied for mine. took about 4-6 weeks to get. Even got a text saying my money would be on card on 2nd weds of each month. Anxious to start using it on 13th of June. Will update. Checks, are being no longer issued after a certain date I read. It will either be this card or direct deposit. Simple as that.

  • Michael C.K.

    I applied and received my Master card debit/credit card and it has been a great way to receive my disability payment. I use to have direct deposit in my bank, but the bank was always messing things up so I switched to the card I have now and do not use any bank anymore. Its by far the best way to get paid. and it’s taken everywhere. I recommend it highly.

  • Anonymous

    Ineed to change my paper check to a credit card

  • BettyHardwick

    I would like to apply for the debit card for social security payments instead of checks5446

  • Anonymous


  • Christina Banks

    i would like to cancel directexpress and switch my benefits netspend what do i do?

  • Marla Summers

    can you load money from the direct card to a uber card?