AS COLD weather sets in, thousands of retirees are making plans for a winter getaway. If you’re one of them, switch to direct deposit for your Social Security payments before you leave - it’s the safest, easiest way to receive your money.
“Each year, the U.S. Department of the Treasury receives more than 1.4 million inquiries regarding paper check-related problems,” says David A. Lebryk, commissioner of the Treasury Department’s Financial Management Service.
Yet, approximately 10.5 million Americans continue to receive their Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments by paper check each month. The Treasury Department’s Go Direct (R) campaign encourages senior citizens and people with disabilities to switch to direct deposit.
Increased safety, convenience and reliability
When there’s a problem with a Social Security payment, nine times out of 10 it’s with a paper check, not a direct deposit payment, says Lebryk.
Paper checks can be vulnerable to financial crimes like theft and fraud. In fact, the Treasury Department investigates more than 70,000 cases of altered or fraudulently endorsed checks each year, totaling $64 million in estimated value.
“In 2008 alone, more than 485,000 Social Security and SSI checks were reported lost or stolen and had to be reissued,” says Lebryk.
Direct deposit is also more convenient and reliable. There is no more waiting for a check to arrive in the mail, and there are no more worries about delivery delays due to severe weather, local emergencies and other check related problems. Last year alone, severe weather events forced alternative delivery arrangements for millions of Social Security and SSI paper checks.
“Switching to direct deposit for federal benefits is such an easy way for people to safeguard their money, especially when traveling for extended periods of time,” says Lebryk. “Your money is deposited to your account on payment day, so there’s no need to worry about delivery delays or a check sitting in your mailbox while you’re gone.”
Prepaid debit card option
In addition to direct deposit, the Treasury Department recommends the Direct Express (R) Debit MasterCard (R) card as an alternative to paper checks for people without bank accounts.
More than half a million Americans signed up for the optional Direct Express (R) card in its first year of availability, according to the Treasury Department. A recent survey of cardholders finds that 95 percent say they are satisfied with the prepaid debit card, and 86 percent say they would recommend it to family members or friends who receive a federal benefit payment.
With the Direct Express card, cardholders can make purchases, pay bills and get cash at thousands of locations nationwide. Sign-up is free and no bank account is required.
While most services are free, there are fees for a limited number of optional transactions and services.
Making the switch is easy
It is easy to make the switch to electronic payments for federal benefits. To sign up for direct deposit, call the Treasury Department’s Go Direct campaign helpline at 1-800-333-1795 or visit www.GoDirect.org.
To sign up for the Treasury-recommended Direct Express card, or to learn more about the card’s features and fees, call 1-877-212-9991 or visit www.USDirectExpress.com.
The preceding information has been provided by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Financial Management Service.
Courtesy of ARAcontent