If you are ready to apply for Social Security, VA benefits or other federal benefits, you should know the days of paper checks are over. The U.S. Department of the Treasury now requires all federal benefit and nontax payments to be paid electronically. Anyone applying for any federal benefits on or after May 1, 2011, will receive his or her payments electronically starting with their first payment. People currently receiving federal benefit checks will need to switch to an electronic payment option by March 1, 2013.
Having federal benefits paid electronically is safer, faster and more reliable than receiving paper benefit checks. In 2010, more than 540,000 Treasury-issued checks were reported lost or stolen, and had to be reissued.
You can choose to have your benefit directly deposited into the bank or credit union account of your choice, or into a Direct Express® card account. If you don't choose an electronic payment option when you apply for your federal benefits, or if you do not switch by the deadline, you will receive your payments via the Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® card, so you will not experience any interruption in payment. If you are already receiving benefit payments electronically, you will continue to receive your payment as usual on the payment day.
If you decide to receive your benefits through direct deposit, the Treasury Department will send an electronic message to your bank or credit union account on your usual payment day with the exact amount of your benefit payment. To sign up for direct deposit, you can visit your bank or credit union, sign up online at www.GoDirect.org, or call the U.S. Treasury Processing Center at 1-800-333-1795. You'll need:
- The type of account you have (checking or savings);
- Your financial institution's nine-digit routing transit number that often comes before your account number at the bottom of your personal checks; and
- Your checking or savings account number.
If you prefer to use the Direct Express® card, you can notify the federal agency, such as the Social Security Administration or Veterans Affairs, of your choice to receive your benefit payments on the card. You also can visit www.GoDirect.org or call the U.S. Treasury Processing Center at 1-800-333-1795.
When you receive your benefits electronically, you don't have to worry about your money being stolen out of your mailbox and there's no need to make a trip to cash or deposit a check. Plus, it's better for the environment and saves taxpayer dollars.
The staff of Boomerang gratefully acknowledges the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Financial Management Service, for contributing this article.
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